Don’t Bet Your Cybersavings on Video Game Spin-Offs

By Bob Schwabach

IN 1938, Johan Huizinga, the Dutch medieval historian, published a speculative essay called ”Homo Ludens” — literally, ”game playing man.”

In it, Huizinga examined the generally unquestioned labeling of our species as ”Homo sapiens” — ”intelligent man.” Several alternative labels have been put forth by anthropologists and historians: ”man the tool maker,” ”man the builder” and so on. But none of those he had read before quite captured our essential quality, Huizinga maintained. What really distinguishes man from other species, he concluded, is that we spend so much time playing games. And so he characterized our species as ”Homo ludens” — man the game player. We do seem to enjoy it.

How much time does it take to earn our daily bread? And what do we do with the rest of the time? I recall talking to an anthropologist at the Field Museum in Chicago many years ago, and he estimated that early man spent no more than three or four hours a day satisfying his basic requirements. Judging by the people I’ve worked with, it’s about the same today. Even lions hunt but a few hours, and not every day. What is to be done with the rest of the time? Lions sleep and scratch; we play games. These days we play a lot of video games. Continue reading


A Silent Comedy Surrounded by Sound

By Bob Schwabach

THE first time I saw a Jacques Tati movie, I thought something had gone wrong with the sound system.

It was a student film society showing at the University of Chicago, and things like that go wrong all the time. I was on the verge of getting up to tell someone in the projection booth when I realized that there was nothing wrong with the sound at all — it was a silent movie! But a silent movie with sound. Continue reading