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Definition of a game


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#1 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 03 August 1999 - 12:28 PM

For a little while now Ive been arguing over the definition of a game with someone I tend to argue about a lot of obscurish type game stuff with. The basis of the argument started off as some misunderstandings and some differences of opinions.

Anyway, the original definition I gave was:

"A self-contained system of rules that creates a focused reality."

Which I mostly ripped off of Chris Crawfords art of computer game design book, though super condensed.

Anyway the dispute is mostly over the fact that rules need to be "self-contained" and there needs to be a "focused reality", and in fact what a focused reality is.

These words hit a mark with me when I read them in Crawfords book as it was self-evident to me that games must have all their rules included in the game, to be complete. Even having rules such as "the player makes up rules", is a complete set of rules IMO. It is just the definition of the game world/reality.

As for the "focused reality" part, I see this as meaning a common view of the world/reality that all the players (or just the single player) understands and temporarily lives in when they play the game. They act within the game rules, they are basically having a reality defined from them by the game rules. Which is why I think the the "focused reality" is a good term.

He countered with the fact that no one agrees what a reality is and gave examples as to how it was confusing and, to him, a misleading part of the definition and unnecessary.

Anyway, this went on for a while and Ive decided to add on to the original defintion, that games need to be interactive and for the purpose of entertainment as I couldnt think of anything that could be a game without either. So the current definition stands:

"An interactive, self-contained system of rules that creates a focused reality for the purpose of entertainment."

Any comments on any of this? Possible other additions and changes to it?

-Geoff


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#2 TANSTAAFL   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1152

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 07:24 AM

a game is something that can be lost.

being able to win is very common, too, but not necessary, as seen in Sim City, JetLag, and most early arcade games like pacman, where there is no "win" condition, but you can lose.

all games have at least one participant.

games are not necessarily just for entertainment... games in the broader sense, that is... like archery and skeet shooting.

the rules are essential, of course. they detail how and when and to where the player(s) can move or act, and in what conditions the game is over, and how to determine a winner(if any).

the focused reality part is unnecessary. reality is defined by the rules that bind it.

so, a game is:

"a set of rules in which the participant(s) can fail(or lose)"

which proves that life is a game, yes?


#3 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 07:30 AM

You can make games where you cant lose though, and they are still games. Most adventure games cant be lost (except losing interest or getting stuck on the puzzles, and they could theoretically make it so you cant get stuck).

Also, SimCity is a toy, not a game, because it does not have rules, like a football. You can do anything with a football, but when you apply the rules of the sport Football, it becomes a game.

Also, I think archery and skeet shooting are not games necessarily, they are activities. Sport-like activities. They can become games when you play for the best score or something, but they are not inherently games.

I think that the focused reality part should be self-evident, but that doesnt meant it shouldnt be included in the rules. I believe that reality is made up of the percieved rules that bind it (as in percieved reality really), and games provide this, but a definition is supposed to define things, even if it should be unnecessary.

You can win or lose things that arent games, so I think your definition is missing some things. Also, I do believe all games need interaction in some way and I cant think of a game that was designed for something beyond entertainment (at some level).

-Geoff


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Posted 31 July 1999 - 09:38 AM

I think the best definition of game deals with what imagnative 5-year-olds like to do.

About fifteen miles southwest of my particular cornfield, there is another cornfield which once overlooked a small game development studio that cranked out arcade games. I once visited this studio, many moons ago. The project they were working on at the time was an arcade car-racing game based on the observations of a small-time designer... he watched his kid play with a remote-control car and make up a little game; it was so cool that he had his 5 year old explain what he was doing and formed a simple design document. The game was probably their most popular title, before they fell into obscurity (and then were gone...)

Anyway, the point of the matter is that a complicated mess of stuff about rules and concentrated reality and whatnot may not be the best definition of a game, especially not if 5-year-olds can design them better than professionals.

Couldn't one say that games are just little imaginary worlds?


#5 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 09:47 AM

The point of defining what a game is, is not so that we work ourselves in an "adult box incapable of playing", but instead just understand the different aspects of what we are doing better and have a common terminology.

If I say Im talking about a game, and one of my peers immediately knows its different than talking about a toy, and the general reasons why, then we have a better way to communicate about it.

