Gabriel Orozco, 'Horses Running Endlessly.' 1995.

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It has become increasingly evident, particularly in the twenty-first century, how immersed our lives are into the world of games. Almost every aspect of our social life, for example, seems to be dominated by the topic of some sporting event or another. Even in the sciences, as well, Game Theory has come to the fore as an area of mathematics which strives to comprehend the rationale of entities placed into competitive situations and which, now, has far-reaching implications into various other fields of study. In the entertainment industry, video games have recently surpassed Hollywood as a more lucrative business and with technology and the internet making various games more and more accessible, it has become blatantly clear how prone, even addicted, people are to games. So, the question needs to be addressed then – what unites together two activities so seemingly disparate as chess and football and why, exactly, do we need to play games in the first place? Well, simply put, games help us to forget. On further thought, it seems true that when we are immersed into the world of games that the commitments of everyday life seem to fade away - as if we are able to finally achieve a moment of peace from our world of responsibilities. By definition, all games are rule-governed and it is an appeal to a set of fanciful rules which are able to relieve us of real-life obligations. In the moment of a game, whether it be in chess or football, we are focused solely on the goal at hand and the serious matters which plague us normally begin to finally disappear, if only for the moment. Overall, though, people need to play games in order to abstract the complex world into simpler terms, to communicate with others, as well as to release themself from the angst that the future inevitably brings.

In 1957, Roland Barthes published his seminal work ‘Mythologies’ which is basically a collection of short articles attempting to explain the typical cultural phenomenon we experience everyday. The first essay ‘The World of Wrestling’ gives an in-depth account and sincere look into why countless number of people are so fascinated with a sport which is obviously fake. Barthes notes that you can watch wrestling matches travel from town to town and even the wrestlers, themselves, fight night in and night out despite the injuries that they purport to obtain. Far from being barbaric, as wrestling is often criticized for, Barthes argues instead that wrestling “is not a sadistic spectacle but an intelligible one.” Barthes does not condemn wrestling but, on the contrary, he praises it for its“absolute clarity” and suggests that people are so attracted towards wrestling because things are made simple for us and we know exactly who is the ‘bad guy’ and who exactly is the ‘good guy.’ During a wrestling match, the wrestlers become the embodiement of good and evil for their audience in the way religions are able to clarify a world view for their congregation. In effect, wrestling has embraced a long tradition of manicheist simplicity which places everything into the two basic categories of good and evil ever since the religions of Zoroaster and the Gnostics. But in reality, as Shakespeare is able to point out through the voice of Hamlet - “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Human beings must always think in binary opposites (i.e. there can be no concept of darkness without light, there can be no good without evil, the concept of life depends upon the idea of death, etc.) which polarize everything into opposing extremes and, as a result, ignore all the intermediary grey areas which actually make up the entire spectrum of reality. Both wrestling and religion are able to affirm this binary opposition in our normal thought process and everything, therefore, becomes as black-and-white as the game of chess itself. Barthes explains “wrestlers remain gods because they are, for a few moments, the key which opens Nature, the pure gesture which separates Good from Evil, and unveils the form of a Justice which is at last intelligible.”
Barthes begins the entire essay by clarifying that “Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle.” In fact, Barthes even goes as far to imply that wrestling is more similar to a finely rehearsed play than a live sporting event and suggests “There is no more a problem of truth in wrestling than in the theatre. In both, what is expected is the intelligible representation of moral situations which are usually private.” When you really think about it, Shakespeare’s plays are just as fake as wrestling is. Even though we might cry during Shakespeare’s celebrated tragedy ‘Hamlet,’ in the back of our minds a part of us must always know that Ophelia, Gertrude, and Hamlet never actually die but, rather, they are imaginary characters which are only portrayed to die by the skillfull actors. We easily get lost into these worlds presented before us but, in the end, we have only our self to blame for allowing these deceptions to move us beyond the point of tears.
