domingo, 10 de setembro de 2017

Roger Caillois and one possible view about the complexity of games and play forms

In his iconic book from 1958 “Man, Play and Games” (“Les jeux et les homes” as the original title, in French), the sociologist Roger Caillois discusses how a gaming culture can be an essential element of social changing.

In the first chapter of the book, Caillois presents one interesting view about possibilities of play forms and how they can combine among them. In a very synthetic way, the author says that there are four play forms:

1) Agon: play activities that depend on physical abilities like soccer, basketball, chess (mind effort), boxing etc.

2) Alea: ludic situations that depend of pure chance, like lottery, casino roulette and dice-rolling games based only on luck.

3) Mimicry: role-playing games and theatrical activity (make-believe game).

4) Ilinx: Activities where there is risk of life and vertigo. Tightrope, bungee jump and other extreme sports are some examples.

Trying to summarize these ideas, I created the following image:

It’s important to highlight that these categories can combine themselves in other situations. One “Dungeons & Dragons” RPG session, for instance, can combine elements of mimicry (in the role play) and alea (in dice-rolling situations). Poker can combine alea factors (the way the cards will appear in the table) with agon (the strategy and mental effort to create strategy).

This post is only a synthesis of an important idea from Caillois. I strongly suggest the full reading of “Man, Play and Games”. It’s a fantastic way to dwell deeply about games, game design and ludic elements in the contemporary scenario.



CAILLOIS, Roger. Man, Play and Games. USA: Illinois University, 2001.

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