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The game stage was first developed by sociologist George Mead. In this lesson, learn more about the game stage and self-development and look at some examples.

What Is the Game Stage?

Sociologist George Herbert Mead was interested in the way in which we developed self-awareness. Mead believed that our sense of self was primarily developed through our social activities. Mead theorized that there are three stages of self-development that we pass through during childhood:

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  1. Preparatory Stage (about age two or less): Children copy, or imitate, the behaviors of others around them without sophisticated understanding of what they are imitating.

  2. Play Stage (about age two through six): Children start role-playing and taking on the role of significant people in their lives. Children only take on one role at a time.
  3. Game Stage (about age seven and up): Children learn their role in relation to others and how to take on the role of everyone else in a game.

Game Stage

The game stage is the third and final stage of self-development. In the game stage, children are involved in organized team activities. Children have to learn and follow established game rules, learn about what their roles are in the game, and learn what their teammates’ roles are as well.

Children also have to learn the relationship between the various roles of the game participants. This requires children to be able to assume the role of several others at the same time.Let’s use Billy, the goalkeeper, as an example. Before Billy could play on the soccer team, he had to first learn the rules of the game. These rules were already there before Billy joined the team, so he did not have to decide what the rules would be. In order to be a successful goalkeeper, Billy had to understand that his role is to prevent the opposing team from kicking a ball into the net.

He also had to learn the roles of his teammates on the field and how their roles relate to his (i.e. the defenders prevent the opposing team from getting the soccer ball near the goalkeeper). Billy also learned that his role as the goalkeeper became more important when the ball was headed toward the net he was guarding and less important when his teammates were kicking the ball toward the opposing team’s net.It is through playing games, such as soccer, that children develop a mature sense of self and are able to view themselves from the perspective of the generalized other.

The generalized other refers to expected attitudes and beliefs that are held by the members of our society. It is through understanding their roles in the game and how they relate to the roles of other game participants that children are able to understand the generalized other. It is the generalized other that allows humans to live in society, since there are pre-established expectations for our behavior and attitudes that we are expected to abide by everywhere we go.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review.

Sociologist George Mead believed there are three stages to the development of self:

  1. Preparatory stage
  2. Play stage
  3. Game stage

The game stage is when children learn how to take on the role of other individuals in the game and develop an understanding of the generalized other. The generalized other refers to expected attitudes and beliefs that are held by the members of our society. It is this concept that allows humans to live in society, since there are pre-established expectations for our behavior and attitudes that we are expected to abide by everywhere we go.

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