In Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, he says this:
The judge smiled. Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up game, player, all.
I will be honest, because every aspect of this awful quote speaks directly to me, as if written to me personally. It bothers me, as I expect it is meant to. I was just wondering if other people had any thoughts to share about it, particularly regarding the connection of games to war.
I don’t play games to humiliate anyone, and I try not to find much pride in them. But I ache to play them, to compete and find victory in them. The word I keep coming back to describe myself is sanguine, but not merely in some sunny or optimistic way, but to mix that with a metaphorically bloodstained grin.
I feel like my saving grace as a person in this respect is my fondness for solitaire games, which I love as a purely mental exercise: not merely as practice for the “real thing” but as puzzle and test in of themselves. But then I look back at the text I just wrote and think “you used the word exercise, but what purpose is an exercise if not as a precursor to something else?”
Why do you play games?