Though critics consider games fundamentally indeterminate, common sense dictates that game-based contingency is paradigmatically delimited—possible moves and outcomes preset and immutable. Drawing on cyberneticist Gregory Bateson, this article elaborates a second paradigm for game-based contingency wherein the game neither determines possibilities beforehand nor excludes aberrance but integrates contingency by recursively modifying its structure. It explicates this second paradigm’s ethical import vis-à-vis the croquet match in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and “fumblecore” video game Sumotori Dreams. Whereas most games encourage prediction, reinforce norms, and furnish a sense of mastery, these recursive games can frustrate calculation, unsettle habits, and humble players.

You do not currently have access to this content.