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+12 votes
I will leave this open for now but am willing to refine if confusion ensues.
by (20.5k points)
my favorite part of species being and other stories are the parts about earthen cup - a proposed game/way to be in the world.

Why would games have a special role once economic class and military-political power go away like royal bloodlines mostly have?

I think I don't understand the question.  Could you rephrase to help me out?
klin: If anarchy is understood as a future going-away of economic/political power, then the question doesn't make much sense. When I asked the question I said I would refine it if confusion ensued, but the answers have made that offer obsolete. Reading brodawg's answer would give insight into the concept of anarchy through which I asked the question.

5 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer
without games anarchy would be just another dull, systematic way of interpreting the world, i think.

anarchy by nature is playful in that its a way of looking at the world, and then stepping outside it's order and the systems that construct it and giggling to yourself at it and the odd seriousness people treat it with and then trying to undermine everything in any and all ways possible. anarchy is realizing that everything around you is pure structure that can be manipulated via that realization to ensure its own self destruction (and your elation) if one wishes, but also that structure could be used to achieve what one wants within it. anarchy is (sorry) the way of backtracking to right behind the point from which everything stems and deciding where to go from there

so i think by definition anarchy and games are inseparable, because playing games (or, playing them well at least, or at least being aware that one is playing a game) requires one to be aware of the rules, conventions, goals, motivations of players, etc, and be able to take it as seriously as one needs to but at the same time never loosing sight of the fact that it is, in the end, just a game, and should be treated as such, and with that, never overlooking the hint of irony and playful laughter that the world sits in. its pleasant.

a lot of this seems hella repetitive/bad gramatically, but you know what, fuck organized thought
by (1.0k points)
edited by
+2 votes
Games are for playing, and playing games exercises the free flow of ideas in experimental settings, games help you think about situations in a game-like, experimental, and fun, way ... then you can think about how the game is like your life, and why can't you change the rules, or break the rules, or end the game altogether, etc. etc.
by (210 points)
+6 votes
Some thoughts on the practical possibilities of productive play and anarchic games...

Games can contribute a lot to experimental and practical anarchy. Different types of games exist of course, and plenty of authoritarian, hierarchical, exploitative, rivalrous, accumulative, alienating ones exist, especially mass-produced commodities marketed by the dominant culture. However, plenty of anarchic games exist, and play itself has characteristics fundamental to anarchy.

Anarchy, play, and sharing go hand-in-hand. I see "play" as intrinsically motivated: game structures can develop feelings of participation in decisions, belonging to group & place, purposeful effort, achievement-by-effort,  competence in abilities, confidence in role, recognition of contribution, respect from peers, respect for peers, autonomy, and engagement. I see "work" as focusing on extrinsic motivations such as bribes (e.g. money, trophies, awards, codependency, comfort) and punishments (e.g. detention, prison, assault & battery, eviction, debt). We do play for process, and work for product. This formulation of play v. work led to Bob Black's theory of anarchist societies emphasizing "productive play"[1] (achieving necessary tasks in a game environment) and games can easily facilitate what Stirner termed the "union of egoists"[2] (a temporary group where participants contribute as long as they mutually experience increased value). Anthropologist Peter Gray documents the role of play amongst egalitarian, anti-authoritarian indigenous cultures in "Play as a Foundation for Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence"[3] and his six part "Play Makes Us Human" series, explaining in more depth in some ways than what I will overview here.

Games have structural values inherent to their goals and methods. These can articulate which forces prevail in conflicts of competition & cooperation, personal growth & teambuilding & enemy-identification, games of engagement (games-aiming-to-continue) & games of completion (games-aiming-to-stop), games of chance & games of skill, games-that-challenge & games-that-review, more freeform & more pre-formed games. Every pole here can contribute in different contexts to anarchy, and earn consideration. Not all games have winners and losers, but winning and losing does not automatically negate anarchy every time either. Games of conflict, such a street battles between anarchist demonstrators and the police, corporate security, and snitches, clearly end with winners and losers but can further anarchist theory and practice.

Often the collectible card games, board games, and video games we find socialize us to replicate or rationalize abusive behaviors and structures, so I won't focus on them. Certain games and forms of play possess elements with a lot of potential for anarchy. The specific games overall however may or may not.