This ‘suspension of disbelief’ is normally only associated with theatre, literature, and cinema but it is what is also employed in wrestling as well. Barthes, in his essay, focuses in on this connection to demonstrate exactly why wrestling is not a sport but, on the contrary, don’t sports (and all games in general) suspend disbelief when we end up exceeding the bare necessities required for survival and we turn, instead, to the superficial rules of a game which have no correspondence to the reality that nature has deemed upon us. Simplify “This grandiloquence is nothing but the popular and age-old image of the perfect intelligibility of reality. What is portrayed by wrestling is therefore an ideal understanding of things; it is the euphoria of men raised for a while above the constitutive ambiguity of everyday situations and placed before the panoramic view of a universal Nature, in which signs at last correspond to causes, without obstacle, without evasion, without contradiction.”

It should be noted, early on, that the causes essential to scientific thinking must be categorically distinguished from the logic or reason found in games. When the rules of chess are being explained, for example, it is impractical to speak of ‘causes.’ Bishops do not move diagonally because of electrical and chemical reactions in a player’s nervous system but, rather, because that is the rule by which they operate as a matter of convention or logic. We could just as well move bishops like castles, in straight lines, or move castles in diagonal lines. Of course, actually moving bishops can involve the body, with its electrical and chemical reactions, but there are no obvious causal issues of physics or chemistry here, only issues of rules and how they are followed. They are a matter of logic, reason or rules, not causes. Logic, or the rules of language and truth, is a different type of language from the language of causality used in science. All games are rule-governed and it is these rules which are man’s contribution to nature.
Of course, technically speaking, not even the rigorous determinism of science can remain an unquestionable truth in which we can safely rely all of our faith in. Karl Popper, a great philosopher as well as a scientist, was able to effectively expose the ultimate futility of science when he ruthlessly points out “Science is perhaps the only human activity in which errors are systematically criticized and... in time, corrected.” This basic fact led him to also conclude that, ultimately,“all we can do is search for the falsity content of our best theory.” Using the example of billards, David Hume was able to undermine even causality, the fundamental belief which states everything must have some rational cause. In his “Treatise of Human Nature,’ Hume noticed “The impact of one billiard ball upon another is followed by the motion of the second. There is here contiguity in space and time, but nothing to suggest necessary connection. Why do we imagine a necessary connection?” Accordingly, what we are actually seeing when we see the queue ball hit another ball is several distinct events in space and time and we impulsively tend to sew these various events together as if we just assume they are related. Similarly, just because we see the sun always come up after the moon doesn’t necessarily mean that the moon caused the sun to rise. Any connection we seem to observe is simply a connection that we have imposed onto the scenario. Indeed, what really guarantees that our future will always behave like it has so in the past? Even though it might not be probable, there is nothing which ensures that (what we assume to be) the laws of nature will hold tomorrow. Hume concludes “After a repetition of similar instances the mind is carried by habit, upon the appearance of the cause, to expect the effect.” Hume never actually denies there is such a thing as ‘cause and effect’ - just the fact that we could ever prove it or ever point to the actual cause. Since we have no right to presume that the rules of causality will hold in the future we often use games as a means to try to enforce these causes. In effect, billiards and other games become means of demonstrating a feigned mastery over our environment much in the way science seems able to. It is probable that Hume chose the example of billiards because in the arena of a game the laws of nature only seem to be reinforced by the excessive rules which we implement.

Before we can fully understand our psychological need for games, it is imperative to take a deeper look into the philosophy and psychology of Soren Kierkegaard and, in particular, his concept of angst. Like Hume, Kierkegaard also doubted our most sacred beliefs including God, knowledge, or any claims to ‘truth.’ Kierkegaard went about this skepticism by first questioning time and concluded that because we are finite beings, we can never truly know something infinite, like God. Even if there was such a thing as a timeless truth, we could never comprehend it anyways because we, ourselves, are not timeless. Our goal in life, therefore, is to find some connection to eternity, a bridge which forever binds us to something more stable than our own self and which will outlast our own life - whether this be through offspring, religion, art, writing, laws, jobs, rules, games, or the awards which declare, forever, that we once achieved something. The meaning of life is to give life meaning and games seem to be able to achieve this no matter how trivial they are.
