Toward a Definition of Game, by Jared Sinclair

Jared helped me start my small Youtube career by writing Anti-Sisyphus, which begged me to make a video about it. He wrote this article for the Nerves Zine in 2021 and was gracious enough to let me post it here on the site. Enjoy.


Toward a Definition of Game: Two Propositions and Their Antecedents

1. We can imagine a game as a lake’s surface. Underneath is play. And above is us. And we can’t really see the play in the game from above the surface, it just looks like us. Reflected. And so we dip our faces in to get a better look.

Some people keep birds in cages in their home. And the birds can fly, we know they can, that’s one reason we keep them in cages.

Below the surface is play, and what god made the lake anyway? Where does the world go when we look beneath? It’s still there, somewhere behind us. It contains the lake and the play. So we go deeper into the water, with our whole bodies this time, and we turn our heads to look back at the world above, but it’s distorted and strange. Is this the way the lake sees us? Or god, is this how god sees us?

A bird can sing, too. And their song flies, even when they cannot, through the bars of the cage and it fills the home. Another reason we keep them caged.

Underneath the surface, but it’s above now. We’ve crawled up on its shore and built a home. How long have we been here? The other world is below the surface and looks like us. Reflected. Perhaps it does not call to us. Perhaps we could stay here, in our home on the shore of the lake.

We could go back, through the lake’s surface, that placid mirror in the ground near the home we built on its shore. We could dip our faces in and see in it the swimming remembrance of what was, the ways we were before. Would we recognize it, distorted in the movement of the surface of the water? 

What god made this lake? Are they trapped, too? Do they sing out from their cage and feel their song fly out to where they cannot go and alight at last upon the ground, and spread out, ever wider and deeper and softer now, losing form in the rigidity of the world? Do they envy their song? Do they remember it, control it?

Do they admire the lake, the god, from above or below the surface? Do they admire themselves and their work? And these people who walk its shores, and dip their faces in, and descend into its waters to return or not, do they remember what it was like above or below, as it was before, do they admire the lake or the god who made it, do they admire themselves as they are above or below, do they remember who is above and who is below or which, and when they came here, is there any difference anymore between what is above and what is below and who is above and who is below and which and when?

What world could keep them, infinite in duplicity and deception as they are? The anchor that holds them to themselves has two arms.


2. We can imagine a game as the bars of a cage. Outside of the cage is play, and inside is home’s infinite sorrow. And, looking out through the bars, we can see play and almost imagine ourselves there, outside. And, looking through the bars, it looks like play is in the cage and we imagine ourselves there in the cage with play. We are inside the cage with the sorrow, but it feels like being outside and the play is inside where we imagine we are.

Some people make boats to ride on the surface of a lake. And some boats sink.

Where are the birds? Sometimes they sing, and surely they can fly, but here in the cage or outside of it there are no birds, only the sorrow and play and the bars that separate one from the other. And us, here we are, inside and outside, with sorrow and with play, which are similar to singing and flying and neither. Are we alone here? Both of us together, alone?

A boat can be a home, too. And outside is water and the constant threat of death. No one could live there for long, in the water with death. No one could sing.

A mirror in the cage, or outside, and in the mirror is a person who looks like us. And their sadness reaches out to us from the mirror, and the bars behind them press in upon them, pressed against the surface, and our mirrored-self is trapped in the cage with play. And they hate us for it, our mirrored-self, for our freedom here in the cage with the sorrow, on the other side of the mirror. Reach out to them and your hand passes through, there on the other side. Your hand touches their cheek which is also your cheek, and below the surface of the mirror we begin to cry, both of us, with the sorrow and with play, and the world in the mirror and outside of the mirror, and in the cage and outside of the cage, the world is nothing but tears and no cage can hold tears. And here under the surface of the water we can no longer cry because the world is full and full of tears.

What god made this lake?

Peer again through the bars of the cage, we see ourselves reflected, distorted in the mirror of its surface, this lake. Walk its shores, is it knowledge or courage or cowardice or ignorance that keeps us here, imagining ourselves on the other side, and sticking our faces in, and our bodies, and bobbing at last to the other side, or this one, turned at last into ourselves, and someone else, a bird, the song a bird would sing, as it flies, reflected, at last, home?

Jared Sinclair, March 2021

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