The game is one of the leading and oldest forms of aesthetic activity, i.e. non-utilitarian, performed for its own sake and, as a rule, delivered to its participants and viewers aesthetic pleasure, pleasure, joy. The fundamentally unproductive and non-rational nature of the game from ancient times linked it with sacral and cultic actions, with art, endowed with mysterious, magical meanings. Since ancient times, the game has also been used as an effective means of raising children, training hunters, soldiers, athletes. Systematic scientific study (in anthropology, psychology, culturology, philosophy) the phenomenon of the game was exposed only from the end of the 19th century; “Game theory” is one of the sections of modern mathematics that studies and develops models for making optimal decisions in complex situations in different areas of human activity. Meanwhile, the non-utilitarian, aesthetic and essential character of the game for human life, philosophical thought drew attention practically from its very beginning, although for a long time its conclusions were fixed only in metaphorical, figurative or sporadic form.
Heraclitus likens the aeon to a “playing child”. Plato in the “Laws” calls a person “some fictitious toy of God”; the meaning of a person’s life is to “live, play” in “the most beautiful games”, which include sacrifices, songs, dances and battles with enemies. In “Politics” the term “game” denotes all the arts “directed exclusively at our pleasure” – painting, decorations, music, i.e. “fine arts” in the new European terminology. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, many Renaissance thinkers saw the game as an effective educational tool.
German classical philosophy highlighted the aesthetic aspect of the game. Kant, in his Critique of Judgment, referring to aesthetic phenomena and art, speaks of a “free play of cognitive abilities”, “a free play of the faculties of representation”, a play of mental forces (imagination and reason) that gives pleasure lies at the basis of aesthetic judgment taste and ultimately leads to the comprehension of non-rational essences. To “fine arts” Kant includes three types of arts: verbal, visual and “the art of playing sensations”; they are based on the play of certain spiritual forces of man. In particular, to the third kind he classifies “music and the art of colors”, which cause “pleasure from form in the aesthetic evaluation” (“Criticism of Judgment”, § 51); thus Kant lays the theoretical foundation for a wide range of artistic phenomena, which in the 20th century was designated as formalism. A free play of sensations, which gives pleasure, Kant divides into a game of chance, a game of sounds and a game of thought. Only the last two kinds he associates with fine arts, although in all three he sees the aesthetic nature of varying degrees of intensity. At the center of his aesthetic theory put the game Schiller in “Letters on the aesthetic education of man” (1793-94), emphasizing that he relies on Kant’s ideas. According to Schiller, from the “slavery of the brutal state” man comes out only with the help of aesthetic experience, when he develops the ability to enjoy art (“visibility”) and “inclination to decorations and games” (Schiller F. Articles on Aesthetics). Man has three global “motives”: sensual, based on the laws of nature and having an “object” life; motivation for form, coercing the spirit with the help of “laws of reason,” its subject is “image”; the motivation for the game is the highest, giving man “freedom in both physical and moral respect,” his subject constitutes a “living image”, which in Schiller’s understanding appears to be the totality of all the aesthetic properties of objects and phenomena and is identified with beauty. In turn, beauty itself is the “object of motivation for the game,” in which the spirit of man acquires complete freedom, and the person himself is perfected. The meaning and the main content of human life Schiller sees in the game as an aesthetic phenomenon: “… a man should only play with beauty, and only he must play by beauty … a man plays only when he is a man in the full sense of the word, and he happens completely human only when he plays. ” In this situation, Schiller stresses, “the whole building of aesthetic art and an even more difficult art of living will be built in time.” Awareness of the aesthetic essence of man led him to formulate a utopian idea of a certain future type of “aesthetic state”, which will replace the historical types of “dynamic legal state” and “ethical state”.
