Go Nation is fun and it reminds me that more books should have audiobook versions narrated by the author, especially in a work so clearly written in an author’s own voice.
Go Nation presents a few interesting arguments, largely dealing with how the aesthetic experience of playing Go has been perceived, and how that perception has created spaces for the airing of other experiences. I think the interesting thing about it is that, fundamentally, the thesis of Go Nation is that Go is nothing special. Rather, the circumstances surrounding Go and its play in different countries has lead to its longevity and the drama and controversy that comes with playing it.
Moskowitz focuses on a few different points; Go is somehow different when played online; Go is a space where players are more important than pieces; Go is where international grudges are examined and combated. In many ways, the Go scene serves as a stage for larger conflicts and interactions.
Not to be smug, but Go Nation is very much so a book that disproves Huizinga. Mainly, Go Nation serves as a living testament to how games are, fundamentally, more than just “games”. By examining the political issues, the outside metagame, and the various controversies that compose “modern Go”, Moscowitz highlights a key aspect to the game: That the aesthetic experience of playing “real Go” is very much tied to things outside the control and rules of the game itself. Rather, Moscowitz has written an ethnography about the experience of playing Go. This is something that is incredibly interesting, because almost everything that he writes about is indicative of culture and cultural perception rather than the design or rules behind the game. In fact, his argument hinges heavily on the idea that there isn’t anything inherent in Go’s design that makes it the way it is. Rather, it’s the history and people behind it that bring it to the cultural height it has achieved.
What I’m saying is, I like this book quite a bit.