homo ludens

Flusser is well-known as “media theorist” and hardly known at all as a “games theorist.” But games figure often and prominently in his thinking and writing from the time of his earliest publications in the 1960s. I’m honoured to be a contributor to a new volume called Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, edited by Aaron Jaffe and published at Routledge, probably 2020. I hope to use the opportunity to locate Flusser with respect to contemporary game studies, in the understanding that his position is likely rest on assumptions very different from those that now prevail (the same difficulty surrounds Flusser’s current reputation in the history and theory of photography).

Simply by using the phrase homo ludens, which he did with some regularity, Flusser made reference to Johan Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Elements in Culture. Written in 1938, it has been translated and reprinted many times since, and at this point this book counts among the “founding texts” of the comparatively new academic discipline of games studies. For both Huizinga and Flusser, “play” emerges as a characteristic or capacity that in some sense defines human beings. There are significant differences in the ways Huizinga and Flusser respectively set up their inquiries and arrived at their conclusions, however. Understanding and clarifying at least some of them seems like a promising way to start this project.