Gaming to support individuals

Christmas is a family meeting built on old habits: each member has its own place and role, forever, nevermind what they have become! Necessary to the meeting’s success, this rule is nonetheless difficult to endorse. However, gaming offers individuals a way to reconcile Christmas’ success and self-expression.

1. Family Christmas: a particular place and role to respect

Christmas is a key moment for the family: it is the opportunity for its members to reaffirm their mutual alliance. To do so, routines prevail : each individual occupies a specific place in the hierarchy depending on its kinship (“son of”, “sister of”). And everybody must play its historical archetypal role, assigned by the family (the “prodigy”, the Parisian; the artist, the funny, etc.).

2. But places and roles are tough to bear

By essence, the role is obsolete: it emphasizes what individuals were and not what they are now.  Moreover, family life is only one facet of individuals, and grown-ups hate being reduced to their familial archetype. But for the sake of the family’s unity, everyone must resign to it, destabilizing the fragile family equilibrium.

3. Playing allows to regain a more personal role

As it opens onto a new world, gaming puts roles and places aside. Under the cover of playing, it allows getting out of one’s family role, it is a mean to express one’s true personality or interfere with the usual distribution of roles. Alexandra relates as an example that teenagers have beaten adults at Scrabble : “it did cast some doubt upon the adults!”.

4. But this role-play can sometimes prove itself confusing

Due to repeated authorized transgressions, the game sometimes spills over reality, when a contestant questions the limit between playing and reality. Play is a family life regulator, provided that everyone respects the agreement, and accepts that what happens during the game must stay in the game.



Family games at Christmas: what are we playing?

Why is playing games a so widespread and such an essential part of Christmas? To dissect what can seem obvious at first glance, we wanted to understand what role games play within the Christmas family ritual. Beyond the common thought that playing is something insignificant and childish, we took playing very seriously, and we dived into what playing is really about, what is at stake, the behaviors and attitudes playing generates. If the game is everything but “frivolous”, how does it position itself within the Christmas ritual?

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Marc-Antoine Morier - Strategy & Anthropology

Graduated from the EHESS, Marc-Antoine shares his expertise in Sociology and Anthropology with companies. He joined unknowns in 2017 to organize and realize the social sciences fieldwork.

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Marc-Antoine Morier

""Social sciences offer methods and tools to understand people. Using them is a good way to understand how and why they do what they do and say what they say.""