Mind Games

Most of us have heard of people playing “mind games” before, if not experienced this in the giver or recipients shoes.  Dictionary.com classifies mind games as “psychological manipulation or strategy, used especially to gain advantage or to intimidate”.  In class this week we learned about games and how they differ from work and play.  The main difference between a game and work was the notion of fun (coinciding with games), as well as a set of rules differing a game from play.  Applying this on a strictly physical level is attainable, but I would like to delve into a more theoretical topic.  Would mind games fit the provided explanation of a game, or is it in its own entirety altogether?

If playing mind games is to gain advantage and use strategy to attain this, there would most likely be an intellectual stimulation, which can be seen as one component of a game.  It falls into the category of competitive as you are trying to “pull one over” on somebody else (trying not to get caught while gaining the upper hand), and there being rules so to speak (manipulation strategies, not taking it too far, etc.), which are all examples of aspects that divide a game from work or play.  And it is also fun to some degree for the speaker, though the notion of intellectual stimulation is a much more likely trigger to stay playing such a game.

Lastly, in playing mind games you end up entering the “magic circle”.  This idea was created by Johan Huizinga, and speaks of entering a different cognitive reality, basically a total immersion that ends up with you so lost in the game that you have forgotten what is actually going on around you (dog whining for food, or more severe the smell of smoke from a fire due to forgetting you had something in the oven).  I would argue that when playing mind games, you are almost completely immersing yourself in another reality, even more than you would with a more visual medium.  You are thinking differently, and often the exhileration you feel from the cleverness of your ploy can end up going too far, as you have forgotten about the most important thing of all: Humanity.

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2 Comments

  1. This notion is an excellent example of the hybrid-gaming sphere. Mind games, you could say, is just an extremely effective and extremely subtle means of rhetoric. What’s so interesting about mind games, which is somewhat different that rhetoric, is the drive. The competitive drive behind mind games flares the magic circle, almost erasing the boundaries between this ‘game’ and reality. Every motive within the ‘game’ is in fact also happening in reality. Mind games are extremely engaging, and it becomes difficult from divorce yourself from the ‘game’ once you’ve delved in deep enough.

    Really interesting concept.
    Cheers.

  2. dare2dream14: kudos for exploring the boundary points of our definition of game. To be honest, I wouldn’t have classified mind games as “games” at all–in my mind, it’s too tenuous a term, too poorly defined; can something really be a game if its rules can’t be clearly articulated?

    The answer to that is yes, it can; virtually all games have some level of implicit rules, and just because a mind game would be more implicit than explicit in that regard shouldn’t entirely disqualify it.
    sophiapelka: I like your focus on rhetoric here. A game studies scholar named Ian Bogost argues, in the book Persuasive Games, that video games are really what he calls “procedural rhetoric”: that is, they emphasize rhetoric that works on people not in terms of a direct argument, but a system, a process of behavior. It’s similar to Manovich’s description of video games, but with a more rhetorical bent.


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