Power of a game

“Game is a powerful source of energy, sustaining the human potential,” Aaron Dignan, Dutch Game Architect.

Once upon a time a division between work and game had occurred, as if these conceptions would have been contradicting each other. Work is productive. Game is frivolous. These statements would have been essential during the course of industrial revolution to impose pressure on factory labourers, but amid the century of information this statement is out of date. Game is a powerful source of energy, sustaining the human potential. To uncover this potential we have to give definition to the game, to comprehend it. But it is very challenging within a culture, where the game has been ousted to playgrounds and is being treated as a priority of sluggards.

In contemporary psychological-training science such terms as game, gaming interaction, gaming activity have at last become widely recognised scientific conceptions. The stigma of trifle, fun and entertainment is being gradually disassociated with the game.

Having reviewed the game in the light of culture establishments, it is worth mentioning that it had been emerging before the establishment itself, contributing to its development and remaining a part of it during centuries.

The game – as one of the most amazing phenomenon of human life – had been attracting attention of philosophers and explorers of all days. Plato had been contemplating the game as tantamount to art.

Aristotle discerned in the game a source of emotional equilibrium, harmony between mind and body. In his Poetics the philosopher outlines the benefits of verbal games and puns to enhance intelligence skills. Thus Aristotle pioneered in the area by mentioning the practical importance of a game as part of the psychophysical process.

There have also been society evolution phases which determined a negative attitude to a game. The game was regarded as a vain time waste. In the Christian middle age Europe a game was being treated in a negative manner, discerning a “satanic temptation” in it. According to scholastics, “girl should never play: she must cry a lot and reflect about her sins.”

Pietists had been prohibiting child games during the 17th century, and only at the beginning of the Renaissance period support of a game firms: François Rabelais, Michel de Montaigne discern in a game an intrinsic moment of human life. Jean Jacques Rousseau and many other high profile figures are starting to discuss again the actual practical significance of a game for humans.

Incipient game theories had been emerging since 1870s. Game becomes subjected to systematically scientific studies from different angles:

-       Physiological (G Spencer, M Lazarus etc.)
-       Biogenetical (G S Hall, L E Appleton etc.)
-       Social (C Gross etc.)
-       Bio-psychological (W McDougall, G Murphy, F. Bentendeki)
-       Sociological (C Rainwater, D Reesman, E Namer)
-       Psychotherapeutic (Z Freid, J Moreno, G Lemann)
-       Culturological (J Heuseng)
-       Multi-theory based views of a game as self-expression technique (Jean Piaget etc.)

The followers of psychological approach had believed that a game normally reconstructs actions, which are particularly important for individual’s life preservation. Gerber Spencer regarded a game as a special way of training, not just for self benefit but for a joy as well. According to Moris Lazarus an individual, depending on his activity type, would become just partially tired accumulating the excess of body energy, which is looking for a way out and is being consumed in a game.

Human game, according to biogenetical viewer Granville Stanley Hall, is a side effect, an atavism, involving the long-term history of human kind as species being manifested. Game is a human activity rudiment, child play is an instinctive activity, during which a child replicates living activities of his primal ancestors. Further science development dismissed these theories’ as incredible.

The followers of the social approach, G Cross in a first place, have made a bunch of suggestions having progressive nature and relevant until now. Gross had indicated the tendency of a game to move forward, considering the game as preparation for life – he is the author of theory, where game is regarded as inadvertent educator of a child. He contemplated child play as an important formation mean and skill training required for psychophysical and personal development, which would also be essential in future activities. In fact, Gross pioneered in pointing out social merits and importance of a game – among children as much as adults. He regarded a game as primary form of individual’s social involvement through voluntary compliance with the rules or the leader. He also discerned development of self-responsibility sense in a course of a game, including responsibility for our actions and for the group we have been in – endeavour to cultivate and demonstrate abilities in action.

Gross contemplated the adult game in relation to functions, it had been implementing within the culture:

-       Function of life supplement to physical, intellectual and emotional aspects of personality
-       Function of liberation and being granted liberty for personality
-       Function of world’s harmonisation and harmony between a man and the world.

