Millions of people have happy memories of stealing cars in Miami, killing Nazi zombies on the moon, and metaphorically fighting the laissez-faire capitalism of Ayn Rand in the submarine city of Rapture. Nowadays they might be taking things a bit easier; spending more time twiddling their thumbs at the office, half-heartedly messing about with spreadsheets and only occasionally interrupting the meaninglessness of work to catch rare Pokemon at lunch time.

If you share any of these video game experiences, you have been moving in the same magic circles of play, or "temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart" that Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) wrote of in his 1938 treatise "Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture."

Huizinga famously suggested that rather than call ourselves homo sapiens — which foregrounds the faculty of reason or wisdom — we could just as well, or even more accurately, call ourselves "homo ludens" or "man the player." In championing play as a non-trivial pursuit, Huizinga considered it to be one of the core aspects of human civilization; an opportunity for experimentation and freedom that, at the same time, is bounded by rules and permits the creation of perfection, albeit temporary and limited.