Kierkegaard’s philosophy was an overall reaction against Hegel’s systematic systemic and totalizing philosophy typified by his maxim“the Rational is the Real and the Real is the Rational.” This infamous quote by Hegel attempted to unite his ontology and epistemology and, in effect, Hegel erroneously suggested that cause and logic are the same thing. Kierkegaard, however, pointed out that existence is the one thing that can never be thought because thought is always a form of abstraction and as Kierkegaard, himself, was often fond of saying -“Life is thought backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” Thought and existence can never be the same thing and Hegel’s attempt to unify the two would be tantamount to reading a cookbook to a man who is starving. Ideas are not the same thing as reality. “We think in generalities but we live in detail.” Alfred North Whitehead This has an interesting association with games because games are always a means of imposing our simple abstract way of thinking onto the more complex reality we are, naturally, overwhelmed by.

In his 1844 book ‘The Concept of Angst,’ Kierkegaard makes an attempt to define the elusive feeling he terms as ‘angst’ through the unusual perspective of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Angst (the Danish word ‘Angest’ which is sometimes also translated as dread, anxiety, or anguish) is difficult to ascertain because it is, fundamentally, a fear of nothing. Fear is something easier to understand because it is always a fear of something – whether it be a fear of snakes, spiders, or whatever. Angst, on the otherhand, is an elusive feeling of uneasiness which never seems to go away but which only manifests itself as the gut-wrenching sensation felt in the pit of one’s stomach. According to Kierkegaard, angst came about at the exact moment God prohibited Adam from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Where before he had lived in complete bliss and repose, Adam had now become afraid of his own self because of the fact that he might actually break God’s law. God’s law had the effect of inducing the state of angst “because the prohibition awakens the possibility of freedom.” Mankind had now been granted the awesome power to go against God’s will and because Adam realized this innately, he wished to do so.
So, basically, angst is the fear of freedom. To further illustrate angst, Kierkegaard uses the example of standing next to the edge of a cliff. Kierkegaard explains “Angst is the vertigo of possibility” and, naturally, an individual becomes apprehensive at the cliff’s edge because there is an overwhelming wariness that we might actually end up being the cause of our own demise. One fears that they may trip but, at some level, the individual also fears that they might actually jump into the abyss below. A modern-day example is similarly felt when we drive a car and, suddenly, we become aware that we could crash straight into the oncoming traffic, if we so desired. For example, one cannot help, at some point or another, to be angered by the possibility of running head into the inconsiderate jerk blinding them with bright lights. There is an actual judicial law which states we have to stay in our own lane but the only thing stopping us, really, is our own self. This is scary precisely because our will is such a small barrier to overcome. In the end, we are ultimately never in control because as Nietszche points out “The will to overcome an emotion is ultimately only the will of another, or of several other, emotions.” If angst causes one to fear freedom, then it is clear that we love to play games because the rules which define a game necessarily limit freedom.
