Caillois work Man, Play, and Games, while an improvement from Huzinga’s work Homos Ludens, seems to me like a hypocritical circle of game categorization. Caillois spends the entire first half of the book attempting to place games into four distinct categories –the Latin titles of which drive me crazy– only to go right back around and piece them together again in the second half. I think it is admirable to attempt to break down games into four categories, however, I don’t think that doing so really works because there are so many different kinds of games and forms of play, and they are constantly being redefined by technology and changing social structures.
I also really don’t understand how cultural practices and rituals can be deemed a form of play either. I find such a categorization disrespectful to the cultural practices of different societies –though I understand because this guy is French. I don’t consider most religious practices a form of play, for they are typically done in a serious and respectful manner that, even as defined by Caillois, cannot constitute play.
In addition, I really dislike how Caillois defines games as having to be, “Free, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, and make believe.” I don’t think that a game has to constitute any or all of those, except for rules maybe because even if rules are not outlined, there exist implicit ones. Games and play can occur regularly in real life and do not have to be “make believe.” They do not have to be unproductive. People make money, win prizes, and gain points by playing games. Under Caillois definition if you profit from play and games, then it is no longer play. I completely disagree with that analysis. Games are about pleasure and fun, to some people, winning prizes and making money is the fun side of games. If games didn’t have some sort of reward, nobody would play them.
While I found the book particularly dragging and obnoxiously repetitive –not to mention 50s sexist– I appreciate the historic value of the text. It was one of the first attempts to categorize games and play, however far from well categorized and defined they were.