Toy Design Project

Friday, January 28, 2005

Researching "Play"

I got some books in the mail yesterday, so I spent the entire day reading.
The books were: "Rules of Play" and "Man, Play and Games". And since I have read some of the first book before, I started to read the second.

"Man, Play and Games" by Roger Caillois is classified as a book on sociology and sport. But it would be a good book for game and toy designers also. It deals with basic play theory and game theory. So far into the book it doesn't seem like Caillois is separating the two. The book was originally published in French as "Les jeux et les hommes" and it would seem as though the word jeux incorporates both play and game. The author defines play and categorizes games to a fairly good degree. Although since the book was first published in 1958, it is somewhat outdated when it comes to games. The basics of game is still applicable today, but new games and technology has come that further complicate Caillois' theories. He does not mention computer games or role playing games at all for instance.

Caillois splits games into four categories and names them:

  • Agôn: Competitive games. (Like most sports and games with two or more opponents)
  • Alea: Games of chance. (Like dice, gambling and lottery)
  • Mimicry: Pretending games / make believe. (I believe storytelling is a big part of the games in this category.)
  • Ilinx: Games based on the pursuit of vertigo. (Play that induce a sense of physical dizziness in the player. Like amusement park rides and bungee jumping.)
He also adds a second dimension to these games he calls paidia and ludus. This is, as far as I can gather, the degree of chaos and order that make up the game.

I really like this kind of classification of games, and I think it could be interesting to use this system to classify the new games like computer games and role playing games. By classifying the games that have been popular in the last years, it could be easier to discover areas of gaming that have not been used to its' full potential. Combining ilinx and agôn in a computer game for instance, sounds like something original. Though perhaps we have to wait until the virtual reality technology is developed enough to induce true physical emotion in addition to audio and video based emotions.
This was just an example that immediately came to mind, but I am sure something else will come up once I start to map out today's toys and games.


  • Hi Espen, I was just blog surfing and found you! Wow, I really like this one.
    It’s such a pleasure to read your post …. Interesting! I was over at another site

    looking at online shopping

    and they didn't go into as much detail as you, but nonetheless interesting.

    By Anonymous spyware, at March 1, 2006 at 1:03 PM  

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