Someone mentioned during today's discussionn that neither tennis players nor drug addicts do anything important or essential for society. It made me think of a theory I once heard about the evolution of man. The theory holds that we are no longer homo sapiens but have moved on to a new order of homo: homo ludens. While homo sapiens translates from the latin as "wise man" or "knowing man", homo ludens means "man the player" or "playing man." The transition doesn't suggest that homo ludens are physiologically different from homo sapiens but that our priorities as a species have shifted from "knowing" towards "playing".
I found the section describing the game of Eschaton on pages 323-342 especially hard to get through. I'd been enjoying the book, but when it got to that point, I found myself mindlessly reading the acronyms --AMNAT, SOVWAR, REDCHI, IRLIBSYR, SOUTHAF, INDPAK, ??-- and not even trying to comprehend the strategies of the players. I understand the game is complex, but why so drawn out? Did anyone enjoy this section? Was it meant to be enjoyed, or was Wallace trying to make a point? The game doesn't seem like a typical children's game at all, nor does it seem like much fun (to me, anyway), so I was wondering if it was meant to convey something about the kids at E.T.A. They are worked insanely hard, all of them seem to be extremely bright, and they are forced to grow up and decide their futures so quickly. Twelve year old kids are playing highly mathematical strategic war games. Shouldn't they be jumping rope or something?