Whenever I think of play, I always think of the nature programs that I used to watch as a kid. There would always the offspring of mammals such as lions or bears playing and roughhousing. While human play is more complicated then animal play, I think that animal play is not fundamentally that different.
I mostly agree with Caillois’ defining factors of play except for the fact that play is unproductive. While it is true that play does not produce anything, I think that it can be counted as investing in future productivity. As the nature programs taught me when mammal offspring play they are often practicing skills that they will use to survive in the wild. Their roughhousing is practicing for the battles that they will have when they are adults. This is probably the reason that play evolved in mammals, as it gave them an edge surviving.
Humans play for similar reasons. Just because play has no purpose does not mean that skills and knowledge can’t be gained from games. People who play first person shooter video games have faster reaction times on average, probably because the game lets them practice this skill while playing.
The two games that we played this week were the opposite of games that help you learn. Pacman is a very familiar game, having played it in my childhood. I say that these games are unproductive because they are just for fun and doesn’t convey any skills to me at the moment. Flow is more free and lets you discover what the game is at your own pace. The process of discovery was fun but the game was over too quickly.