Games for your mind

Posts Tagged ‘philosophy

Aristotle-PlatoIn ancient Greece, board games where very popular, especially among the philosophers and their pupils. Plato once said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.
Hellenistic culture gave a lot of importance to games, ancient Greeks invented the Olympics and athletes were considered like heroes.
Philosopher used to teach their scholars using linguistic game and games simulations; philosophy itself was a form of game: to quote Plato once again Philosophy is “like playing an hard game”.
Like Dutch philosopher  J. Huizinga suggests In his book ”Homo ludens” all the stages and the development of philosophy manifest a recreational linguistic activity  in its deep essence: Philosophic rhetoric play  on words during the debates and the clash between the debaters assumed in public speeches the form of a win or lose game. Even in the written form, many ancient Greeks script are a sophistic game of question an answer.
Word games and speech competitions where a sort of recreational activity, used by Hellenic people to shape and rule their ancient society.The winners of those linguistic games where often famous philosophers like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, great politicians like Themistocles and genial playwrights like Aristophanes.

This fundamental role of playing activities in the Hellenistic culture is manifested also in the Mythology, like in the Myth of  Theseus and the Minotaur.
The Labyrinth and the Theseus myth seems like a perfect representation of a gaming scenario that today could be easily used to develop a videogame:labirint-game Theseus (the player) must overcome different stages in a labyrinth scenario to fight and defeat the final Minotaur monster.
The connection between this myth and gaming was so strong that ancient Greeks invented a board game version of this myth called “labyrinth”, a  game for two, three or four players.
Like in the original Myth, the gameboard represents the labyrinth of King Minos where the monster half men and half animal is trapped. The player acting as Theseus must save the youths Athenians  sent as tribute to King Minos who used them to feed the Minotaur.
Each player has 4 pawns, one for each youth Athenian, the first player to bear off all the pieces at the centre of the board is the winner because, like Theseus, he has saved all the youths Athenians from certain death.

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John_Lennon_mind_gamesToday I would like to make a tribute to a music legend of the past: John Lennon, probably one of the greatest artist of the last century, and to one of his best soloist songs:  Mind Games, which is also the title  of the album released in 1973 that bring back John Lennon‘s music on the emotional Pop-Rock sound.

Mind Games is not so famous like Imagine or other big hits of Lennon, but I think it’s one of the most interesting Lennon’s soloist works. Originally entitled make “Make Love, Not War”, like the famous  slogan against the war in Vietnam, Mind Games is another masterpiece deeply related to the  pacifist hymn “Give Peace A Chance”.

Mind Games stands for the possibility of use our own brightness to change the world, like Lennon did, using his fame to protest against the war and defend world peace. Mind Games is another great artistic prove of Lennon‘s commitment, explicitly declared in the last ironic sentence of the song: I want you to make love, not war, I know you’ve heard it before.

Games for your mind is all about that feeling so well expressed in this beautifull song: love not war, education not violence, free thoughts not  manipulation,  fair play not romp.

Playing  Clever games together today to paint a brighter  tomorrow!

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old_train_toyToys are cultural products  with a long history, they survived to all cultural changes of our society and to the aggressive newcomers in the leisure industry, such as video games, Internet, board games etc.
But if is true, like Friedrich Schiller sad that: “Man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays; learning, remembering and analyzing toy’s history, let us appreciate the culture and the daily lifestyles of past families”.

In all historical age, toys had always a precise function:
For young boys some toys exalted the winner role of certain action and position synonymous of virility;  for girls some toys were developed to teach young females to family life, to began  good wives and mothers.
But in the past few families could afford to buy toys for their sons, and kids had to work with their fantasy and invent toys and games with few simple material, such as wood, nails, paper and  fabric.

From those children’s fantasies start the first incredible playing ideas and great toys inventions, like the first miniature railway made in Sweden in 1916 with matches, nails and wood.

With the Enlightenment and positivism even toys and childhood games began to be influenced by science:
John Locke, English philosopher and pedagogue, underlined in his studies the vital importance of the child to learn how to face his life with games and toys, Rousseau see the game as a way to better understand the children. In this period toys began commercial products, and the new toys market  start to move his first step in the new Europe.

old_doll_toyGermany was one of the first nation to develop a modern toys craftsmanship;  in 1973 Besterlmeier merchants of Nuremberg traded their toys in all Europe. In that period Nuremberg was the world capital of toys, especially for dolls, in the toys’ shop catalogue a customer could find more than 10.000 products.

In 1850 is the toy golden age, because these objects are now considered not only as children amusement object, but as pedagogic and educational products, and the consecration of this new conceptions is the opening of the first “children museum” in Brooklyn in1899:
In the first years on 1900 in England, France and Germany, the toy already was a cultural mass product, for all social classes and families, toys are synonymous of modernity and of the manifestation of the real “Esprit du Temp”. Fashion and mechanical invention made the new toys more and more objects of desire for children all over the world, in this period new projects and designers, made great products such as planes, toy trains, puzzles, car miniatures.

In the 20th century the two world wars stopped this positive trend in toys industry and factory instead of toys produced weapons and
military equipments.

After the 1950, with the discover of new materials, like plastic, toys started to follow the success of comic books, movies and sports: everything famous character has a toy version to celebrate his success, in this period toys like Spider man, Superman, car pilots, and sport players miniatures appeared on the world stage.

