Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Bread and Games

The picture is the card “Bread and Games” from La Citta. These two words encapsulate my two key decisions, bread – a symbol of nourishment and essential resource – do I need this? and games – a symbol of having fun – is it going to make my life fun? You can check many things against this simple binomial test. Beer can often start out in the “Bread” category and soon becomes the “Games” category.

I like to play games. Actually I like to enjoy life and this is achieved in part by playing games. A friend has a motto on his blog, which is itself a paraphrase of the Bernard Shaw quote, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." I like this sentiment; that the very act of engaging in an apparently frivolous activity can indeed hold back the ravages of old age.

Recently I have had pause to consider what my motivations are for playing games. I listened to an excellent gaming podcast called Gameon -  Episode 28 – Motivations. I sympathized with much of the discussion about the challenging games with people who want to win at all costs, as we have all experienced this from time to time – I’d suggest possibly from both sides of the fence. At the end of one such discussion the guest host, single-L, said, “who even won that game?”.

I must confess, this resonated quite strongly with me. There have been occasions where the game became such a trial I could not recall who won. There have also been games that have been so much fun that I forgot who won. This leads me to believe that winning isn’t the objective. But clearly it is, you wouldn’t be a gamer if you didn’t want to win. In fact, I think Darwin had something to say about this too, so in a sense we are all the decedents of generations of winners.

Until researching for this blog – yes I did!, I had believed my old school motto was “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”. Actually it now appears to be “Faith in our Future”,  something you’d expect the marketing department of Orange Mobile phones to come up with. Perhaps it was another school, it doesn’t matter, the sentiment I remember is that wining isn’t the objective, but acting in an exemplary manor regardless, is. Not confusing this with the liberal nonsense of, we can all be winners, actually I think this is the point. Victurus te saluto - He who is about to win salutes you, whatever happened to gracious victors?

If not the single-minded objective to win, then what else could the objective be?

Learning, I suspect is one. Experiencing real life concepts played out in a controlled and restricted rule set. From buying property, to the stock market, to balancing resources on a newly settled island, gaming can introduce these concepts in a friendly “risk free” environment. It goes further than this, as an adult, I have enjoyed diplomacy and negotiation or trading games that in someway approximate those interactions from real life – giving me an opportunity to hone my technique. Note-to-self – must try harder. Also, purely social interaction could be the aim – however I believe I’d just go to the pub if this were true. So is it something to do with intellectual stimulation? Probably, but really I think the only objectives are to try to win and to be gracious along the way, regardless of the outcome.

One final thought from Plato

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”


  1. Of course the Roman hierarchy would put on 'bread and games' to pacify the population. Whilst you are losing to me at War of the Ring, the government is eroding all of your civil liberties.
    But that's another story....

    There are many reasons to play games and I think you've touched on many of them. It is, overall, a basic human trait. There are only two civilisations, in the whole of history, that have failed to leave evidence of board gaming in the archaeological records. That's a pretty long tradition.

    If Indiana Jones ever digs up the remnants of Castle Gormenghast, he'll find more than his fair share of gaming treasures.

    So have you forgotten your school motto or never had it translated to you properly??

  2. From playing with you, James, I gained the distinct impression that "w[h]ining" WAS the objective... ;-)

    And where can I get tickets to the plays in the exemplary manor of which you speak? It sounds lovely :-)

  3. You know, you can proof read something 50 times and there'll always be a word you become blind to. I once claimed to have "sold my sole to the industry" in a letter to an eminent professor - he had the good grace not to rub my nose in it. However, I've always carried the image of me on the dock front handing over a large plaice!!

    Why anonymous? to scared to own your opinion?

  4. I think it's always dodgy picking up other people's spelling mistakes in a blog. You are likely to fall foul of Muphrys Law !

    Besides which, a blog is a conversation and not a novel.

    Although the observation about an exemplary manor was amusing :-)

  5. Sorry, thought you'd be able to suss the identity of your mystery helpful correctioner. And I'm probably sharing the joy cos I've got a cold ;-)
    Haven't got a Google account, AIM etc, so no ID to hang this on, but it's (currently half an) Eric


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