Since, in our enormous freedom, there is nothing definitive to guide our decision-making process we always tend to impulsively resort to and fixate on the few things which we know we are not supposed to. This is precisely because we have a pretty-good idea of what not to do but there is nothing, on the other hand, which ensures, beyond a doubt, that we are living our life correctly. Blinded by the infinite possibilities of the future, we therefore become like deer frozen in headlights which are so easily fixated on the object of their own demise. Kierkegaard warns “angst is an alien power which takes possession of the individual; he cannot tear himself away from its power because he is afraid; what we fear, we at the same time desire.” Confronted by our limits, they always tend to arise before us as the foremost of possibilites. Kierkegaard’s official definition of angst is given as “a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy” which roughly translates into simpler terms as angst is a desire of what one fears as well as a fear of what one desires. Games counterbalance
Freedom and possibility are primary sources of angst because we know that we are capable of the most unthinkable of deeds and as Kierkegaard warns “in possibility all things are equally possible, and whoever has truly been brought up by possibility has grasped the terrible as well as the joyful.” Interestingly enough, some individuals suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Neuroses (OCN) fear knives because they are afraid of the impulse to stab someone. In other words, they fear themself and the possibilities of knives. Indeed, it could be argued that angst is, ultimately, the cause of all obsessive compulsive disorders. Cleaning one’s hands repetitively or rocking back and forth in a fetal position are both just means of coping with angst by resorting to the simplistic thought found in repetiton. Of course, this aspect of angst must also have to explain compulsive gambling as well.
Games are another means of not being present to one’s self by adapting to someone else’s rules. In the brief moment of scratching a lottery ticket, you feel like you are doing something which might solve all of your problems but, more than that, your are fixated on the prize behind the curtain – not on your problems. But, technically speaking, the lottery did effectively solve our problem of anxiety, if only for the moment. It is something finally definitive in the form of a goal, not the winning itself, which is the most alluring aspect of the game. Games alleviate our angst of the future by forcing us to focus on the single goal, may it be scoring a basket, a touchdown, or a checkmate. Furthermore, games give us a set amount of rules in which we are supposed to achieve these goals and so our options in life are gratefully limited. Games give us an opportunity to become winners and thereby reaffirm our self-worth but, more than that, they streamline our overwhelming amount of choices in life. Though winning is nice, the most attractive aspect of games is its lure away from reality. This fact is able to account for compulsive gambling which is, by no means, about winning. Sartre. The goal of the game effectively leads us to forget our problems, even if it doesn’t end up solving them. ‘suspension of disbelief’
Angst doesn’t just account for obsessive compulsive gambling but normal psychological states as well. Angst is more commonly thought of as the notion of future. Unlike the past, which is already set in stone, the future must still be created by me in my freedom and through my own choices in life. Angst is the fear which naturally comes along with our awesome responsibility for self-creation. Most people, however, flee from this freedom in a perpetual attempt not to choose. But of course, this is the one choice we cannot make because even if we decide not to choose – we still have made a choice. As Jean-Paul Sartre would later observe “Man is condemned to be free: because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.” When surveying the horizon line of the future, it is impossible to fathom the ultimate glory or tragedy which awaits us inevitably. When entering the arena of a game fixated by rules, however, we are able to temporarily escape the abyssmal depths of this wide-open future.
Angst, to some degree, even explains greed and shows why we constantly try to secure their future by collecting more and more money and stuff. No matter how much money we save, though, there can never be enough to secure a predictable future.
Working within the framework of the temptation in the garden of Eden, Kierkegaard asserts that angst is basically sin.

Marcuse wrote his 1964 ‘One-Dimensional Man’ in response to the one-dimensional thinking he saw escalating recently throughout both the capitalist and communist countries of the Western world. false consciousness. Marcuse frees them from the burden of thought “enjoying freedom from using the brain” Marcuse goes on to argue that sports like baseball are simply tools of capitalism which effectively divert attention away from serious issues, like the enslavement of their labour, and back on to more mindless consumerism. Marcuse concludes the final paragraph in‘One-Dimensional Man’ with the sentence “The fact that they start refusing to play the game may be the fact that marks the beginning of the end of a period.” It is a matter of being authentic to prop up a make-believe world to live in and where the consequences are not quite as severe as those found in our everyday existence. Even a game as complex as chess, despite the elitist connotations associated with it, is mindless compared to the hardships we face normally in our everyday lives.

