The Inherent Subjectivity of Games, and Why They Have Nothing to do With Winning and Losing

From the frame of reference of the game, any game, there can be no actual value distinction between winning and losing. In other words, a game is a singular set of given rules, though there may be sub-categories within the set, or allowances made for deviation and/or exception, but these also are a function of the singular set of rules. This singular set of rules direct players to a conclusion which they know as winning and losing…success or failure, or any degree therein. What this means is that the game equally implies both winning and losing. That is, both winning and losing are equal functions of the exact same set of rules. Thus, from the frame of reference of the game, there can be no value distinction between winning and losing. The rules imply both of them, equally. The value distinction of the outcome of the game, and thus the value of the game itself (for there is no game without an eventual outcome) must come from outside of it.

Do you see what this means?

The game, itself, cannot claim that winning is better than losing. The game doesn’t care…the game cannot care…because the rules mean both. A player wins or loses, the game does not. The game does neither. The game provides the conduit to winning or losing…a single hallway with two doors on either side of it.  The hallway contains both doors equally, yet the hallway is not concerned with what lay beyond them. Thus, as far as the game is concerned, winning is indistinguishable from losing…one door is the same as the other. And this means that from the frame of reference of the game, neither winning nor losing exists at all. They are merely arbitrary mathematical distinctions provided by the player, and having meaning only to him, because they have no bearing on the singular set of rules which comprise the game.

The rules that provide a conduit by which a mathematical distinction—a number—is derived do not discriminate against the data which the player inputs into the game from which that number is calculated. Again, the rules are merely a computing system which turns a players input—his skill or luck—into a mathematical sum. And it is the player—or any individual for that matter, player, spectator, or other— who thus determines any practical value/utility from that sum. That practical value/utility is ultimately subjective, however, because it is referenced to the game, and the game itself—the set of rules—is a function of man. In other words, man is why the game exists in the first place…without man, there is no game. So there can be no objective value given to man which is reference to the game…the game which would not exist without him in the first place. In short, human worth cannot be objectively calculated by processes, like games, because they could not and would not exist without him.

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The player’s data (his skill or luck) is fed into the game, the rules process the data according to internally immutable parameters, a mathematical amount (of some form) is calculated and delivered. The game does not and cannot care what that amount is…it does not and cannot tell the difference. And this is because it does not and cannot care about the data which is inputted wholly from outside of it. The same, singular set of rules deliver all amounts; and this means that all amounts are functionally equal as far as the game is concerned. Thus, the game itself never implies value distinction of any kind—mathematical, moral, practical, theoretical, etcetera—between “winning” and “losing”. And because it recognizes no distinction between winning and losing, it doesn’t recognize them at all. The rules (the game) imply an outcome, but they do not not determine the specific value of specific outcomes. The data determines value…or rather, that from which the data is a function—the player; the individual—determines value. The individual—and not necessarily just the player, but any individual, being player or spectator, or other—determines the values of the outcomes, in whatever way “value” happens to be defined, and this is because the individual determines the value of the game itself, because games are functions of individuals, not the other way around. The individual provides the material for the game from his very existence, and thus he grants it relevance and meaning and purpose…he provides the “why” for playing the game, and for creating it at all. The value of the game and its outcomes, just like the value of playing it in the first place, is always thus going to be entirely arbitrary. Subjective. “Winning” and “losing” are fluid concepts, their value being completely subject to a given individual. “Wining” and “losing” are good or bad depending on the perspective of the individual. For example, if I have no disposable income, yet gamble at poker and lose, then losing is bad. But if it’s ten o’clock at night and I just want to go to bed and for my daughter to do the same, then me losing a game of Go Fish to her isn’t any worse than winning because my real goal is simply for the game to end as quickly as possible. Losing brings this end about as equally as winning. So I “win’ either way.

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Problems arise when we attempt to assign objective value to winning, losing, and the playing of games. That is, we allow the game to dictate objective value to the individual rather than derive its own subjective value from him. Dong this gives the game a prerogative that it simply cannot accommodate. Games cannot dictate value to individuals because games have no inherent meaning except as a product of individuals. Another way of looking at it is that a great player is only great within the context of the game. His greatness does not follow him beyond its boundaries. Though his skills may apply to other aspects of his life, these skills are distinct from the rules of the game, thus they have nothing fundametally to do with it. As soon as these skills are removed from the context of the game, they do not necessarily imply greatness. A player’s greatness inside the game is merely a reflection of the context of the rules. It’s not a greatness of himself, but merely a subjective declaration of his value inside the game only. To determine that one has value outside of the game simply because of his value inside of it is to allow games—which could neither exist, nor have meaning, purpose, or value without the individual—to subordinate the existential worth of people to the utterly subjective, arbitrary, and facile worth of games.

It is precisely this reversal of reason which leads to cheating…along with exploitation (of players and fans and others), manipulation, and mendacity, which are all simply degrees of cheating, I submit, as they seek to coerce the value of the game to one’s own favor from beyond the rules. Players crave the (false) honor and approbation of being great as the game dictates greatness, yet they understand, perhaps instinctively, that the rules do not own them…do not replace their own volition, so they violate the rules when no one is watching (or when they think no one is watching) to achieve their desired outcome. Contrary to popular assumption, losing the game, you see, is not in fact more honorable than wining by cheating, because rule-following itself is ultimately meaningless and valueless without victory. Rule-following itself isn’t noble because it is merely obedience, and obedience means nothing but subjugation; but victory has the potential of transferring one from the position of subject to the position of ruler…because value, again, is assumed to be objectively derived from the game. But if this is the case, then no value can come from losing—for losing implies merely that one is capable of obeying to rules; but winning implies that one is capable of turning that obedience into power. And power is what separates the subjects from the rulers. In other words, to accept that there is some kind of inherent nobility and integrity to rule-following is to imply that slavery is a position to which one should aspire. But slavery, by definition, requires no will, thus making aspiration moot. Power belongs to those who accept that the game is the giver of human worth and who understand that to win the game, especially by manipulation of the rules (cheating, or a form thereof), is to become the game, and thus become the Authority who determines the worth of everyone else.

The real truth is that games, rules, laws, processes, computations, equations, strategies, directions, authority, guidelines, paradigms, constructs…all of these are of men, for men, and valued solely by men. To reverse this relationship—to make men the product of these rather than the master—is to turn man into a mindless, collective and collectivist beast, and ensures that the only score left on the board in the end is murder and destruction.

END

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