The Games we Play

Our lives are run by games. We are told we must follow the rules, compete, try to be on top or fall down and be crushed. Society itself is a game, a set of arbitrary rules. If we manage to play the game well we are “successful”, if not we fail. I like games, I’ve been playing all sorts of games all my life. Computer games, board games, games using toys with friends as children, team sport games. They’re fun when you do it for fun, but when you begin to think it is real your life becomes a prison.

Society is a game, but one you’re supposed to take seriously, and society itself consists of myriad mini-games. There’s the career game, the politics game, economics, education too is a game. Science and religion, both of which are supposed to provide answers, are a competition whose dogma or theory is the most popular one. They used to say the world was created in seven days, and anyone who disagreed was silenced. Now the top dog is the explanation that the universe popped into existence in the fraction of a second (or something). If you question that, you are out of a job. The point in a game is not to question the game when you play it, but to be the best, to eliminate opposition. It’s fucking silly that people are playing all sorts of sports where they are running after a ball, or playing video games where they kill countless numbers of monsters. The activity is quite pointless when you think about it, but it’s fun. People enjoy these activities, and you can’t blame them for it, but you can blame them when they continue playing a game when they stop enjoying it.

The Online Etymology Dictionary has this to say:

 

“game (n.)
Old English gamen “game, joy, fun, amusement,” common Germanic (cf. Old Frisian game “joy, glee,” Old Norse gaman, Old Saxon, Old High German gaman “sport, merriment,” Danish gamen, Swedish gamman “merriment”), regarded as identical with Gothic gaman “participation, communion,” from Proto-Germanic *ga- collective prefix + *mann “person,” giving a sense of “people together.”

Meaning “contest played according to rules” is first attested c.1300. Sense of “wild animals caught for sport” is late 13c.; hence fair game (1825), also gamey. Game plan is 1941, from U.S. football; game show first attested 1961.”

 

It’s supposed to be fun. You’re supposed to experience joy and amusement playing games. A lot of people don’t enjoy playing the society game, nor fiddling with economics and politics and all that stuff. So lets call them sick games compared to games that are fun. You are forced to play sick games in order to survive in the world, and they are merely enforced by other people, not by natural law. You have to fight to get money to be able to get food and shelter. It’s a game, and not a fun one. There are some people who like it, but I’d wager most people don’t. There are all sorts of social norms you have to follow, arbitrarily set by something or someone you will never even meet, however if you don’t follow the norms you are ostracized by others, possibly even thrown in an institution. These are games, sick games, not actual requirements set by nature such as eating and sleeping.

One line in the etymology explanation is quite interesting: “ga-collective prefix + *mann “person,” giving a sense of “people together.” A game is something people do together for fun, unless it’s a sick game. Although the original meaning of game does not seem to have any requirement to have rules, I think nowadays most associate games with rules. That’s fine, it’s natural for people to be together and agree on some sort of rules of conduct. However, we should remember you don’t need to play a game in order to associate with people. We tend to forget that.

Hunting, or the prey you hunt, is also called game. As the Etymology dictionary says this meaning came to be in the middle-ages. Perhaps our sick games are derived from this practice. In the hunter-gatherer past hunting was something you didn’t for fun, you did to live, but in more civilized times it became a past time which some enjoyed. The same was later applied for politics, economics, science and religion. Somehow the rules that are associated with games took over the practicality related in such matters (yes, religion, or rather spirituality, is supposed to be a practical matter). I’m just guessing here though.

To return to the point, our society is a game, a sick game, with a set of arbitrary rules we expected to follow. There is even the concept Game theory, which is used in economics, political science, and psychology to study the mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers, according to Wikipedia. It’s all a game. There’s nothing wrong with playing games occasionally, but when the game hi-jacks your sense of reality you have a problem. Whether you play World of Warcraft or are following the stock market 24/7, it’s a problem. If you do it now and then because you like it, it’s fine. You have to keep in mind though, that you have to choose what game you want to play.

Links:

Etymology: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=game&allowed_in_frame=0

Game theory: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory

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