Of course, the idea for building games is to build them not talk about them, but I think being able to talk about them clearly is important, and a common defintion of what things mean is an important step in that matter.

-Geoff


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Posted 31 July 1999 - 10:36 AM

Heres what I believe is required for a game:
1)Must be interactive!
2)There must be a goal. I think that the goal _can_ be modifiable by the player in some games, though. For instance, In a massivly multiplayer game a player might be able to choose their own quest's.
3)There must be obstacles. The player must not be able to simply accomplish the goal without any challenge.

Thoughts?
--TheGoop


#7 Queasy   Members   -  Reputation: 157

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 11:11 AM

"An interactive, self-contained system of rules that creates a focused reality for the purpose of entertainment."

I was thinking over your definition for awhile. I just didn't sit right with me because I thought something had to be missing from it. After a few moments I finally realized what it was: skill.

No where in the definition did the skill element come into play and in every game, a different skill is either learned or applied in order to win the game.

Speaking of winning, I believe that a game MUST be won or lost. In simcity-ish games (those mentioned by Tan) the winning is the feeling obtained that you've done a great job. The feeling you get when you've got a population of a billion with zero crime, etc. It's when you can sort of get up, and leave the game running and comming back to see everything still functional... I think that's when you know you've won.

Thus I disagree with you geoff . Simcity is a game. And, heh, I guess I'll have to disagree with you again that an Adventure game is a game. It is not simply because there is no skill element involved. Okay, wait, some adventures are games (if you count Baulder's Gate [though i think it technically is an rpg]), the majority (ie King's Quest style) aren't. Those are simply other forms of fiction, much like a novel.

I hear you cry out "but in King's Quest, I can CHOOSE which way I go!" Well, you can in a "choose your own adventure book" but is that a game? I personally dont' think so. No skill.

Also, the "focused reality" part's really got me going. I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I feel it's unnccessary because everything can be a focused reality. I just don't like the vagueness, but maybe i'm missing something here.

Heh, well, those are my thoughts... yours?

-Queasy.


#8 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 02:24 PM

Goop - I agree about the victory condition and the obstacles. I think those should probably be added to the definition. There should be some kind of challenge, though challenges can be pretty obscure.

The Roshambo (Rock/Paper/Scissors) game has only the challenge of guesing the other persons move, and there is definitely a victory condition.

Queasy - Roshambo is a game, but it takes basically no skill. You can win without any skill at all, basically with the same odds as someone else. There is however a challenge/obstacle, which I think you may have basically meant meaning "the ability to overcome an obstacle", which in more complex games needs skill.

As for SimCity being a game, you actually mentioned how it becomes one: you make it one. Initially all you have is the toy of SimCity, then you provide the victory condition of "making the city stable so you can walk away and come back and its ok". Then you have made a game of the toy.

Such as you have a ball that just sits there, but when you make the victory condition of "throw it into the opponents basket as many times as you can in X time", then you have basketball (well, a simple type of it).

I disagree with you on Kings Quest, or any adventure game for that matter, as the puzzles are a challenge and it defintitely constitues a game for the rest of it. You are definitely interacting, the game has rules, as you have to move from position A -> B and solve puzzles to get there. Therefor there is a challenge, even if you consider it to not take a lot of skill, sometimes it definitely does though.

So a redefined defintion, including a victory condition and obstacles/challenge, would be:

"An interactive, self-contained system of rules containing a challenge and a victory condition that defines a focused reality for the purpose of entertainment."

Thoughts?

-Geoff


#9 DavidRM   Members   -  Reputation: 270

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 02:29 PM

I prefer the original, simpler definition posted by Geoff:

"A game is a self-contained system of rules that creates a focused reality."

After a few minutes of contemplation, I cannot come up with an example that it doesn't encompass. Including, incidentally, SimCity, Windows Solitaire (or even just plain ol' Solitaire using actual cards), and dice-and-paper RPGs. It even covers the activities of 5 yr-olds.

Hammering the definition from the aspect of "reality is inexplicable" is meaningless and serves only to add confusion to a losing argument. The system of rules in a game explicity define the reality that is that game. Thus, whether a person does or does not understand or even acurately perceive the "rules" of True Reality, the rules of the game "reality" are printed on the box top.

