Dutch philosopher and academic Jos de Mul wrote an interesting article published in the Volkskrant (November 2010) in which he reviewed Johan Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens in the current experience economy, that is largely influenced by play – or the ludification of society.
De Mul writes that playfulness has become a life-long attitude and the entire world a playground in our post modern culture. The question this article proposes concerns the downsides of this development in the information society.
Huizinga promoted play as an expression of human freedom (and possibly that of animals), an ability to socially connect to others, and the fact that play seems to be ‘fun’. According to Huizinga, culture is played, in play, and as play. However, writes De Mul, Homo Ludens 2.0 does not only play with, via, and through the computer, but is also played by the computer through its highly addictive elements.
According to De Mul, examples such as propaganda through games, serious gaming, gambling, war games, or sensational and superficial media forms that include game elements show that we can neither encourage nor reject this ludification of society. Play is an expression of freedom, but at the same time overpowers us with its content. Playing is both pretending something as well as serious business.
Although this article is focused on play for human beings, it reminds me of my dog that is fetching tennis balls over and over again until I must decide that it needs to rest for its own good. Or a cat so much captured by playing with a laser light that it keeps on chasing even when the light is not there anymore. What about a dog running around in circles, repeatedly chasing its own tail?
When does play stop being completely voluntary and evolves in addictive, unhealthy behaviour?
(The complete article can be found here)