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2022: Special Issue: Ludomaterialities

Dice, Cards and Boards: Material Elements of Games and the Play-Form

  • Claudius Clüver
November 15, 2022


The study of dice games, card games and board games shows that similar material objects as well as the specific moments of attraction attached to them evoke similar games. These objects therefore have the affordance to play those games with them. Dice, for example, lend themselves to games with a component of randomness; Card games have historically undergone a change from luck-based to skill-based games, while the mathematical principles underlying them are developed; Boards invite competition for the space on their geometric surfaces. On the basis of these findings, I propose the notion of a play-form for these object-affordances, which are characterized by being stable, recognizable and functionally related to the game context. In addition to these object-like forms of play, practices such as gestures or infrastructures related to games can also have a formal character. If several forms of play come together and the combination in turn has formal qualities, meaning the combination is also stable, recognizable and functional, I speak of game formats, such as board or card games, that draw on a common inventory of forms. In more modern games it is common to use the entire range of play-forms, whereas stronger format delineations are characteristic of traditional games.