Re:  Unwritten Rules

Stephen and Kate:

Thanks for publishing this on the Net — it was indeed fascinating.

It is interesting that a simple game such as golf has very few rules which "define the game" — i.e., get the ball in the hole in the least number of shots. (What could be simpler.)

However, the rulebook is now many pages long and has grown out of the exceptions and meta-rules that you have described. In some ways the playing of the game is writing the rulebook.

The important question is, "Why do we play games?"

Do you think that the number of written rules that must be taken into account is directly proportional to the value of the stakes being played for (be they related to money or prestige)?

Does the stake involved affect the perceived "value" of a cheat?

An interesting axiom for casual golf is — If you don't know the ruling for a particular situation, do what you think is fair. I think this is a suitable rule which can be applied to life in general.
— David Wilson

Stephen's editorial response:

You raise some terrific questions. I hope readers will respond to them. Anyone interested in the reasons we play games should start with the answer(s) given by Johann Huizinga, a Dutch anthropologist, in his classic text, Homo Ludens. He argues that play precedes culture (since animals play), shows that games (broadly defined) are universal, and suggests that playing games may be instinctual. His answer to "Why do we play games?" might be — because we're wired that way (although of course he never says that).

The Life of Games
No. 2 (April 2000)
©2000 Kadon Enterprises, Inc.