Why Do We Play Baduk?

The reason Go is popular in any given culture is going to be unique to the history of Go in that region. From how it was introduced, to who embraced it, and so on and so on, following all the little vagaries of it’s existence along the way. I’ve lightly studied the history in Korea, Japan, China, Europe, and the West. When I first started Go I was super enthusiastic about all the ancient Go equipment and writings that had survived all this time.

What does it matter if a government supports and encourages Go (Korea), or covets competition and turns Go into a worldwide spectator sport (Japan), or shifts the entire way the game is played from beautiful to competitive (China post 1970), or barely notices Go at all (America)? Each and every one of us have different reasons for playing. Popularity is overrated and only represents the current trend of a culture. Popularity is hardly what rests at the heart of a subject. If you want to know why people play Go, you should ask the people directly… and listen :wink:


I think asking why people play games is going to be a shallow road to research. It is a superficial stop on the road to understanding human motivation. Humans are motivated to play games for various reasons. Understand what motivates humans and you will be able to understand why they play games. It seems that you are very interested in either Psychology or Marketing (Psychology theory applied to motivating and affecting humans).

I spent some time researching this side of marketing theory for a couple of years. All you will find here is underhanded ways to manipulate people by understanding what kinds of things drive them. If you research Psychology, then you can better understand how motivation works. But if your primary goal is to uncover a method to affect amounts of people, for the sole purpose of increasing the Go player base, then certain books are likely to be much more helpful than direct academic research.

Books will give you the personal skills to be able to communicate better, understand how to influence people, understand how to manipulate the views and belief systems of others, how to tell compelling stories that lead people to take particular actions, etc… But in the end, you are just a single person. There is only so much that you can do as an individual. Plus, what happens when you are gone? Then your influential work stops and we’re right back where we started.

If you want to create lasting change, then you need to raise awareness and enable people to play Go. You need to organize some sort of non-profit or organization that can do this on a large scale, over time. You need to train people who can get out there into the world and change minds, run events, organize after school programs, incentivize kids to try and to continue playing Go, and to continue to raise awareness in general.

If you want to change the world, you first need to construct something capable of accomplishing the task. A can do attitude and an understanding of human motivation isn’t going to take you very far. At least, not on a world wide scale.


The science behind why things become popular, especially concerning how something becomes and maintains popularity during the history of the world before the internet and common air and water based travel methods were available like they are today, is more about wars, cultures, and the movement of people.

It isn’t like everybody was given access to 100’s of games and then Chess happened to be the crowd favorite. In that instance, it makes sense to study Chess. But in this case, Chess’ popularity has far more to do with external factors, than the game itself.

If you break the game down into a bunch of measurable criteria, can you try and guess why it becomes popular, based on that data? Yes. But what if another game had been popular during that time that met the same criteria, but was wholly different? Would it have gained the same level of popularity? Maybe… who knows. There are simply too many variables to take into consideration.

What are you trying to understand? Popularity? Human behavior? Addiction? How a person makes decisions? Your responses continue to focus on elements that have nothing to do with why Go, in particular, is popular. At this point I think you need to reassess what you are trying to figure out. If this were Kansas, then I think we’re all in Oz now. Kansas has become irrelevant :blush:


If you feel that we are missing something then maybe you could try rephrasing this question or coming at the topic from a different angle. We all have feelings and thoughts within us. But communicating those effectively to another, where their understanding and your own are one and the same, is one of the hardest things a person faces. Without effective communication, we are all just trapped inside our own minds. Give it another shot :heart:


Just barely qualifies for Medieval Times, but it definitely originated from India.


In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages (or medieval period ) lasted from the 5th to the 15th century.
Medieval Ages - Wikipedia

The history of chess can be traced back nearly 1500 years, although the earliest origins are uncertain. The earliest predecessor of the game probably originated in India out of various ancient Indian board games, before the 6th century AD. From India, the game spread to Persia. When the Arabs conquered Persia, chess was taken up by the Muslim world and subsequently spread to Southern Europe. In Europe, chess evolved into roughly its current form in the 15th century.
The History of Chess - Wikipedia


Um… if this were truly the reason then this would be true of all Humans, not just humans located in a particular geographic region. This is such a weird topic to be discussing here, but why not :stuck_out_tongue:.

Modern food culture is often, though not always, based on the recipes and common dishes of the past. As you mentioned Rice has been a staple crop in China’s history, as well as being an excellent base for a massive amount of Chinese cuisine. It is also rather affordable as an ingredient, is versatile in the kitchen, and it helps makes lesser dishes and soups more robust.



a rather old book :slight_smile:, but at times full of staggering insight, that is still worth reading. the original is in dutch, there is a very good german version and afaik the author also contributed to the english version.

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I play go, because i like playing games. I find that playing games is great way to waste time and procrastinate entertain myself for an hour or few, and i think its the same for many others too.

Why go in specific? I’ve always preferred 1 vs 1 games, i love the idea of having 50/50 odds and a “private fight” to see who of us is the better player. In that perspective go resembles other games i also love, like chess, heads-up poker sit&go’s, tekken or even FIFA/NHL games on console. xD


That’s not the point, the point is that England colonising India happened long after chess had came to Europe.

