Montageman: A dude who writes

February 3, 2007

Definitions of Play

Filed under: Academic, play — montageman @ 8:22 pm

Johan Huizinga defines play as:

Summing up the formal characteristics of play we might call it a free activity standing quite consciously outside of “ordinary” life as being “not serious”, but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings which tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress their difference from the common world by disguise or other means (13).

Working through Huizinga, Roger Caillois’s definition of play is:

Play can be defined as an activity which is essentially:

    1. Free: in which playing is not obligatory; if it were, it would at once lose its attractive and joyous quality as diversion;
    2. Separate: circumscribed within the limits of space and time, defined and fixed in advance;
    3. Uncertain: the course of which cannot be determined, nor the result attained beforehand, and some latitude for innovations being left to the player’s initiative;
    4. Unproductive: creating neither goods, nor wealth, nor new elements of any kind; and, except for the exchange of property among the players, ending in a situation identical to that prevailing at the beginning of the game;
    5. Governed by rules: under conventions that suspend ordinary laws, and for the moment establish new legislation, which alone counts;
    6. Make-believe: accompanied by a special awareness of a second reality or of a free unreality, as against real life (9-10)
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