The Grasshopper: Possibility and Potentiality

I don’t wish to belabor a point (or rather, a nebulous idea that is pointed), but in reading Bernard Suits’ The Grasshopper, I kept thinking about what I was unable to say in my post last week on PolyFauna, ambience and ambiguity in play. To return to ambience as a means of foregrounding, Thomas Rickert uses Brian Eno to describe it as “the decision to stop seeing yourself as the centre of the world, to see yourself as part of the greater flow of things, as having limited options and responsibility to your actions” (Eno qtd. in “Circumnavigation”,  Ambient Rhetoric). In trying to postulate ambience as matter in ambiguity and play, I was drawn to Suits’ discussion of the concepts of open and closed games; he describes open games as “a system of reciprocally enabling moves whose purpose  is the continued operation of the system” (124), in contrast to closed games which have inherent goals whose achievement ends the game (122). I found myself questioning how we define goals; this found resonance in Thomas Hurka’s introduction to the text when he is describing Aristotle’s energeiai and kinesis. To Aristotle, energeiai has no external goal, but has an internal goal to itself, while kinesis folds in the ends as part of its action. Hurka posits game play as countering Aristotle’s argument that states “Where there are ends apart from the actions [the defining characteristic of a kinesis], it is the nature of the products to be better than the activities” based on properties internal to the activity of game play. I found myself wondering if goals, rules, and actions weren’t so bounded, how Suits’ lusory attitude (one of his element of game play in addition to ends, means, and rules) might influence how open and closed are imagined and how play itself is imagined in ambiguous games/play.

I return to PolyFauna as a possible example of ambiguous play/game with Suits in mind. But instead of treating it as an object of curiosity alone, I tried to treat it as more of a game; I searched for reviews of its game play and uncovered the following video, which describes itself as a walkthrough of the game:

I found it curious that the video would state such a claim, as my understanding of a walkthrough is a text (written or visual/aural) that demonstrates game play not just as suggestive strategy based on rules, but as experiential demonstration. The rules for PolyFauna are as follows:

Your screen is the window into an evolving world.
Move around to look around.
You can follow the red dot.
You can wear headphones.

I’m left questioning ambiguity more in terms of attitude and as existing in the experiential, as something in means/actions instead of ends/achievement of outcome. In the experiential of open versus closed, I return to the use of Aristotle’s dichotomy of kinesis and energeiai as potentiality; the concept of potentiality to Aristotle is any possibility that a thing can have as contrasting to actuality which he describes as motion, change, or activity that fulfills possibility. How does game play change is it is thought of as potentiality versus possibility?

 

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