I think that this book was an attempt by Caillois to draw a blueprint for the study of games and play. I understand his effort, and I see the value in putting theoretical ideas into boxes so they can be easily referred to by others. But to be honest I struggle a lot with this kind of writing.
I gravitate towards non-fictional historical narratives, writing that has a thick sense of factual gravity that keep my feet on the ground and my eyes in line with the authors. This book though, with its opinionated statements and far reaching conclusions, really sent me for a loop. Of course this is my personal opinion, I am not trying to discredit Caillois, but his methods are not at all what I would expect from someone who is trying to explain the nature and consequences of play and games.
The first problem that I had with Caillois was his attempt to put play and games into different categories. I would consider myself to be a very efficient cook, I have experience with many different kinds of cooking, and it is an activity that I am passionate about. It would be easy for me to categorize cooking, I could call cooking on a flat top “Flatoppula,” and call any cooking that is done in an oven “Convectopula,” but building those boxes would not help anyone else learn how to cook.
I feel like that is what Caillois was attempting to do with this book, (put play and games into different boxes,) and his point would have been much more convincing if he had not been forced to combine those boxes (by describing certain games as blends of different types of play.)
On page 57 Caillois essentially says that a historical analysis of the implements of play are not useful when studying play. To me, this was literary kryptonite. I myself find it hard to discredit a field that is solely based on concrete evidence.
My displeasure with this reading is, again, entirely personal. I have a hard time reading things that are not securely rooted in real situations and that are purely theoretical.