Toy will always be part of our life, because as McLuhan sad: “world children confraternity is the only wild tribe with no signs of extinction”.

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radha-krishna_chessAll modern studies on chess genealogy agree that we can find the origins of chess in ancient India, when, in an indeterminate period around the 6th century during the Gupta Empire, the game called Chaturanga, was invented.
Chaturanga, literally means “the game of the four armies” and after its rapid diffusion in India and Persia during the 7th century, the game reached late medieval Europe and was transformed in the modern game of chess in the 15 century.
The “four armies” of Chaturanga are made of pieces similar to chess displayed on an 8×8 uncheckered board. The original and older version of this board game was called Chaturaji (“four kings”) , it’s for four players and each player has a Raja (King), a Yaanei (Elephant = Bishop), Iratham (Chariot = Rook), and ‘Kutharei (Horse= Knight ) And four Padàti (Foot-soldiers = Pawns); probably that’s why in modern chess have eight Pawns and two of each rook, knight and bishop.
The word rook of chess, for example, comes from Persian rokh which means chariot, and that’s how the Chaturanga’s piece was called in ancient Persia, this explains also why the rook in chess can move only on its horizontal axis or on his vertical axis because the chariot has the wheels and can’t jump or move in diagonal. The bishop of chess comes from the Elephant that in Chaturanga moves only two squares per time and the queen wasn’t a special piece like in modern chess, it only could move one square per time in order to protect the king.
Despite its old age Chaturanga is still played around the world especially in India and in the Middle East.

chaturanga

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chess_historyIn history, the game of chess was always played by great leaders, scientists artist and geniuses.

Probably, leaders like Stalin; Lenin, Napoleon and Wellington, liked the game for the strategy and the war practices involved to defeat the opponent; maybe famous scientist like Benjamin Franklin, Galileo, Mendelejev, Blathy, Einstein, Oppenheimer appreciated the mind-game strategy and probabilities calculations; perhaps great writers such as Cervantes, Rabelais, Jean-Jacques Rosseau,Voltaire, Goethe, Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Allan Poe, Marx, Dickens, Tolstoi, Pierre Loti, Gide, Gorkij, Nabokov, Borges, loved the inner and unexpected plots development in the game, like a different version of an infinite ongoing saga; perchance painters like Matisse, Magritte, Duchamp, Ernst, loved the perfect forms and the symbolism of the pieces, combined with the chess board to form a perfect and always different artwork. We don’t know exactly why chess is so popular among intellectuals, but the fact is that since old times this incredible game has always had a fascinating power.

History is full of game anecdotes and famous challenges, like the famous dare between Albert Einstein vs Robert Julius Oppenheimer in Princeton in 1933. Einstein loved chess and after the publication of a pamphlet called “One Hundred Authors Against Einstein”, in which relativity theory was harshly criticized from those who believed that the speed of light was limited, the great physician answered in this way: “Chess grips its exponent, shackling the mind and brain so that the inner freedom and independence of even the strongest character cannot remain unaffected.”
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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
(Plato)

Toys existed since ancient times because the man always had a deep relation with toys.

gi_joe1poupee_barby

A lot of toys discovered in some archeological sites around the world are dolls and toy soldiers, the old ancestor of Barby and G.I. Joes.

800px-roman-toysHistory of toys follows the development of human society , ancient toys where made of wood, stone or clay, like old tools.
In ancient Egypt little girls had porcelain dolls with fake hairs and kids of ancient Rome used to play with fake arches and wood swords.
Even the yo-yo has old origins, the firsts were made in wood in Cina more than 2500 years ago and in Greece, yo yo, decorated with divinities images, were very popular in 500 b.C.
Incas finds too,  show the love of this culture for toys like wooden circles and well shaped dolls. Medieval games where made of woods: in this period were invented the famous rocking-horse and the miniature playhouses.
In late  Middle Ages, can be tracked the origins of handmade wood toys for nobles children.
Wood toy manufactory is a real art and rare, ancient wood toys became part of hig value collections. There are collectors ready to spend thousands of dollars for a small wooden toy.

city-in-a-bag-prNowadays, a lot of small companies are specialized in wooden toys manufactory, making great and stylish old fashion products, like
London city in a bag here.

this means that old fashion games are still desired from children all over the world.

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indiraghanditime A famous quote of Indira Nehru Gandhi is: All my games were political games I was, like Joan of Arc, perpetually being burned at the stake.
Indira Ghandi suggests that if If you have a moral, poltical or ethical principle, you should follow it and take inspiration from it, even if you risk the gallows.
And here is the question, why if we the have worldwide shared human principles, a kid can make robberies, steal cars and kill everyone playing a videogame?
What kind of message is this?
Is criminal violence cool?
Fortunately, in the video game industry there are also great examples of clever games and new products, oriented to  education, fitness, brain training etc.
I’m for this second kind of games, not only because they’re physically and mentally healthy,  but also I think that the deeper essence of any kind of game is to educate and to build a consciousness of  the elementary human principles and behaviors.
In this sense a game choice is a political game, because you choose if you want to deal with the improvement of yourself or with brutality and criminality.
Indira Gandhi’s big lesson in her small sentence about “political games”,  gives me a good reason to say that I would prefer being put at the stake rather than kill a character in a videogame.

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