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In northern Europe we’ve played tafl, chess (kvarn English translation?) And a bunch of backgammon. Those where the games available here. So those were played. As to why we play go. We do it because it’s there. It’s a completely pointless activity like climbing or football. A lot of good can come out of it. But it has no purpose other than being a fun activity. Back in the day there was also a lot more time to spend doing things. A Swedish winter as a farmer is basically six months of darkness snow and depression. So backgammon helps.


I don’t agree that there is no purpose other than it’s fun.

Actually, a lot of the time it is not fun. A lot of the time it is “whhhhyyy do I play this game!?”

I play it for discipline (mental) and learning. I play it for stimulation (mental) and protection against the aging mind. Etc.

The answers in this thread cast more light on the deeper reasons we play that can’t be described as “fun”.


Easy: Masochism.


nah, if there’s any thread to look in it’s this one

We got drugged when it was fun and now we’re just addicted :stuck_out_tongue:


Clearly, we’re all just here for the…


Why we play Go is philosophical and subjective to each individual (here is my latest attempt to quantify it). But the why, for me, is because Go makes me feel like this!



For me it’s…


I’m extremely “leery” when someone is describing human behaviour and falls into the “you” trap with their language. That is with respect to the quotes from the blog itself: The references used and hence their conclusions seem like bs generalizations to me.

Do they mean You (the self opposite me I am speak directly to)? You (You group of people in front of me) One (Abstract groups of people with common grouping)?

The problem is: This is all gets mixed up and it also is used for persuasive reasons by politicians.

Let’s take Go: I don’t generally have anything in common with the Go players I’ve ended up playing. I don’t consider Go the most fun game I can option to choose to play at any given time. There’s a wide range of interesting intellecutal games to play. Finally I don’t believe there is an imperative or need to expand the number of players who play Go. If I was interested in intellectual excellence and development there is plenty of choice from serious work to choose from outside of games.

The article might as well have been “We play go because we drink water.” If the author did not assert that they have taught lots of players, I’d be tempted to conclude the piece is an artful trolling attempt on Go players, cherry picking pseudo-science to “fluff their egos” from which to then draw out typical group identity fallacies. Certainly that’s a trick I’ve seen played on other “groups in other forums in other places”.

Apologies for my deep cynicism. I am probably too suspicious of any proselyzing or marketing or selling attempt by people.

I suspect the reason I play Go is that it is a game that is amenable to intellectual pursuit and there are “good numbers” of very intelligent people who have explored this area and been able to produce and share and build upon these results with others, those who end up playing Go.

From that point of view, it would “seem” that Go is a good choice of game if one chooses an intellectual pursuit of the game in one’s playing of boardgames. I doubt many players will choose that pursuit in any great depth even so. There’s much fun to be had elsewhere in other games, alternatively as I am fully aware of myself.


To gamble and waste time. Its like a drug, much more interesting than the real world. When you play baduk and hear the sound of the stone hit the wood, it feels like your in heaven or some other world. But we have to live in this world. Hopefully there will be time for baduk in the next world and baduk tables will be everywhere. Its like dungeons and dragons, math, happiness, peace and quiet, a fake war, sudoku, connecting with a common bond that spans 2000 years, the excitement of winning or losing a bet, and the sound of wood against stone all in one little game. That’s why those young kids in korea can sit in a room playing this game 12 hours a day and never get sick of it. It can become more appealing than even food and water


because we want to


I don’t find it imperative to make Go popular in the western world. Whoever comes across and likes it, sure, jump in, but that’s about it.

Also, good luck to anyone hoping to gain admiration when they mention they play Go in my country, 9.999 out of 10.000 won’t even have heard of it.

Generally, I’m not a fan of the “look, I know this obscure supersmart thingy, admire me”, and I feel it’s an underlying sentiment.

I play Go because I like patterns and I’m not into competitive sports. I’m not deep :woman_shrugging:.


… because we CAN?


Deny as much as you like :sunglasses:


because it’s there


Ok, my previous response were a bit glib, so let me try a more serious response that addresses the spirit of the question, which I think is to ask “why do we want to play baduk”?

A lot of previous replies apply to a more general question of “why do we want to play games”? Some could even equally apply to other competitive pursuits, like chess or soccer, as well.

Hence, I want to focus on why Go (baduk) in particular

Ultimately, I think the main allure of Go (as opposed to many other games) is that it has both an incredible strategic depth and also that this depth emerges from incredibly simple mechanics. A lot of other games may have much more complicated rules, but turn out to have much more shallow strategy. So, it’s really quite remarkable and beautiful with Go, how such endless strategic depth can somehow emerge from its very simple rules.

This distinction of Go reminds of a quote from Fred Rogers that I really like:

I feel so strongly that deep and simple is more essential than shallow and complex.

Fred McFeely Rogers

The simplicity of the basic rules and mechanics, along with its minimalist, abstract aesthetics gives Go a timeless quality, while its strategic depth gives the opportunity for a lifetime of endless learning and exploration without any fear of ever becoming bored.

Here is another quote from the chess international master and go player Edward Lasker, which I think applies to the question of “why Go rather than chess”?

While the Baroque rules of chess could only have been created by humans, the rules of go are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they almost certainly play go.

Edward Lasker


Since you’ve covered “serious” and even included by favourite Lasker quote, I will cover “silly”…

Why do we play Baduk? Because we can’t play Gooduk.