Schleiermacher considered the game as one of the forms of morality, closely related to art and friendship, as a sphere of “free communication”, where a person has the opportunity to optimally realize his individuality. The game promotes the development of intellectual activity. The essence of art lies in the “free play of fantasy”; here a person achieves his inner freedom and awareness of this freedom. F. Schlegel, developing the “Talk of Poetry” (1800) metaphor of Heraclitus, comprehends the game as an ontological principle of the existence of the Universe (the Welt-Spiel concept), and in the arts sees only “distant reproductions of the endless game of the world, an ever-forming artistic work” ( Schlegel F. Aesthetics, Philosophy, Criticism). These Schlegel ideas proved to be close to other romantics who rarely used the term “game”, but in essence, all the art was comprehended in the mode of play, understood as a “play of repetition” (Wiederholungsspiel). The work of art was interpreted by them as some constantly postponing and translating into another (transcending) repetition structure, i.e. game of elusive symbolic meanings. This repetition is self-valuable and does not involve the search for some other “deep” ideal entity behind it. From the concept of Schlegel, Nietzsche proceeded in many respects in his definition of the arts as a special “imitation” of the “game of the universe,” understood in the sense of removing the constant conflict between “necessity” and “play,” when an ever-growing attraction to the game brings to life new worlds. As a paradigm of the “superhuman” culture of the future, Nietzsche proposes “the ideal of the spirit, which, naively, unwittingly, and from overflowing with fullness and power, plays with everything that has until now been called sacred, kind, inviolable, divine” (Merry Science, § 382). This ideal proved to be seductive and prophetic for many humanists of the 20th century.
A definite result of the insights and statements of European thinkers about the essence and functions of the game was summed up in the fundamental study of Homo Ludens (1938) by J. Housing. He defined his goal as proof of the legitimacy of “a survey of the entire human culture sub specie ludi”. Developing Schiller’s ideas, he showed that the game refers to the essential characteristics of a person along with intelligence and creative ability. The game is older than culture, culture “arises and develops in the game,” has a playful character (Huizinga J. Homo Ludens., In the Shadow of Tomorrow.). Huizinga stressed that most game researchers underestimate the main thing in her – her “aesthetic content” – and consistently showed and substantiated the game principles of the main components of culture, including not only the spheres of religious cults, art, holiday, sports, but also philosophy, justice, war, politics. A short definition of the game, according to Huysing, reads: “The game is a voluntary action or occupation carried out within the established boundaries of place and time according to voluntarily accepted but absolutely binding rules with the purpose enclosed in it, accompanied by a feeling of tension and joy, as well as the consciousness of” other existence “than the” ordinary “life.”
The essence of the game as a game in itself and for itself adequate to it (i.e., artistic) means was shown in the utopia “Game in Beads” (1943) by G. Hesse. The action of the novel, which originally simulates the concept of Huysing and Schiller’s idea of an “aesthetic state”, occurs in the 23rd century. Classes of intellectual activity transferred to a specially designated province of Castalia are reduced to a non-utilitarian game with all the spiritual, intellectual and artistic values of culture accumulated in the history of mankind-the “bead game” (Game). Having arisen in the intellectual environment as a musical-mathematical game underlying the spiritual values of schemes, images, figures, languages, hieroglyphs, melodies, scientific theories, hypotheses, the game soon moved from purely intellectual superficial virtuosity to contemplation, meditations, party, to deep experiences and other methods of spiritual practices, i.e. turned into a kind of worship without God, religious doctrine and any theology. The main result of the Game is the attainment of states of the highest spiritual pleasure, unearthly joy, special “gaiety”, i.e. in fact (as Hesse himself repeatedly writes, and which even more follows from the context of the novel) The game is the highest form and quintessence of aesthetic experience. The game in the novel is identical to a culture that has realized its deep aesthetic essence and deliberately cultivates the aesthetic experience of being in the world. Hesse emphasizes the esoteric nature of the Game. Through the innumerable “cornerstones of the archive” and the labyrinths of knowledge, values, works of culture, through the oldest spiritual practices and oriental teachings and myths, through the Zen gardens and treatises of great hermits, Bach’s music and Einstein’s theory of relativity, the true masters of the Game penetrate the mysteries of being, incomprehensible by other means, experiencing from this divine pleasure, finding unearthly peace of a transformed and purified soul.
The otherness, unusualness and unusualness of the game, its festive character include not only all the stage arts in its orbit, but also cultural phenomena such as masquerade (mask as a phenomenon of play and theatrical mask), ritual dressing, carnival, carnivalization.