Marcuse credited Freud, as well as Marx, as his main influence as a source of inspiration for creating his philosophy of. In the highly influential 1920 essay ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle,’Sigmund Freud valiantly attempted to solve one of the most perplexing questions of humanity – that if people strive to maximize their pleasure, why must they continually repeat some of their most traumatic experiences? Freud observed the‘shell shock’ of World War I veterans and, like Kierkegaard before him, he was also compelled to make a distinction between fear and angst when he wrote“‘Fright’, ‘fear’, and ‘angst’ are improperly used as synonymous expressions; they are in fact capable of clear distinctions in their relation to danger.‘Angst’ describes a particular state of expecting the danger or preparing for it, even though it may be an unknown one. ‘Fear’ requires a definite object of which to be afraid.” Freud goes on, in the following paragraphs, to recount the famous Fort/Da game which his eighteen-month old grandson would play when the mother left the room. The infant would occupy the traumatic moments without his mother by throwing a spool over his crib and by retrieving it back with a sting attached to it. Freud tells us that, while throwing the spool, the child would say ‘Fort’ (the German word for ‘gone’) and would then eagerly retrieve it with the word ‘Da’ (the German word for ‘there.’) Freud suggests this game essentially recreated the mother’s disappearance through the symbolic spool and points out that the child “was in a passive situation – he was overpowered by the experience; but, by repeating it, unpleasurable though it was, as a game, he took on an active part.” to preoccupy our time
As Freud goes on to explain “the unpleasurable nature of an experience does not always unsuit it for play. If the doctor looks down a child’s throat or carries out some small operation on him, we may be quite sure that these frightening experiences will be the subject of the next game; but we must not in that connection overlook the fact that there is a yield of pleasure from another source. As the child passes over the passivity of the experience to the activity of the game, he hands on the disagreeable experience to one of his playmates and in this way revenges himself on a substitute.” Where maybe playing chess or watching your favorite football team might seem stressful at times, it can never compare to the pressure of choosing one’s own existence and livinging up to one’s decisions in life.
suspension of disbelief “Artistic play and artistic imitation carried out by adults, which, unlike children’s, are aimed at an audience, do not spare the spectators (for instance, in tragedy) the most painful experiences and can yet be felt by them as highly enjoyable.” Indeed, why exactly do people go to sad movies or, for that matter, a scary movie? Freud argues “the repetition carried along with it a yield of pleasure of another sort but none the less a direct one.” Freud uncovers However, Dostoevky does not gamble for masturbatory reasons as Freud suggests in his 1929 article ‘Dostoevsky and Patricide,’ but Dostoevsky gambles, rather, to forget about his tragic life and his uncertain future. tragedy scary movies sublime last paragraphs? Kant quote? sublime
It makes fell alive but not
feel alive through the creation of

“during this long period of solitude, the child had found a method of making himself disappear. He had discovered his reflection in a full-length mirror which did not quite reach to the ground, so that by crouching down he could make his mirror-image ‘gone.’”
Controlled resignation It something I chose to do and am likely to regain control of. like the sublime with no significant consequences, Even animals enjoy playing games as commonly seen when a dog fetches a ball. Lose contral temporary only to regain it. Almost mindless the game communicate and bond with our dog. aping preparing mimic Maybe this is what bonds us to these animals over others. To be able to be submersed in the experience of chaos and enjoy it without having to worry for our own safety. Both Freud and Lacan argued, though, that humans are born prematurely. If you compare a two year old baby with other animals of the same age the human is, by far, the most inept and least independent. By the time most animals have reached maturity, the human baby has probably only just learnt to stumble and can’t feed or care for itself. In all the animal kingdom human babies are the most helpless for the longest. If you compare human being to other species, for example, you will notice that we share a striking resemblence to baby chimps. Basically, people are retarded chimpanzees. This is because it is essential for humans to endure a lengthy dependency in order to learn the mother tongue. It is only by being slow in our development that we can eventually become dominated by the language of our mother tounge. Our progress as chimps, has been interrupted, allowing the language of variable meanings to take the place of the fixed meanings of instinct. This is a real-case evolutionary version of the Hare and the Tortoise.For many species, the color red defines sex as when the stickleback must always do a mating dance at its mere sight.
