War and game, a way of interpreting the world
“Game is combat and combat is game”, affirms Johan Huizinga in his famous work Homo Ludens written in 1938. This chiasmus serves as the background to the essay War and game. Cultures of a paradox in the modern era (1) completed under the direction of Achim Küpper and Kristine Vanden Berghe who are both researchers at the University of Liege. Using the work of the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga as a reference, the book explores the links that exist between these two terms that are generally accepted to be opposites but which nonetheless have much in common. Could it be that there is an unholy alliance between them? The work develops what may appear to be a paradox, in our present era of modern warfare and its consequences of massacres and extreme violence. It also offers us an analysis of the respective evolution of these notions and attempts to shows how war and game have tended to become abstract terms over the course of the centuries. The essay deals with the following questions: In what way is war game and vice versa? What kind of war and what kind of game is involved? Chance and staged events are highlighted as essential links in the chain connecting the two notions thereby providing authentic historical, political, literary and media clarity.
The characteristics of game according to Huizinga
What is game? If we refer to the etymology of this word, we must associate the word game with entertainment. Game is different to war in that it is universally understood. It is as though the two phenomena are intrinsically opposite. Yet the first lesson to be learned from Johan Huizinga is the fact that game-playing and war are similar. In his work, he lists their common points.
(1) Guerre & jeu. Cultures d’un paradoxe à l’ère moderne, under the supervision of Achim Küpper and Kristine Vanden Berghe, Tours, Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2014. The work brings together nine contributions from an international conference organized at the University of Liege in 2011.