The main emphasis on the aesthetic essence of the game was made by Gadamer, based on Huizinga, in the main hermeneutic work “Truth and Method” (1960). At the same time, he consciously distanced himself “from the subjective meaning” of the concept of the game, which in his opinion was peculiar to the concepts of Kant and Schiller, and focused attention on the game as “a way of being the very work of art”. Gadamer claimed “the sacred seriousness of the game,” its “medial meaning”, “the primacy of the game in relation to the consciousness of the player”; the game is not an activity, but “making the movement itself” for its own sake, “every game is the becoming of the state of the game”; the subject of the game is not playing, but the game itself; the goal of the game is “the order and structure of the game movement itself”; “Mode of being” game – “self-representation”, which is a universal aspect of the existence of nature; the game always assumes the “other”. The highest stage of human play, its “completion,” the achievement of the ideal state (“transformation into structure,” according to Gadamer’s terminology) is art: “what exists now, representing art in the game, is intrinsically true” (Gadamer H.-G. Truth and method, the fundamentals of philosophical hermeneutics). Art has a deep ontological status. The phenomenon of a work of art, “transformation into the structure” is the removal of the ordinary, “unrefined reality” “in its truth,” “transformation into the true,” “liberation, return to true being”. Therefore, the game-art “is played in another, self-enclosed world” and this is similar to the cult action. The game-art necessarily assumes the viewer, this is an image or representation of someone, even if at the moment there is no recipient. In turn, the true spectator is completely given to the game of art, immersed in its world, where it acquires identity with itself. And in this respect, Gadamer emphasizes, “the way of aesthetic existence is marked by something resembling” parousia “(God’s coming).” “Image” (“representation”) of art, in which the viewer is completely immersed, is “the truth of his own world, the world of religious and moral”. All the main phenomena of aesthetic – mimesis, catharsis, tragic, beauty – Gadamer comprehends in the context of the theory of the game and defines in general “the being of the aesthetic as a game and representation”, and “aesthetic being”, common to all arts, is the accomplishment of the being of what is depicted as a work of art.
Essential impact on philosophy and aesthetics was provided by the treatment of the game, proposed by L. Wittgenstein in “Philosophical Studies” (published in 1953). With Wittgenstein’s introduction of the term “language game” (Sprachspiel), the concept of the game is included in the theory of language and linguistic philosophy (game conventionalism, game understanding of the language, “game” with etymological meanings and texts in postmodernism.). Unlike the early “Logico-philosophical treatise” (1921), where the language was understood as an ideal entity, Late Wittgenstein argued that elements of language can exist and make sense only as part of a certain “game” with a set of rules and conventions, i.e. meaning exists only in specific cases of language use, and not as an abstraction (Platonic ideal meaning). Beyond this sociolinguistic context, (the situation of the game with specific rules and participants) language with its meanings does not exist. Any attempt to “filter out” the social context and get to the “essence” of the language results in the loss of this entity. This understanding of the language directs bridges between linguistics and aesthetics and justifies, in particular, the unlimited possibility of creating artificial languages; to some extent it explains even the phenomenon of “living” in a different, virtual reality in computer games or computer control (through the monitor) of robot machines in space, special production. Once the recipient brain “accepts” the rules of the game, it adapts to the virtual world and can navigate and successfully function in it as in the real world.
With the penetration in the second half of the 20th century of the game concept into philosophy, culturology and other sciences, numerous classifications of the game appear. R. Cayo, for example, in work “Man, game and games” (1962) identifies five types of games: competitions, risk games, disguise (disguise), imitation and ecstatic. Yale poststructuralists (“Games, game, literature”, 1968), philologists and philosophers of postmodern orientation, partly relying on Heidegger’s understanding of the game between meaning and material in art, derive the principle of play in the field of their “textology”, studying games with reference worlds of text, games with events developed in the text, virtual games with the reader. Derrida develops, in particular, the romantic concept of the game as a game of repetition (répétition), which is completely self-contained. From “rehearsal” he goes on to the game of differences (différence) and “différance”, which he understands as infinite procrastination and slipping, and he bases his method of deconstruction. For Derrida, “the game of discernment” is a fundamental scientific concept, and différance is an essential basis, for besides this there is no other “essence” that can be conceived “in the present” (présence). He regards the play of the literary text as a particular case of a more general semantic game (in work “Structure, sign and play in the discourse of the humanities”) and transfers the concept of the game to art (discussions about Mallarm and F. Sollers). Derrida pays special attention to the associative game of intertextual and verbal fields, individual words, musical-phonetic syllables, vowels, consonants.
In the last third of the 20th century, thus, the “Game” of Hesse does not seem to be exclusively a play of the imagination of the novelist, a utopian utopia. Humanitarian sciences post-non-classical, postmodern orientation, actively connecting with artistic practice, losing its traditional tribal and species boundaries, are increasingly tuned to the game character in the spirit of “game in the beads”, prepare the ground for the emergence of one of its modifications. Active use in various fields of mathematical “game theory”, the practice of business games, game simulation of situations, the transfer of the game to non-player activities, as well as the global computerization of culture with access to virtual reality also work in this direction.