Customer Reviews: The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia
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on January 16, 1998
Suits' claim that he is not furthering the extensive work done in the field of game theory is correct, but i feel he underestimates his contribution to our understanding of the importance of liesure activities in our lives. i am not so interested in the mathematical proofs provided by Von Nueman and Morgenstern, and how game theory is applicable to life, as i am in discovering why i have such a fascination with games. Suits' Grasshopper, via a Platonic dialogue, examines the nature of the game, what it is, why it is employed, etc. This already effective narrative structure is further enhanced by the Grasshopper's many digressions and introductions of hypothetical characters and situations. Suits has created a meta-fictional forum for both discharging his ideas and entertaining the reader. i found myself compelled forward, relishing every word, and fascinated by Suits' logic process and conclusions. i recommend this title to anyone interested in a hybrid of game theory and actual game play; the book does not reduce games to a mathematical model but it also avoids describing any one game in particular. Rather Suits seems interested in analyzing the structure and nature of games as a whole. It is a philosophical outlook on a very intriguing subject.
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on July 31, 2013
An odd but engaging book that takes on Wittgenstein's challenge to define "game." After considering only a few possibilities, Wittgenstein decides that game has no essential definition--that is, that there are no necessary and sufficient conditions true of all games (as "closed plane figure with 3 straight sides" gives necessary and sufficient conditions for being a triangle). Suits offers this definition of playing a game: "engaging in an activity directed towards bringing about a specific state of affairs, using only means permitted by rules, where the rules prohibit more efficient in favour of less efficient means, and where such rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity" (pp. 48-9). And then he offers a more memorable version (p. 55): "playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles." He then subjects this to multiple tests to show it covers all plausible cases, while excluding the right cases as well. Gets a bit tiresome at points, but is persuasive. The first appendix, where he reflects on the process of definition is especially interesting. The section towards the end where he reflects on the role of games in utopia was weird and not very interesting or convincing to me. As far as the challenge to Wittgenstein, I would say that Wittgenstein's real point was not that game could not be defined, but that it need not be defined (in essentialist terms) to be a perfectly useful concept. Wittgenstein proposed that it was a "family resemblance" concept, that had all the unity it needed from the various overlapping similarities that held the examples together. Suits considers this a cop-out--an excuse for not really seeking a definition. The deeper philosophical question is whether all concepts can be given essentialist definitions. Socrates seemed to suppose so, and Suits seems to follow suit. But it is hard to know how this could be shown. In fact, it is hard to see how this could be true, since it would seem to lead to circularity (as with dictionaries) or an infinite regress. If one admits there must be some terms that go undefined (in essentialist terms), then the relevant question here is whether Game would be one of the terms that goes undefined.
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on January 28, 2000
I first read this book in 1980. It was a gift from my best and wisest friend, the hardcover version which I still treasure to this day. I have since probably bought half a dozen copies of this for the distinct reason that I felt someone merited a copy as a gift. This book makes you stop and think about yourself, your life and your expectations. It does not criticize your path nor does it necessarily offer an alternative. It just makes you think....... in an easy, enjoyable manner. This book won't give you the "secret" to a fulfilling life of health, wealth or whatever else you seek, but it will make you think...... and every now and then you may actually catch yourself smiling as you do so. Recommended, highly - but more so, fondly remembered 20 years, university, failed and successful career prospects, failed and successful romantic prospects later. Yes so ever fondly remembered.
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on June 13, 2012
"Art is to handicraft as play is to work," because, as you will understand from reading this book, although play can be deadly serious stuff, it is elegant--noble even--in its implementation.

I came to this book after reading the masterpiece on the subject, HOMO LUDENS, which, in narrative form, explains why we are the playful species that we are. THE GRASSHOPPER, on the other hand, presents the information often in dialogue form, between different members of a cast of characters. And although it's humorous at times, it is not an easy read. This book will take some time to read; but, it is well worth it. Highly recommended... - lc
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on January 23, 2011
In the world of game studies, many attempts have been made to define games. However, none have come close to even improving Suits'.
Neither have they approached his humour or engaging prose. If you have any interest in understanding what games are, buy this book.
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on November 7, 2003
This is a fascinating and thought-provoking book. The most interesting, I thought, were the chapters on children's cops and robbers games, where he concludes that "make believe" games are nevertheless games despite not having discrete goals, and wonders why no one has ever devised such pasttimes for adults. Gary Gygax and Dungeons and Dragons had been around for a while when this book was written; Suits doesn't seem to have heard of them, but in these chapters their development is predicted.
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on June 12, 2016
Food for thought.
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