Lacan points out that this act of symbolism allows the child to dominate the terror of the mother’s disappearance, but also says that the displacement of the experience onto the symbol also inaugurates the alienation of subjectivity into language which, from then on, will always be its fate. In fact, the human being is the subject caught in the web of language. which accounts for both normalcy as well as madness. “Thus Freud finds himself providing the solution to the problem which, for the most acute of the questioners of the soul before him – Kierkegaard – had already been centered on repetition.”
In the twentieth-century, games have been shown to have a vital connection to that which defines us most as humans – language. Indeed, Ludwig Wittgenstein referred to all languages as language-games. Saussure, the father of modern linguistics, said it was best to conceive of a speaker of language as an unconscious chess player. Barthes was able to establish semiology All games are rule-governed. label middleground where two or more individuals can meet at language suppresses differences an language abstract supresses Da Fort “We think in generalities but we live in detail.” Alfred North Whitehead
language suppresses differences Kierkegaard
When we use language we are submitting and resigning ourself to the forces around us and so we are being inauthentic by

Paradoxically, games both strengthen and eradicate identity.
Paradoxically, though, it is through games in which we are able to establish an identity – we are often posited against another person, team, or goal. Teams national identity. but vicarously sexuality, race, gender, and nationality. If everyone had the same color skin it is quite probable that we would segregate ourselves by some other means – perhaps by hair or eye color.
Much in the way we so easily get lost into the fiction of our lives – we were born with a certain nationality, race, gender. and identity and we play for a certain team posit against another,constitue your self worth. Gives us a sense of selfworth, even self-grandeur. In games, we have a
Games give us a strong sense of self-identity. We know exactly who we are because we are not out opponents.
Often teams are segregated into loose associations based on regionality and gender. In the past they were even segregated by race. It should come as no suprise, then, that sports have often been the primary sites of racial integration. the need for values and certainty in the face of uncertainty boxing, and today Tiger Woods is helping to topple one of the last bastions of racism in golf. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Owens Games create a level even playing-field which demonstrate show, undeniably, how we are able to definitively show our superiority over other people and set up standards which It isn’t by chance (accident), that many and by opposing positing us against others another we feel we have a better grasp on who we are as individuals Why does one root so fervently for a local team? Social ties, peer pressure, bonding with fellow kinsmen, etc. are all obvious factors. But what is that makes a fan(atic) root for a team in an alien environment where you outspoken allengience is obviously unpopular and sometimes in the face of eminent danger? (notice that the word fan derives from fanatic literally meaning a crazy person.) What makes you Justify my existence and way of life and vicariously win. reduce our options
Chess revels in thought while sport tend to revel in immediacy escapism This is the same reason people play games – we set imaginary goals for ourselves so that we may get lost in a play world and momentarily escape the burden of our real, inaccessible aspirations. no indeterminacy Maybe this is why we are so prone to escaping into make-believe worlds.
People often tend to think that just by watching a sporting event that they somehow have an effect on it, even if it is thousands of miles away. Our unquenchable search for meaning always forces us to always look for a pattern. Because we are always where we find ourself, we tend to make connections, no matter how asonine they might be, between our actions and the grander events on which we happened to be focused on. Isn't paranoia just another form of self-grandeur? So games are a means of coping with an incomprehensible world.
Are we really clumsy, inarticulate, stupid, shy or is this just what we continue to believe? We have a biography of our life and we Even though chess is often considered for smart people it never leads to further knowledge of the real world. Chess, however, is the boardgame where the least amount of luck is involved because so many different variations are possible and each move ends up being a conscious choice of the player devoid of outside luck. Scrabble still relies on “the luck of the draw.” hermetic tautaulogy



Thomas Cummins art philosophy