Comm 203 Compare/Contrast Game Blog

While reading through the chapter “What is a Game?” by Simon Egenfeldt-Neilson, Jonas H. Smith, and Susana P. Tosca in A Media Studies Reader, the two perspectives on the constitution of games that were personally most intriguing are Roger Caillois’s views and Brian Sutton-Smith’s views.  Roger Caillois, a French philosopher, focuses his attention on the sociological approach of play.  He begins by stating his four necessary requirements of play.  On page 154, the requirements of play are stated, ” it must be performed voluntarily, is uncertain, unproductive, and consists of make-believe.”  Furthermore, he goes on to develop four categories of games.  These categories are competition, chance, imitation, and vertigo.  Competition focuses on skill, an example being chess, while chance deals with randomness and luck, most video games would fall into this category.  Imitation does not focus on winning but rather taking on a different role, for instance adventure video games, and vertigo deals with experiencing pleasure, such as riding a roller coaster.  Finally, it is important to note that according to Caillois, a single game may incorporate more than one of these categories.  The example used in the text is a popular video game entitled Super Monkey Ball.  According to the text, this game includes imitation, competition, and vertigo.  
In addition to Caillois’s theory of play, Brain Sutton-Smith, a educationist, suggests some ideas about games as play.  Unlike Caillois who gives four qualities of play, Sutton-Smith never gives a single definition for play.  In fact, he believes because the nature of play varies, the definition must be that it simply is contingent upon the purpose.  One interesting idea he proposes that Caillois never mentions is that games are not a part of all cultures.  The text states on page 159, “Rather games emerge as societies mature and develop more advanced political and social organization.”  Basically, the advancement of the games in a society indicate a higher leves of political and social maturity and development.  Similar to Caillois’s definition of games, Sutton-Smith believes a game must be voluntary, but goes on to elaborate.  He also says that two opposing forces must follow organization to have some final consequence.  Like Caillois, Sutton-Smith divides games into four categories, including social, solitary, physical, and theoretical.  However, these categories appear to be mutually exclusive.  
Although Caillois and Sutton-Smith have many differing ideas about play and games, they have some similarities, specifically in games.  This could be because they were in different concentrations of study or because Sutton-Smith studied this topic at least twenty years after Caillois.  It is also possible that there is no real reason for the many differences other than the fact that they just disagree.  Overall, each theorist proposed his personal ideas about play and games.


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