Some examples:
-voluntarism; freedom to quit; refusal of coercion (e.g. sex)
-testing ground for balancing autonomy with consent, consensus, unanimity (e.g. playground games)
-mutual pleasure possibilities & sharing (e.g. certain forms of "Lovefeast")
-cooperation (e.g. taking turns in the "Double Dutch" jump rope game, "Wildcraft: an Herbal Adventure Game")
-enemy-identification (e.g. "State of Emergency" video game)
-teambuilding (e.g. trust fall games)
-role reversal, egalitarianism, destruction of hierarchies (e.g. the Mbuti's gender-fuck rope game[4])
-intimacy & social networking (e.g. the "Hot Tub" game & icebreaker games)
-information spread & acculturation (e.g. "Apothecary: a Card Game of Herbal Medicine")
-skill development (e.g. native children building mock villages resembling their community dwellings)
-productive play (e.g. a scavenger hunt)
-diversity without hierarchy (make-believe games)
-leaderlessness (e.g. kick the can, Calvinball)
-strategy (Go, capture the flag, hide-and-seek)
-recirculation of materials (e.g. traditional games of chance by dice)
-settling disputes (e.g. duels)
-creative spontaneity (e.g. live-action role-playing games)
-imagination, inspiration, intuition, instinct (e.g. word association games)
-flexibility of genre (e.g. jokes, tall tales, ghost stories, fantasy epics)

1. "The Abolition of Work" by Bob Black.
2. Stirner, in "Stirner's Critics": “Perhaps at this very moment, some children have come together just outside [Hess’s] window in a friendly game. If he looks at them, he will see a playful egoistic union. Perhaps Hess has a friend or a beloved; then he knows how one heart finds another, as their two hearts unite egoistically to delight (enjoy) each other, and how no one ‘comes up short’ in this. Perhaps he meets a few good friends on the street and they ask him to accompany them to a tavern for wine; does he go along as a favor to them, or does he ‘unite’ with them because it promises pleasure?”
3. "Play as the Foundation of Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence".
4. Turnbull, Colin M., “The Mbuti Pygmies. Change and Adaption.” Philadelphia: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1983.
by (8.9k points)
edited by
+3 votes
this may be a rehash of points made in other answers, but here's my take.

one of the best things about being an anarchist is how it allows me to see the democrapitalistic world around me as a series of games (though deadly and horrific far too often). my chosen life allows me to do that while having the flexibility to retreat to my own little bubble world (remote, rural, largely self-sufficient) to analyze my interactions and regroup myself and prepare/strategize for my next incursion.

eg, the presidential elections are a source of great entertainment for me ("pass the popcorn, dweebo is about to respond..."). just watching the leadup to it, and then people's responses to it, provide me hours of laughter and fulfillment. if i want to engage a bit more in the game, i can talk directly to some true believers and point out the demonstrable futility in their beloved democracy, all the while laughing at how seriously they take it. it may not be a game to them, but to me...

another example is seeing just how far i can go with shoplifting. i will chat up a worker at the store, getting them positioned just right, then use them as a visual shield from the cameras (as they turn away) to shove that item in my pocket. or i will purchase some amount of food and see how much i can come away with for free; i paid $25, and i got $75 worth of shit in my pockets - my score is 300% on that one!

it's ALL a fucking game, make the best of it!
by (13.4k points)
0 votes
playfulness rather than games, games are competitive by nature, you compete so you can win or lose, win position, medals or money, playfulness on the other hand is the nature of things and thing of nature, playfulness as in sex or jumping on grass or as in masturbation or in skipping work, it is not a game where you win or lose it is where you enjoy your time being yourself for nothing other than JOY
by (90 points)
i see neither why competition must be excluded from 'the nature of things' nor why competition must be un-playful. i've seen plenty of examples of sexual one-upmanship/competition and skipping work most definitely may be considered as one up on the bawss. lastly, i see nothing inherently wonderful or horrible in 'winning' or 'losing.'

all of this seems conditional in terms of context and this answer highly loaded morally... morality itself as sort of a game, no?

edit for clarity.