EDITORIAL BY Amaru Villanueva Rance
money? How, for instance, is it worse than trade?
—Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Gambler
Games seem just as popular on the playground as they do in the prison courtyard. Why is this
so? ‘It’s about making use of time which to them feels eternal’ says Colonel José Peña, San
Pedro Prison’s maximum authority. Luis, one of the inmates we spoke to for this issue also
appreciates the importance of games in his day-to-day life: ‘Because our time is often spent in
boredom, it’s important to keep people busy and relieve the tension. People can get stressed
and even violent if they have no way having fun and letting it all out’.
We’re told doing sport gives us endorphins, that taking risks gives us adrenaline. One doesn’t
need to be a chemist or a molecular biologist to understand how much happiness and
excitement games can bring about. But it’s not just about joy; games are also cathartic and allow
us to deal with anger and suffering. And of course, the passions generated by games such as
football are often catalysts to displays of violence between fans. Whatever emotions they
generate, games tap into the core of our humanities, turning us at once into brutes and
Today, games are hardly the province of children, if they ever were. In an age where all phones
and computer screens seduce and plead to be interacted with through touch, it’s precisely
children who are forgetting what playing is all about (in a traditional sense). We explored the
city’s parks in the quest to find typical bolivian games, lost in time or merely forgotten. To our
surprise, it was these very games—many of them homemade—that were able to bridge
generations, connecting the youngest members of our society with the oldest. In the age of
Angry Birds, a small girl can still fall prey to the allure of learning how to make her own kite with
But we also discovered that the semantics of gaming (along with coextensional words such as
playing) in Bolivia are stretched to include activities such as rotating credit associations.
Bolivians, many of them middle-aged women, talk of playing the game of pasanaku, in which
they take turns collecting the proceeds from a community chest made up of individual
contributions. This may seem surprising to those used to associating these activities with
financial institutions which are un-fun almost as a rule (no-one really chooses their bank based
on how fun it is). But the idea certainly has its logic. Like other games, these groups involve
friends abiding by a set of rules, and doing so not just for the prize, but to spend time and share
with one another.
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