I also don't think that a game is necessarily an activity undertaken only for entertainment. I don't find Windows Solitaire entertaining. But it kills time and occupies my mind. True entertainment would be a step above that, but it's a game.

As for the argument that a game has to include or develop a skill of some sort, that's not necessarily true either. As you become accustomed to the "reality of the rules" you naturally become more adept. Whether this is a "skill" or not seems irrelevant.

------------------
DavidRM
Samu Games
http://www.samugames.com


#10 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 02:35 PM

Its nice to see that finally someone doesnt have a problem with the "focused reality" part and gets the idea right of the bat...

As for the entertainment aspect, I think this is dependent on your definition of entertainment being an all-encompassing word for activities, or the highest form of things being enjoyable. I was using it in the all-encompassing aspect. Such as TV shows are a form of entertainment, even if they bore you to death...

-Geoff


#11 Queasy   Members   -  Reputation: 157

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 05:58 PM

Okay, heh, me respond
Roshambo:
The skill in that is understanding your opponent. You must get inside his mind and think, "gee, if I knew him, he would do this next, so i'll..." Like Poker, the cards control the game. But that's not it. You sit there looking at the other guy. You get inside his mind. "He feels uneasy. Look at him repeatedly reach for his drink. That's no full house -bluff."

Shifting over to the King's Queest arena: the adventure doesn't seem to be a game because it's so linear. You basically have one way of doing everything. For example, I can go to a friend and ask "hey where are you in Space Quest?" He might reply, "gee, I'm at the part where...." and I might offer, "oh, that's easy, just click on the hatch."

Then I might talk to another person and say, "how far are you in warcraft?" "well, I'm surrounding his base with ogres and I'm about to send in some sappers." There's not one way to achieve a goal.


And are puzzles games? Or just simply puzzles? A puzzle can be basically a problem: "here are 6 toothpicks. move only two to form a star." is that a game? or just simply put a puzzle?

Okay, I know you might say, we'll, Tetris is a puzzle, but you consider it a game! Well, tetris is not so linear as that puzzle. There are many ways to achieve a goal.

I hope I've explained that well


Despite that however, so far I haven't found a problem with the new def'n (the challenge part incorporates the skill which makes me happy )

But I guess we still disagree on the other part

~Queasy
//sometimes I wonder if it's a) neccessary to or b) possible to define a game. Sorta like art, where art can't really be defined, unless vaguely. Hmm.... maybe games do/can be defined... huh, okay, I'll start.. no stop, STOP (!) babbling now

/*hope to hear from you.*/


#12 Mousepad   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 07:06 PM

Here's my opinion:

A game is a set of rules controlling a competitive situation in which two or more individuals attempt to maximize their winnings or minimize those of their opponents.

-Mousepad


#13 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 31 July 1999 - 08:13 PM

Queasy - You are over looking that someone who just picks randomly would totally negate any kind of planning and therefore could just as easily win. So skill isnt necessary for Roshambo to still be a game.

Also, per Kings Quest, linear games are still games, linearity doesnt change that. Puzzles are games, and they meet all the definitions of a game that I specified, which would make Adventures basically a story connect by puzzles, which makes it a game. Adventures can be non-linear BTW, they just usually cost too much to really do that, as they arent usually fun to play through more than once (for most people and games).

Mousepad - The fact that there are 1 player games pretty much negates your proposal I think. Such as pinball games, no other opponents, even computer controlled. Just you, the flippers/obstacles and the ball.

-Geoff


#14 Queasy   Members   -  Reputation: 157

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Posted 01 August 1999 - 02:36 AM

Hmm... I still disagree with you. For Roshambo, I don't believe that it is random. Maybe even on a subconcious level, the player would still think "gee, what is the other guy thinking."

For puzzles (i'm referring to the tooothpick puzzle), I don't see that as creating a focused reality, unless either a) the reality of the "toothpick world" counts, or b) I'm misinterpreting the whole thing, heh, in which case, straighten me out man!

Going back to King's Quest, I think linearity changes the fact that it's a game. Even if there's 6 ways, or 29, or 100 different endings, it's still linear because there's a finite, hardcoded action->outcome That takes out the interactive part.

