I'm reading a book called Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is kind of required reading for game designers. It's about the experience of being perfectly immersed in an activity, where your abilities are just enough to match the challenges coming at you - not too easy or too hard. This is one of those books that every page or so I just want to jump around with excitement because it's so good. True Names was another one of those. So was Emotional Design, which I plan to write about here eventually.
The most interesting part about the book I think is the connection to society. From page 76:
"In fact, flow and religion have been intimately connected from earliest times. Many of the optimal experiences of mankind have taken place in the context of religious rituals. Not only art but drama, music, and dance had their origins in what we now would call 'religious' settings; that is, activities aimed at connecting people with supernatural powers and entities. The same is true of games. One of the earliest ball games, a form of basketball played by the Maya, was part of their religious celebrations, and so were the original Olympic games. This connection is not surprising, because what we call religion is actually the oldest and most ambitious attempt to create order in consciousness. It therefore makes sense that religious rituals would be a profound source of enjoyment."
It continues on the next page:
"In modern times art, play, and life in general have lost their supernatural moorings. The cosmic order that in the past helped interpret and give meaning to human history has broken down into disconnected fragments."
After describing a few ideologies, such as sociobiology, it goes on:
"These are some of the modern 'religions' rooted in the social sciences. None of them - with the partial exception of historical materialism, itself a dwindling creed - commands great popular support, and none has inspired the aesthetic visions or enjoyable rituals that previous models of cosmic order had spawned."
Modern 'religions' just aren't as fun as they used to be! How about that?