Gamekeeping and game-making are different activities: a group may design a game and pick one member to gamekeep it, or vice versa. I’ve written a lot about how to gamekeep, in the previous chapter; and some about what to gamekeep in some particular games. But there are a few general things left to say about gamekeeping itself.
Gamekeeping is a spiritual function as well as a technical one. The gamekeepers take the lead in conjuring and tending the spirits of play and fantasy. They represent also the spirit of the learning community itself; their power is given by a collectivity, and in the end belongs to it. The gamekeepers are stewards of life’s expression, of the act and art of human energy being shaped into form, at once serious and joyous. They take on the duty of protecting the game and the people in it, and of creating a climate of trust and support that permits risk and contact and change.
Gamekeeping is ultimately political, for gamekeeping is the governance of a society in action, concerned with scarce human resources and the common good. As such, it is subject to political analysis deeper than I attempt here, and to every criterion of political morality. Views on what is moral vary. My own feeling is that at a minimum, every player should understand the gamekeepers’ powers explicitly and consent to them voluntarily; and that in the ideal state everyone shares equally in governance. If the games I describe are any guide, it seems that even a small democracy must depend at many times on centralized and special authority to work well. For this still to be a genuinely-participative system, I think that every player must come in turn or in time to do her share of governing. For a learning-group of peers, this means taking the gamekeeping responsibility in rotation; for a more general group, it is a moral imperative that the gamekeepers work to pass on their knowledge and skills, and come to accept the authority of those whom they train.
Power is always a problem, which in learning-games takes on perhaps a special subtlety. I’ve mentioned briefly the dangers, for players and gamekeepers both, of getting power and authority within the secondary reality confused with power over the secondary reality. I mention this again because I think that this confusion is a fundamental saboteur of most of the educational processes of our society. It strikes both ways, as in the usual classroom. Here the teacher’s overwhelming expertise on the subject matter should only make him an authority of information within the game’s content, but usually is taken to make him also a comparable expert on how people learn, and thus to make him the sole authority of the game’s process. The usual consequence is that both the ability and the need of students to determine and to tend the processes of their learning are de-legitimatized, and the students’ capacity for this is stunted through lack of exercise.
Conversely, because the State certifies and ultimately enforces the teacher’s authority as gamekeeper, king of time and place, assigner of homework and judge of performance in grades, within the classroom his opinion on the content is given an artificial monopoly of authority, even if he is visibly inexpert at it, and genuinely open discussion is inhibited. (In free universities, courses are sometimes organized and tended by a person with no subject expertise but with good gamekeeping skills – as might well be done in official higher education – but even here the same problem recurs unless everyone strives together to undo it.)
Against all such confusions, the only antidote is clarity. Part of the governance art of gamekeeping lies in making clear the different kinds of domains of authority and power, defining their natures and limits precisely; and in bringing everyone’s awareness and energy to these tasks of definition, and even to redefinition when necessary. The gamekeeper’s task, for example, is not to give necessary information, but to make sure that the information gets given; if she is also the one who has the information, she must learn to wear two hats; and if the players keep confusing them, she must find another way for the information to be delivered, or get them to find one. In general, I think, the only way to deal with this is to have gamekeeping behavior on view as a conscious part of the larger game; to make its free discussion legitimate (this is not legitimate in the classroom); and to provide people with the power to judge, change, and reconstruct it. In this respect learning-games, and governance itself, must be reflexive.
Gamekeeping is also a process-tending. In this respect learning-games, as we understand them, differ from the conventional pedagogy of teaching, which puts its main emphasis on content and pays little attention to process in general. (The recent interest in “open classrooms” departs somewhat from this tradition, as does the whole movement for student power in education.) The usual result is to make the processes of learning (and teaching) unconscious, rigid, and unchangeable. But process is also a content, for what one learns in an act of learning is not only its subject but also what one does in learning it. Thus students in most schools receive a continuous education, or conditioning, in authority-centered behavior, in the political impotence of being unable to affect what happens to them, and so on – altogether, the very antithesis of a democratic education. Again, the only direction of remedy seems to lie in making process as conscious as possible, in enshrining it equally with content as the focus of attention, and in making its control ultimately responsive to the learner. Gamekeeping should strive to do precisely this, beginning with its own clear definition.
Gamekeeping is a team process of leadership. It takes more than one person to tend a game with more than about fifteen players, but even with smaller games a team is appropriate. The process of gamekeepers working together is itself a model of cooperative activity, which can be shared by making it public – which is why we try whenever possible to make the gamekeepers’ planning and evaluation sessions open to the players, at least in fishbowl form, for the sake of what this teaches them and also to take advantage of their feedback as observers of this cooperation.
Again, as gamekeeping is a game, having a team permits the gamekeepers to explore and use a fuller structure of gamekeeping roles – not only to help the players (as by having a courier and a judge in a simulation), but also in the reflexive part of gamekeeping, in tending their own behavior. A large team can assign one gamekeeper simply to observe the gamekeeping process and internal team dynamics for later evaluation, and can provide support or relief for any of its members when necessary. Finally, there are some occasions when a team of a specific nature is called for – as in study of gender-conditioning and gender-roles, with mixed players, in which co-leadership of men and women is essential.
Lastly, gamekeeping is a process of improvisation. Much of it goes on in real time, in instant-by-instant attention and response to the game’s play. The gamekeepers must conduct a continuous evaluation of the game, and be ready to respond immediately to what is needed or to the unexpected. This involves the capacity to make decisions quickly, alone and together. Any game which involves existential attention and the making of immediate social decisions is a training-game for gamekeeping.