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Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (1938)

by Johan Huizinga

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9851016,517 (4.02)7
In Homo Ludens, the classic evaluation of play that has become a "must-read" for those in game design, Dutch philosopher Johan Huizinga defines play as the central activity in flourishing societies. Like civilization, play requires structure and participants willing to create within limits. Starting with Plato, Huizinga traces the contribution of Homo Ludens, or "Man the player" through Medieval Times, the Renaissance, and into our modern civilization. Huizinga defines play against a rich theoretical background, using cross-cultural examples from the humanities, business, and politics. Homo Ludens defines play for generations to come. "A happier age than ours once made bold to call our species by the name ofnbsp;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 moder fashion inclines to designate our species asHomo Faber: Man the Maker. But thoughnbsp;fabernbsp;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, howver, applicable to both human and animal life, and just as important as reasoning and making--namely, playing. it seems to me that next tonbsp;Homo Faber, and perhaps on the same level asnbsp;Homo Sapiens, Homo Ludens, Man the Player, deserves a place in our nomenclature. "--from the Foreward, by Johan Huizinga… (more)
  1. 10
    A No Doubt Mad Idea by Stephen Minkin (hbobrien)
    hbobrien: When Minkin talks about "ludics," he's explicitly referring to Huizinga.
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» See also 7 mentions

English (6)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I have been interested in games, gaming, and gamification for both personal enjoyment and academic reasons. Repeatedly, I have seen references to Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture by Johan Huizinga. It is a foundational study on play, which is foundational to playing games. I wasn’t prepared for such a heavy read. But it was well worth it. Read more ( )
  skrabut | Sep 2, 2020 |
il sottotitolo è ancora più inquietante del titolo e recita: "il gioco come funzione sociale". Libro serio serissimo, ma se per voi giocare sta nelle lista delle prime cinque cose che vorreste fare sempre nella vita non potete evitare questo classico. E scoprirete che tutti, ma proprio tutti qualche gioco lo fanno perchè non c'è vita senza gara, non c'è gara senza regole, non c'è cambiamento di regole senza nuovo gioco. ( )
  icaro. | Aug 31, 2017 |
Homo Ludens or "Man the Player", written in 1938 by Dutch historian, cultural theorist and professor Johan Huizinga, discusses the importance of the play element of culture and society. Huizinga uses the term "Play Theory" within the book to define the conceptual space in which play occurs.
One of the most significant (human and cultural) aspects of play is that it is fun. Huizinga suggests that play is primary to and a necessary (though not sufficient) condition of the generation of culture. In his discussion of this Huizinga has much to say about the words for play in different languages. Perhaps the most extraordinary remark concerns the Latin language. “It is remarkable that ludus, as the general term for play, has not only not passed into the Romance languages but has left hardly any traces there, so far as I can see". The cultural aspects of play range widely over law, war, poetry and philosophy. While ludus is seen as fundamental for human civilization and even myth-making it is the beginnings of play in the observation of the activity of animals that impressed me. Huizinga makes it clear that animals played first - this along with his other observations make the book a fascinating take on an essential aspect of human activity. ( )
2 vote jwhenderson | Feb 2, 2012 |
Journalist Tom Chatfield of Prospect has chosen to discuss Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens, on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject - Computer Games,, saying that: 




It’s a book about the way that play precedes culture, and is a distinct and very complicated human phenomenon, which the author sees as giving rise to much that we think of as civilisation, as encoding a set of human values, ideas and ways of being in the world.”





The full interview is available here: http://five-books.com/interviews/tom-chatfield ( )
  FiveBooks | Mar 17, 2010 |
This book is one of the few available that try to put play into a cultural and historical context. ( )
  humdog | Feb 17, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Huizinga, Johanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eco, UmbertoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gröning, Karl, jr.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nachod, H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Otterspeer, WillemForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pferdmenges, GiselaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schendel, Corinna vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In Homo Ludens, the classic evaluation of play that has become a "must-read" for those in game design, Dutch philosopher Johan Huizinga defines play as the central activity in flourishing societies. Like civilization, play requires structure and participants willing to create within limits. Starting with Plato, Huizinga traces the contribution of Homo Ludens, or "Man the player" through Medieval Times, the Renaissance, and into our modern civilization. Huizinga defines play against a rich theoretical background, using cross-cultural examples from the humanities, business, and politics. Homo Ludens defines play for generations to come. "A happier age than ours once made bold to call our species by the name ofnbsp;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 moder fashion inclines to designate our species asHomo Faber: Man the Maker. But thoughnbsp;fabernbsp;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, howver, applicable to both human and animal life, and just as important as reasoning and making--namely, playing. it seems to me that next tonbsp;Homo Faber, and perhaps on the same level asnbsp;Homo Sapiens, Homo Ludens, Man the Player, deserves a place in our nomenclature. "--from the Foreward, by Johan Huizinga

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