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The best way to create a new innovative game that gives users a totally new experience is to break down the very definition of the word and then rebuilding it "in your own image".

If you look at Tetris and Mario and Quake, and you strip all of the superfluous elements out, you will see the very essence of what a game should be, and then you can be assured that you will include this essence in your own creation.

It is for this reason that a game design vocabulary does need to be developed, as Geoff seems to be doing, so that we can identify and examine the elements that make all of these games such a joy to play.

-Justin Martenstein

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I think this is restating what justin said in another manner, but I shall say it anyway. You CAN create a formal vocabulary that everyone agrees on in fields like mathematics. In any other field that does not deal with strict formal systems, you can only TRY to do so until you're blue in the face.

People agree on what characteristics a government should have, but not on the specifics of implementing it. If they did, then the U.S. would have a single political party that passed every bill unanimously. We NEED diversity in opinion; without it, "game design" wouldn't happen.

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Right, since Im not trying to standard HOW people MAKE games, just a language that people can discuss them and refer to them in.

Trying to make a definition that encompasses every case I can reasonably justify as being a game seems like an important first step in that direction.


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While having The Grand Definition of GAME is interesting academically, I think I have to agree with Jered's "glas" post in the other thread: Knowing the definition doesn't necessarily help you create something new and different. It simply helps 2 or more people point at something and be able to agree that said something is or is not a GAME.

And, while I actually agree with the definition posted by Geoff, the definition is so broad that it covers incredibly disparate examples which only have in common their aspects of GAME-ness. Doom and Gin Rummy, instance. Yup. Both are games and conform to the definition. About there the similarities end.

However, having chatted with Geoff off and on for a while now, and having read his other posts (yes, I know, that's cheating), I'm certain that the broad-stroke definition of a GAME isn't his end goal. Instead, he's after a more complete, all-encompassing goal and The Grand Definition of GAME is simply the beginning.

Once The Grand Definition of GAME has been hammered out to at least an 89% satisfaction rate, we can then move on to other, deeper topics, and begin defining more precise terms. For example...maybe someone could then with highly precise language explain to me why any game with that Mario dweeb is considered fun? ;-)

Let Webster's ghost lead us...

Samu Games

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We have geoff's hypothesis, and now we must experiment. We are scientists afterall.

Since this hypothesis is an assertion, we must either A) find something that is NOT a game that adheres to all of the properties. or B) find a game that does not adhere to all of the properties. In either case, the definition must then be revised or tossed out.

ok... so i racked my brain for something that fits all of the criteria that would not be a game.

the thing i came up with is Computer Game Development itself.

so, is developing a computer game itself a game? (no, not "taken" as a game, IS a game)
the litmus test...

1. A game must interact with the player.
2. A game must state all the rules (even flexible rules) so that the player knows what must be done.
3. A game must have some sort of challenge, an obstacle for the player.
4. A game must be able to have some kind of victory condition. Something has to HAPPEN: win, lose, gain some sort of closure (even if this is just the highest score/level).
5. A game by virtue of its rules and goals will define a small world/reality that all players understand commonly as the rules are there for all to see.
6. A game is created for the purpose of entertainment.

1 through 4 are easily agreed to.
5 i would agree to, and i think most of you who have gotten way into a project would agree as well
6 is the only sticky one. many of us write games because we like to, we find it fun. others do it for profit. doing something for profit does not make it NOT a game. look at basketball for instance.

so, computer game development adheres to the properties of a game.

but, the question is, "is it a game?". if we decide that it IS a game, then we have no problem. if we decide it ISNT a game, then the definition and properties of a game need revision.


second trial: sim city 2k

geoff has classified SC2k as a "toy", because it has no goal, etc (i.e. does not conform to property 4). i played it again, to check on this. it does have a goal. it has rewards given based on how high you get your population. looks like a goal to me, and a "victory" of sorts.

in MY mind at least, SC2k is a game, and not a toy, because it DOES adheres to the properties of a game.

however, if it continues to be classified a toy, then there must be a revision to the game definition, or it must be shown why the rewards in sc2k do not make it property 4 adherent.

if it is classified as such because the game doesnt END after all the rewards are gained, i will counter that by saying that you can continue playing Civilization II AFTER you have won.

trial 3: pencil and paper RPGs

the classification of pencil and paper RPGs hinges somewhat on the classification of games like SC2k.

