Jawohl, mein kommandant!

Anyone who has ever played a game with a fixed and intricate rule set will or has experienced the kind of person colloquially referred to as the “Rule Nazi.” This person, very much like the nihilistic player of a game described in the Caillois piece, disrupts the flow of the game; in this case by trying to impart unto the rules his/her own “memory” of how the rules are and how the current way of playing is not true to the original intention of the founders’ words. But just as one cannot adequately argue the “Founder’s Intent” of the United States Constitution, unless you have the grace to play Dungeons & Dragons with Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the entire creative writing team of Wizards of the Coast, you will never be able to say what the perceived reality of the rules really are and in many cases, you cease to play the game.

But what do these encounters teach us about life in general? As we discussed in class, from an early age we are indirectly taught about the idea of a kind of ‘social contract’ that exists within the nature of human coexistence and how sometimes one goes with the flow of things, rather than abiding by the written word of the law or the rules. As anyone who has travelled on Interstate 95 or 66 can tell you, obeying the speed limit directly is liable to cause you to be involved in a car crash. This can be further exemplified by the occurrence of colloquial “house rules” in various games, such as Monopoly, where the written words are changed or altered in a manner that allows for the players to have the most perceived amount of fun.

1 thought on “Jawohl, mein kommandant!

  1. Professor Sample

    The way you describe the Rule Nazi reminds me that it is possible to destroy the game in the name of preserving it. I also think you’re onto something when you mention a “social contract” between the ruler and the ruled. We could add this onto Koster’s list of what games teach us: how to deal with authority.

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