I’ve been reading Bernard Suits’ “The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia” and will share some of the highlights.

On rules, Suits writes the following:

“Rules in games thus seem to be in some sense inseparable from ends, for to break a game rule is to render impossible the attainment of an end.” (p. 24). And: “I obey the rules just because such obedience is a necessary condition for my engaging in the activity such obedience makes possible.” (p. 31)

Thus, you need to adhere to the rules to be able to play and complete the game. Something that relates to the “lusory attitude” (p. 38) a player has when playing. There are always rules in games, even if they are hidden in agreements over starting times, place and opponent (p. 67). What then, I thought, if the game is as such that you can only win it once you start breaking its rules? I think the definition still holds, because that would imply another rule which states the breaking of the other rules. Indeed, Suits argues that

“it is not these manoeuvres [efforts to mislead in order to gain an advantage] that make the activities in which they occur games; it is the constitutive rules of those games which make these kinds of misdirection the useful manoeuvres that they are.” (p. 152).

Which also says something about the creative interaction that can take place with rules. This is possible because “[g]ame rules are not ultimately binding” (p. 26) and “other rules can always supersede the game rules” (p. 27) or one rule can be placed higher than the other.

A note about the assumption of roles in games is that they should always stay assumed. When the role is adopted as a serious business, the game seizes to be a game (p. 112). A reference to the fact that games are described as being outside everyday life, which Suits touches upon with his term ‘lusory attitude’. A possible outcome of assuming game roles in everyday life could be that the audience is forced to change their behaviour in acting along with the player to not disturb the illusion (p. 124).

This is something that should be remembered when designing urban games that involve the public. An example was the game Snatch Ball that I played at the Cultural Sunday, in which the designers explained a game instance in which one man decided to help the players for a longer period of time, ruining the game premise of persuading by passers in helping you.

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