RPGs are a simulation of life. there ARE short term goals, and long term goals, but the main point is having fun. also, you can continue playing after you have met your goals. there ARE scoring systems in RPGs, but no two people agree on what the most important one is.

so, in my mind, if sc2k is classified a toy, and not a game, then so should RPGs.

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I think whether someone defines game development as a game, would be similar to almost any profession. They have to be doing it for fun, (meeting the other requirements) and then it could be considered a game.

As for SC2K, I actually didnt play it much, I was referring to Sim City, which had no bonuses for higher populations. Bonuses for higher populations could be considered a sort of victory condition depending on what they are, so Ill trust you that SC2K does not have the same attributes as Sim City.

I didnt follow your RPG discussion, the only contention I saw was that people didnt agree on the goals. People can have different goals, but the rules remain pretty consistent, at least the majorly defining ones. You have X experience points, you are level X, meaning you can do Y and Z. Etc.

Did I miss your true point?


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i'm going to retract my RPG stuff. i wasnt making a lot of sense, and i'm not sure where i was going with it... maybe i'll remember later...

anyway... professions as games.

so, does the profession have to be SOLELY for fun?

if it does, then does professional basketball become NOT a game because the players are paid?

or do you just mean that a game has to be somehow enjoyable?

not all games are enjoyable.... take russian roulette for example. (its more of a spectator sport)

so, i gather that most hobbies are "games", as long as they have rules or whatnot. however, many professions can be considered hobbies as well, making money aside.

for example, you might be a professional chess player. chess is a game. playing chess is a hobby, playing chess can be a profession.

there is a book i heard of a few years back called "Homo Ludens"

the author of this book supposes that the difference between humans and animals is not thumbs or upright stance or tools making or language, but rather that human beings are the only creatures that play games.

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(I seem to be late for this party, but anyhoo)

I posted some babble yesterday, on the other thread, which blathers on about some words I use to define the whole "game" thing for myself. Here's another stab at this mess:

Take a stick. It's not much by itself, but with some imagination it's a gun. This is still not much "fun", maybe, but you can "do" things with this "gun". Of course, what you do is still up to yourself.

At this stage, you've simply got a toy. No defined rules governing the use of the object.

So you run around shooting at things like your friends and family, and then your older brother gets a stick/gun and "shoots" you. And you both run around shooting each other until someone says, "Bang, Got you!" and the other says, "No you missed".

At this stage you have a game, I think. Not a GOOD game though because it lacks any formalized rules and ends up in the nice circular "no you didn't!" argument, but it's still a game..

IMHO, "game" is where the rules begin. Good games of couse have more than just rules, but I think at it's very simplest terms, a game is a ruleset governing the use of an object(toy). Anything further then that runs into the semantics of what makes a GOOD game, and that's another thing altogether, though there are probably some basic things that most everyone can agree on.

I think that armed with a micro-kernel (whee! look at my propellor hat !:-/) definition such as something like I propose above, we can start building on it and begin defining things like what makes one game more 'successful' than another game. This might prove to be more beneficial than trying to come up with an all encompassing deffinition.

My two cents (yet again).

(maybe I shouldn't have shown up for this party after all...)

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TAN: I think the thing that separates professionals who play games from the whole definition is the aspect of the definition that says "for the purpose of entertainment". This means that it doesnt have to be fun, as entertainment can be other than fun. Also it just means that the game has the PURPOSE of entertainment, it doesnt have to be currently entertaining the players who may have other things (like money) on their minds.

Someone who doesnt like or enjoy Monopoly, but plays with someone else anyway is STILL playing a game even if they dont enjoy it (and arent entertained by it). The game was made for the purpose of entertainment.

Kwash - I think subjective terms like "good" and "fun" dont really need to be considered when defining a game. There are "good games" and "bad games", but they are still both games. IMO though you do need a victory condition in a game, as running around shooting at each other with imaginary guns is not very game-like. Its more like an imaginary-hostile-event.


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