Join the Homo Ludens study circle!

by Thom Kiraly

TL;DR – I’m doing a study circle in Malmö on Homo Ludens. We meet (yes, mr. Internet, we actually meet in person) every other week (six times) to discuss the book and play games related to the readings. If you live close to Malmö and feel like joining, comment here or on Facebook or whatevs. Here’s the link to the Facebook event for the first meeting:

Sometimes, I think about people and wonder why we do what we do. Is it mostly due to rational and focused striving for perfection and self-realization? Is it in order for us to become more productive, streamlined and effective? In particular, I think a lot about why we do seemingly unnecessary, pointless or even dangerous things. In short, why do we do this shit:

Do those guys strap themselves to heavy machinery and go for a spin to increase the likeliness that our next loan application will be approved? Maybe it is a rational move towards becoming a better human being (it may very well be, but not for the same old reasons as usual)? Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga begins to answer some of these questions by focusing not on the Homo Sapiens (i.e. the wise or rational human) nor Homo Faber (the creating human) but, as you may have gleaned from the book’s title, on Homo Ludens – the Playing Human. The former two, so the argument goes, have been given too much attention and play has, as it were, been downplayed when it has come to take a closer look at it’s role in building culture and civilization. I think this is still true today and that Homo Ludens, flawed and marked by its own time as it may be, is still an important book to read. This is especially true if you’re into play or game design and thinking about these things critically. That’s why I’m planning to facilitate a study circle focused on it (in case you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a study circle, you should get acquainted with it right away).

Homo Ludens - cover

This image obviously worked better on my tiny phone screen, but fuck it. Who has time to go chasing for nice images online? Come to think of it, who has time to write overly long captions for shitty images, spending way too much time trying to be clever? That’s right, nobody!

Apart from meeting every other week to discuss readings from the book, I also want the study circle to think and reason using more of our bodies than just the brains. Therefore, I plan to end (or begin… I’m not yet sure) every meeting with a game/play activity or two. These games should have some connection to the chapters discussed and help us in our understanding of them. I hope this gives us a new way of engaging with the text and that it helps us get away from the “pure theory” fear that some may have when a study circle of this kind is usually proposed.

Final note before some practical details: I’m not making money off this, nor am I to be considered professional in this context. A study circle builds on every participant’s own willingness to engage with the material and the other participants to develop an understanding and learn from each other. Thus, I’m only the facilitator of the circle and even though I’ve read most of the text before, I really want to build a common understanding through discussion and play. It will probably turn out that I’ve got parts of it all wrong and that I shouldn’t have skipped some of the parts that I did skip on my first read-through. My personal agenda is, apart from making myself read more, to create a well-informed play community where I live and maybe follow this with a similar study circle centered on some other book (with the new edition of The Well-Played Game coming up, it’s looking like a strong candidate).

The practical details:
I’ve got the following setup in mind. It is subject to change according to the whims and wits of the study circle. I hope to start early in September. The readings are split into blocks of roughly 50 pages each.
Meeting 1: Introductions, welcome, practical stuff, and… PLAY!
Meeting 2: Chapters 1 – 2
Meeting 3: Chapters 3 – 5
Meeting 4: Chapters 6 – 8
Meeting 5: Chapters 9 – 12
Meeting 6: Beyond Homo Ludens – a discussion on where play/game studies have gone since and what we should be critical of in Huizinga’s text.

Date: Not sure yet, but maybe 3 September and every other week after that.
Probably at Studiefrämjandet in Malmö. I do work for them, after all.
Price: I want the only costs involved in participating in this study circle be purchasing the book.
Language: I leave this up to the study circle. I’m fine with Swedish or English.

Homo Ludens ToC

Doesn’t it just make your mouth water?

A happier age than ours once made bold to call our species by the name of “Homo Sapiens.” In the course of time we have come to realize that we are not so reasonable after all as the Eighteenth Century with its worship of reason and naive optimism, though us; “hence modern fashion inclines to designate our species as”Homo Faber” Man the Maker. But though “faber” may not be quite so dubious as sapiens it is, as a name specific of the human being, even less appropriate, seeing that many animals too are makers. There is a third function, however, applicable to both human and animal life, and just as important as reasoning and making–namely, playing. it seems to me that next to “Homo Faber,” and perhaps on the same level as “Homo Sapiens,” Homo Ludens, Man the Player, deserves a place in our nomenclature.