Man, Reflexivity and Gameplay: On Deriving a Sociology from Games

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Tom BROCK, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Renan PETERSEN-WAGNER, Coventry Unviersity, United Kingdom
This article interrogates the work of Roger Caillois and, in particular, one of his foundational arguments found in Man, Play and Games: that a plausible explanatory account of social action (‘a sociology’) can be derived from an analysis of games. For Caillios, an explanatory account of social action may be derived from the way that play (as paidia) is disciplined and institutionalised through games (as ludus). In other words, games are seen to provide the ideas from which people develop practices that reach beyond the game into the everyday life. It is the contention of this article that Caillios’ position obscures an elemental dimension of social reality – the natural capacity for people to reflect in thought, and be reflexive in action. Indeed, it appears that what Caillios offers in Man, Play and Games is a model of social reality that is ‘Elisionist’ (Archer, 1995) in its claims about how games shape culture through player practices. In this article, we intend to show just how important reflexivity is in mediating the relationship between Man, Play and Games. We deploy a cross-national comparative ethnography of male players of the popular sports video game FIFA to show how Caillios’ conception of game-types take on very different meanings when players are situated in Brazil and the UK. What we find is that FIFA takes on a variety of meanings that speak as much to the spatial, temporal and contextual nature of these players’ lives than Caillios’ game-typologies permit. This not to deny the possibility of non-rational play but to elaborate on Caillios’ original intention: to derive a sociology from games that also has a robust conception of personhood.