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Definition of a game

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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?

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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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Guest Anonymous Poster
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?

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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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Guest Anonymous Poster
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

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"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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.*/

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