What people do with their free time is very indicative of the culture they live in and the major ideas and morals they tend to adhere to. The games they play are focusing lens to those social mores, which is why it will be useful to examine the constraints of Spacewar, RPS Tag, and Prui in order to get an idea about the culture they were played in. The latter two were born of a different culture, but a related one.
Spacewar was a game born of a marriage between brand new computing power married to brand new graphics equipment and a subculture of computer programmers. Whole groups of programmers would hang around at their computer labs well after hours to play Spacewar against each other and other programmers at other companies. The interesting thing about this subculture of programmers is that they would work hard to develop and modify the game. This means that the game could change and evolve over time. There was no set plan to the direction it took. Any single programmer could take it in any direction. Adding lives, hyperspace, and even a gravity well were all evolutions that were unintentional, unlike the typical American attitude of the day which would look down on unforeseen outcomes. Spacewar subculture was all for this serendipitous view on their work, which was often hard to develop outside of pure research facilities since personal computing wasn’t feasible at the time.
Another subculture of games lay with the New Games movement. Their major purpose was games that had a strong sense of cooperation and social interaction. The first game I’ll talk about is Rock, Paper, Scissors, Tag. This game does have a competitive element to it, but because captured players have to switch teams, very few people develop any kind of loyalty to a particular side of the game. It also requires each new team to decide on what hand to throw together. Such unison is pushing back on a country that is divided over an unpopular war and a time of increasing change. It no longer mattered what team you played for, so long as you were playing.
The last game, Prui, is about an interesting social interaction that is generally not American. Physically, Americans can be very squeamish about their personal space. They typically prefer at least 2-3 feet between them, and are not very tactile between each other. In Prui, they are all supposed to touch each other, but more than that, they have to find each other’s hands with their eyes closed. That means they have to feel each other to find the hands. Barring anything inappropriate, it draws people to each other in a closer manner than they would be used to. The fact that everyone eventually becomes a Prui also combats the idea of a winner and a loser, which was deeply ingrained in the Cold War mentality many people were entrenched in at the time, which was the height of the Cold War.