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.
ARTICLES FROM THIS ISSUE
DO NOT PASS GO - Do not collect two hundred bolivianos
24 Sep, 2013 | Sophia Vahdati
Sophia Vahdati visits San Pedro prison to learn that the games of life played by inmates are not all that different to those played on the outsideDescribing all this now makes it sound like a game of...
PINK FLOYD SINFÓNICO
24 Sep, 2013 | Izzy Smith
I sit here writing this review with Dark Side of the Moon pounding through my headphones, inspired by the performance last night. Last night’s show can only be described as incredible; bursting wit...
CHOLITA FOOTBALL: The Key to Transforming Women's Football in Bolivia?
24 Sep, 2013 | John Downes
When contemplating football in South America, one automatically thinks about those countries steeped in World Cup tradition such as Brazil, Argentina, and even Uruguay. One would be forgiven for ne...
SIMPACHAMAMA - Helping to reduce deforestation in Bolivia, one click at a time
24 Sep, 2013 | Izzy Smith
I played SimPachamama for the first time 4 hours after landing in La Paz. In my zombie-like state, I found the game strangely addictive and continued to play it in a quest to become a better virtua...
24 Sep, 2013 | Alexander Conesa-Pietscheck
Alexander Conesa-Pietscheck walks into one of Bolivia’s most established toy shops to discover that education and fun come hand in hand for all children, young and old. What makes a toy...
PASANAKU - Saving With the Heart
24 Sep, 2013 | Miranda Slade
Pasanaku devises a game out of saving money. A group of players is formed, made up of family, friends or colleagues. Each member of the group puts in an agreed amount of money each time the group m...