Date of Submission
Project Advisor 1
Maria Sachiko Cecire
Like many things in life, the very idea of a game contradicts itself. A game is so many conflicting things at once. All in good fun, but with the focused goal of winning. A closed space with no consequences, yet personally affecting outside its boundaries. Often playful, yet deathly serious. The games we make and play often have a hand in deciding our identities. What kinds of games do we play, and how often? Who do we play them with? How seriously do we take them, and how do we react to certain outcomes? Do we learn from our mistakes and improve, or are we sore losers who quit at the earliest opportunity? Our complex relationships to games, which by definition are not for practical purposes, can change how we perceive our worlds and how people perceive us.
The contradictory nature of the game is not a new concept. "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," a fourteenth-century English chivalric romance, is married to the idea of games as a central nucleus. Games clutch the plot from the beginning of the story, when a mysterious and towering knight, fully clad in marvelous green armor, rides to King Arthur’s court and challenges Sir Gawain to what has come to be known as the beheading game. The rules are simple: one participant will take an axe and strike the other in any way they so choose. Exactly one year later, in return, the one who struck must offer himself to be dealt a blow from the opposite party.
Gawain goes first. With a mighty cleave of the Green Knight’s axe, he chops his opponent’s head clean off. It rolls onto the floor in the middle of their holiday celebration. There is no way a dead man could possibly deal a blow in return a year later. But of course, the Green Knight is not dead. His body strolls across the room, picks its head back up, and urges Gawain to hold up his end of the bargain a year later.
The honorable Gawain, facing death in a year’s time, opts not to back out of his promise to play the game. His following journey is steeped in play, from the beheading game to the exchanges game to even smaller forms of play that the story is preoccupied with. With each game comes a slew of contradictions and confusing-yet-clear events and descriptions. How can a reading of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from a game-oriented perspective lead us to new conclusions about the very concept of the game in general? These are the ideas that my senior project explores.
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Maldonado, Joshua David, "The Game at the Green Chapel: A Game-Oriented Perspective on Chivalry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 122.
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