GAMES DESIGN – THEORY & PRACTICE Research – Caillois’ Categories of Play

Caillois –
Caillois names and defines four categories of games
1. Agôn (competition on an artificially leveled playing field, Balanced competition validates superiority) – This description makes me think of games like League of Legends where all players start each match at the same level, and gradually get more powerful during the match, at the end of the match it all gets reset and a new match starts back from scratch. Competitive FPS shooters like Overwatch do classify to this style of games too as you start a match with somewhat equally balanced characters and fight with other players to win

2. Alea (games of chance, Passivity? Appealing. Randomness equalizes.) – This description especially the “games of chance” makes me think of gambling games, or games with a high number of RNG which stands for Random Number Generator. This can mean a lot of things, for example in RPGs (Role Playing Games) especially in World of Warcraft, a player can engage in a function called “Raid” where you team up with other players to complete a dungeon. Upon defeating a difficult enemy for example a boss or an elite enemy, and IF the enemy loots a rare item, all of the players need to “roll” and whoever gets the higher number, wins the item.

3. Mimicry (role-playing, or make pretend, Improvisational role-playing, spectacle.) – Mimicry stands for impersonating or taking a role of a character from either a video game or an inanimate object for example a doll or a puppet. There are games like World of Warcraft (WoW) that actually have specified realms/servers which focus on role playing, this means that the players need to have some sort of understanding of the lore of the game in order to impersonate the character to its fullest extent.

4. Ilinx (disorientating oneself, thrill-seeking and risk taking, Disorientation–“pleasurable torture”!) – Disorientation happens whenever you play horror games, people play it in order to feel the thrill of being scared, this in my opinion links back to the term “Pleasurable torture”.  In a video game called Amnesia, the game changes depending on how much horror a player is exposed to.

Finally he explains the dichotomy (Meaning: a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different. LINK) between the childish glee of paidia (childish play, amusement. LINK) and the arbitrary self-challenge of ludus

Paida – Unstructured games (I think of an unstructured game as a Sandbox or a Survival game, for example Minecraft, there is an end to the game, but you don’t have to reach it if you don’t want to. The unstructured game can also link to games people used to play when they were younger, where they thought of a game with action figures for example, and decided who wins based on their imagination.)

Ludus – Structured games (Any sort of board game is a structured game as it has a set of rules that need to be followed in order to play and win the game. There are also linear games like Final Fantasy XIII which are structured purely because in order to play the game, you need to follow a linear story line.)


Research Notes:
Caillois’ Categories of Play
Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory
Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types
Skinner’s Operant Conditioning
Dr Stuart Brown on “Play”
Elements of Gameplay, Unique Solutions.
Smoking Mirrors


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