The Material Games of the Past

[This is my attempt to rewrite the most interesting of my lost posts.]

In architecture, not too long ago, there was a debate or conflict between those trying to revive the christian Gothic as compared to those reviving the Classical style, seen as pagan. Can the same be said about games?

Now, I’m not talking particularly about computer games at the point. Computer games are exclusively in this contemporary secular age, but games in general are of course much older. However, I cannot think of an example in these old material games either.

Perhaps, that is because the games that we play are seen as less worthy of discussion, to make TV programs, or to write great books about. However, I would argue that in fact material games of the past are a completely different beast from a building, or a painting, or games of the present.

The material games of the past were memes, rather than a fixed work of art created by an artist, they were evolving things being modified by one mind to another and passing on to become a more platonic thing like a game of Chinese Whispers. An early process of iterative development that we use today, but only not in a single team or mind.

Now, this is similar to architectural styles since there is no individual, in most cases, who can be universally agreed to be the architect of a style, however the architects of building can be known. The buildings are works of art, the style is not.

With the material games of the past the greatest metaphor is for language. The history of past games is more like etymology rather than the personality-infused story of art. The inventors of these games are more like the first mentions of words rather than artists; although if there was a Shakespeare of games, I’m sure that would be mentioned.

The simple anonymous meme that spread throughout the world unhindered by national borders, although oceans posed a greater problem, that did not face the pure coordination game problems that stood in the way of language could be of interest to anthropologists as it takes different forms. However, it lacks totally the drama and human feeling of popular history.

That is for the material games of the past. A past where there were no central repositories of rules, where the rules of the games had to be passed along by fragile open to change speech. The material games of the present have their rules put down are no longer so fragile. Computer games that have their rules built into the materials are even more resistant to change.  They are no longer an evolving meme, but are fixed pieces of art.


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