Marshall McLuhan and the games we play

Games are: “faithful models of a cultures.” [MM]

Who is Marshall McLuhan? He would resist any particular definition, I imagine, and he’d be happy to exist in multitudinous ranges of expression, as a medium himself. He is a student of media theory, questioning the ways in which we translate information and culture through media. Media being the translators, the conduits of Idea. Go look him up yourself, and read the book of his that I read most of.

“Games are dramatic models of our psychological lives providing release of particular tensions.” [MM]

Games, so says MM, echo the mechanisms of the workaday lifestyle in their heirarchies and competitions and rules, &tc. But games are not the working life because in games we can question what we do, and burn it up from the inside. The tensions that we release are the same that we recreate. To play, he states, we have to become puppets of collective demand.

The professional athlete, he claims, is pointless. When the game is the work, there is nothing for the game to emulate. There is no distance for the professional athlete between what he does for a living and what he does for fun. Do athletes start their businesses as a way to escape their working lives. With all their millions, do they in fact invert the usual model of tension relief? For the pro athlete, a business is the emulation of the business of sport. The only way to escape an endless game is to become somehow very serious, to cross the social wires again and again in a tangle of commerce and heirarchy.

If the grass is always greener: the working man plays games, and the gaming man plays work.


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