Gross’ significant merit constitutes the fact that he had never confined to mere declaration of particular state of mind or people’s mood in a game, but sought scientific grounds for that.

At the beginning of 20th century the above mentioned game theory analysis exposed their scientific relevance, narrowness and non-wide application, which rendered to the latest interest to study game phenomenon.

The vivid representatives of bio-psychological approach are W McDougall, G Murphy, F. Bentendeki. According to them a human being - as a social creature - is exposed to its instincts. Any course of social behaviour - gaming in particular - is being interpreted given the ability to act purposefully. They believe that the game is a some kind of “social instinct” of a human being. Hence the presence of the game instinct within human behavioural pattern vindicates the subsistence of the game within human society.

F. Bentendeki, a Dutch psychologist, contemplates a game as a particular type of activity, involving experimentation, manipulation, replication – these activities facilitate the formation and enhancement of imagination, fantasy and intelligence. F. Bentendeki - starting from a game with an object, leading to a game with a pattern or image - seeks a path to a spiritual side, side of imagination and creativity. According to him, a man is a player - this is his essence! The social position game theory comes within more blunt social behaviour interpretations, social processes and motions. C Rainwater, D Reesman, E Namer – as followers of this approach – believe that a game is a special type of activity defined by physical condition of a particular moment and social arrangements of a person, which are part of a group’s lifestyle, where the particular individual belongs to.

Integration of group is followed by deliberate and inadvertent group ideals’ digestion. Having accomplished these, individuals get used to each other by becoming confined to the part of the group and getting socialised concurrently – as the game types and etalons are being ruled by the society. Accordingly – as per social approach followers -  the role of a game is to create group coherence by forming a personality, which would benefit the society.

The game theory as self-expression form has been widely recognised until now. The game theory is being articulated by its representatives as the “fact of self-expressed individual exploration”. The sense of a game is being defined as to self-express, gain public endorsement, satisfaction and subdue internal tensions. The significant role in game self-expression theory enhancement belongs to a remarkable globally recognised psychologist Jean Piaget. According to his point of view, game constitutes creativity type, but with particular aim. During the game process a man familiarizes and overcomes difficulties, which he may come across in the real world.

According topsychotherapeutic position, a major role has been played by psychoanalytical and psychotherapeutic approach to the game. A game, according to Z Freud, substitutes free association technique, on which psychoanalysis is based. The main functions of games are taboo removals, illusory satisfaction of unsatisfied actions and thoughts.

Excellent practical results have been revealed by the game conception introduced by Jacob Levy Moreno. Having not agreed with individualistic Z Freid’s approach, he introduces treatment within a group by mean of entire group participation. J Moreno - using a game as base - introduces a novel physiotherapy technique, namely psychodrama. He has regarded child play as a therapy technique and a mean to avert conflicts - a symbolic wish fulfilment, a way to prepare mind and conscience of a child in general for upcoming adult behavioural patterns and relations.

A special place in the game theory belongs to J Heuseng, a representative of culturological approach of the game interaction. He had been trying to trace its role in every aspect of human life. For him a game is a primary life category, not linked to any form of world conception. According to J Heuseng the game adorns life by enhancing it, as a result being needed to every person regardless the age or social status. J Heuseng looks back to the era of civilisations’ dawn and discovers it in myths, cults and celebrations. He believes that - either for myths or in cults – by means of game inducing factors are being emerged and to be integrated in social life: law and order, communication and business, craft and art, poetry, learning and science. The game is adjacent to seriousness, having transformed itself to seriousness, and conversely - seriousness into the game.

For many centuries massive social games have maintained their important role in the culture, having been transformed into modern conception of festival. Contemporary festival is both game and not the game at the same time. This event keeps interaction by lingering to the game emerged at the dawn of culture. The game designs festival, concurrently having become a piece of it as correlative part.

Contemporary game is the other curb of reality, excess over ordinary things and piece of soul ecology. This is the manifestation to create, leave deeply from the soul, turn yourself away from everyday daft routine. The game relieves subjective and social-psychological tensions, enabling to integrate within culture of its people and becoming the liaison mean for generations.

Materials: Game in training, St Petersburg 2011