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By Roger Caillois

Translated from the French via Meyer Barash

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Sample text

Most of them indeed seem to reflect stimulus and response, thrust and parry, provocation and contagion, and effer­ vescence or shared tension. They need an attentive and sym­ pathetic audience. It is unlikely that any category of play would be an exception to this law. Even games of chance seem to be more of an attraction in a group, if not in a crowd. Nothing prevents the players from placing their bets by telephone or risking their money in comfort either at home or in a discreet salon. But they would rather be pressed by the throng which fills the hippodrome or casino, for the pleasure, thrill, and excite­ ment engendered by fraternization with an anonymous multi­ tude.

In contrast, just as there could be no relationship between paidia, which is tumultuous and exuberant, and alea, which is passive anticipation of and mute immobility pending the out­ come of the game, there also can be no connection between ludus, which is calculation and contrivance, and ilinx, which is a pure state of transport. The desire to overcome an obstacle can only emerge to combat vertigo and prevent it from becoming transformed into disorder or panic. It is, therefore, training in self-control, an arduous effort to preserve calm and equilibrium.

A game permits only a limited number of participants. Thus a game readily seems like a pursuit for small groups of initiates or aficionados, who momentarily surrender to their favorite pastime. In addition, the mass of spectators favors mimicry, just as collective turbulence stimulates, and is in turn stimulated by, ilinx. Under certain conditions, even the games intended by their very nature to be played by a limited number of players exceed the limit. They reflect forms which, while doubtless remaining in the domain of play, evolve a bureaucracy, a complex ap­ THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF GAMES [41] paratus, and a specialized, hierarchical personality.

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