For example: chess. Chess has two outcomes, but the thing is, it is completely interactive. At anytime in the game I can move any piece (that is, so long as the rules are met). This gives it a sort of infiniteness since anything goes.

That is why I consider King'sQuest style games more of Interactive Fiction. And also, I categorize the toothpick puzzle as that -a puzzle, however there are puzzle games such as tetris, etc.

~Queasy.

[This message has been edited by Queasy (edited August 01, 1999).]


#15 TANSTAAFL   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1152

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Posted 01 August 1999 - 03:53 AM

geoff and i discussed this matter at length yesterday. we agree on what a game IS, we just differ on how we would put the definition.

he puts it the "interactive, self contained... etc"

i put it "a structured activity not generally survival related"

they mean the same thing. which one you like better is a matter of personal preference.


#16 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 01 August 1999 - 07:02 AM

Queasy - Roshambo can be played conciously random, its not impossible. Also a toothpick puzzle would be a focused reality the same way as Halflife, it is just a much less defined reality by the interface and rules.

We just seem to differ on the linearity aspect, as you dont see linear things as games, but interactive fiction can also be seen as a game. I think mostly this depends if there is a victory condition and obstacles. With a standard adventure game, there definitely are both. With some interactive fiction there may be neither, which would make them not games, like a choose your own adventure isnt a game by itself. (Unless it or you assign a goal to it)

-Geoff


#17 Mousepad   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 01 August 1999 - 09:02 AM

How about this one:

A game is a set of rules controlling a competitive situation in which one or more individuals attempt to out-perform one or more opponents.

Also, the way I see it, there are two ways too look at pinball:

1. You play it just to play. In this case, you probobly consider it a "toy," correct?

2. You play it to acheive a high score, making your opponent the previous high score.

-Mousepad


#18 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 01 August 1999 - 09:56 AM

Your defintion nows sound like a defintion for a competition, not a game. While a competition can be a game, they are not equivalent in my book.

-Geoff


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Posted 03 August 1999 - 05:33 AM

May I say that's a lot to read to enter the discussion

As I was reading through the posts, I could see that people were creating some definition of a game in their own mind, and then using that definition to classify activities as games or not: If I may quote Geoff's post of August 1, 02:13
"...and they meet all the definitions of a game that I specified..."

The problem with arguments like these are that they are self-defining. They prove something right by assuming that it is right. (Not that it isn't the most common debating tool used

People seem to be disagreeing what exactly a game *is*. Under Geoff's distinction between a toy and a game, it seems to me that every piece of software is essentially a toy, until and unless the user participates with the goal of achieving something within (or possibly not) the parameters of the software.

The definition of a game which speaks most to me is that a game is "An accepted set of self-contained rules that define a reality which may be adopted to provide enjoyment". I disagree as to the necessity of skill, or challenge, or victory in a game... if one person, somewhere - anywhere - can find enjoyment in an activity which doesn't contain skill, challenge or victory then it is still a game to them.

It can be seen (shown) that this definition encompasses every form of game, from children playing in a sandpit to Quakers at a lan party... the question remains if everything which it describes is a game. If so, then there is no need to narrow down the definition.

But since I've gone on for long enough, I'll leave that to someone else

White Fire


#20 ghowland   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 03 August 1999 - 05:48 AM

You definition sounds exactly like mine but reworded in a looser and differently ordered fashion.

Sometimes when a word is not easy to understand, to define it you must come up with all the cases that could possibly fit inside it, and use those to create the definition. Which is what Ive done.

To me, a sandbox by itself is not a game, its a toy. The sandbox has no rules of use, no victiory condition, it just is. You can do whatever you want with it and it will be used in the fashion it was created.

Monopoly on the other hand has definite rules and a definite victory condition. If you try to move your icon backwards around the board, you are not following the rules. Whereas if you want to take all the sand out of a sandbox and dump it on the ground outside, there is no defined "sandbox rule" that says you cant do that, or its not part of the use of the sandbox game.

So this leads me to see a necessary line drawn in the sand (pun not intended) between what is a toy, and what is a game.

-Geoff





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