I find it absolutely fascinating when animals play, even though their games basically boil down to pretending to kill each other. The ability to pretend shows they can distinguish between “make believe” and “for real.” And that seems like a hugely sophisticated achievement to me.
“They” (das Man!) say animals engage in this kind of play to help them prepare for when they grow up and have to hunt. Is that the value of human games too? Are they practice for real, adult life?
I think they must not be, or else they must not only be that. After all, aren’t games an important component of, not just a preparation for, real life? And aren’t games good for both kids and adults?
If you’re interested in the value of games, I would strongly recommend Jane McGonigal‘s Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. And if you can recommend any other books on the function and value of games, I’d very much appreciate hearing about them!
One thing I’d particularly like to look into is whether RPGs can help philosophers of action. Game designers have put a ton of thought into how to analyze personality types (e.g., alignment), skills/abilities, motivations, and actions. There’s even a Game of Thrones tabletop RPG; political scheming analyzed and captured in a measurable, playable, winnable system!
Having to act/play make believe makes me profoundly uncomfortable, so I don’t do RPGs. In fact, I don’t do games much at all. But I think there’s something really important about games that I’m missing out on by not being more of a gamer. And one of these days I want to do a study of the philosophies of action that have been created by game designers. (It’s always smartest to make other people do the hard work for you, right?)*
*Yes, philosophy is hard work. It is. No, really. Try it sometime. Please try it. Please?