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ghowland

Why bother?

24 posts in this topic

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.

-Geoff

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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...

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

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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?

-Geoff

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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.

-Geoff

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Well... After my (stupid) Einstein quote i shall speak for myself.

We are saying that games ave to have this, games have to have that, but do they really ?
Can't we just for example pick a pencil and pen and play something like pictonary for fun ? or monopoly for the greedy ones ? I don't think we will ever reach a definition of game because of only one thingy: We all have our minds set in different pictures. A long time ago i was playing a game (well i though it was a game) and a friend of mine start arguying with me that wasn't a game, (i don't remmeber what game it was), and now I ask, who's right ? We will never agree on one static definition or vocabulary, even though a general vocabulary for game design would be good.

Chess vs. Checkers

I once had a school debate about this (well, it appeared in a exam to categorize chess and checkers as a game or as a sport and it lead to a debate ) In the final conclusion we reach to this conclusion (maybe wrong) that chess is considered a sport and checkers a game, but i must say, surf ? is it a sport but not a game ? i think so, now about soccer, is it a sport and not a game ? no !

I just don't think we will ever reach a definition of what is a game and what isn't !

bye

------------------
Bruno Sousa aka Akura
Founder and programmer - Magick.pt
magick_pt@geocities.com
http://magickpt.cjb.net

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In order to communicate with any degree of success, we need convention - a set of standards.

Its hard enough to communicate already - if I say "balloon" - do you perceive a hot air balloon, a party balloon, filled or empty...?

A dictionary definition of Game is,
A contest, physical or mental, according to certain rules, for amusement, recreation, or for a winning stake.

Geoff refines this definition by applying the computer context to the definition thus limiting what a game can be.

It is my understanding that one definition of a sport is, "to play a game". Accordingly, the abstract set of sports, without further refining, would include all sport, including tetris, chess, checkers etc...

Just my thoughts..
Pete

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Actually, I think my definition works for any type of game, not limiting to computers. The point of differing from what the standard Websters definition was to be more precise and describe the elements closer as since we are designers, we need a more precise definition than the layman.

artificial intelligence - the branch of computer science that deal with writing computer programs that can solve problems creatively

This is how AI is defined by dictionary.com. Now, to the average person, this is fine. But this is NOT an accurate assesment of what AI is to the AI scientist. Thats pretty much the reason for this. We are the game scientists, we need more accurate terminology and language than the average person on the street.

-Geoff

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Thinking about it some more, the essance of why I want to define what a game is comes down to this:

I am a game designer and developer.

Shouldnt I know what a game is? If I dont know, who the hell will?

Could I explain what I do to someone else? If I cant explain it to someone else, do I really even know what Im doing?

A: "I make games."
Q: "Whats a game?"
A: "..."

These kind of things make it seem fairly important to have a good definition for what a game is IMO.

-Geoff

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I couldn't let this one pass... =)

A: "I make games."
Q: "Whats a game?"
A: [DavidRM backs away slowly so as not to startle the cornered, scared, unintelligent creature he mistook for a person...]

;-)


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

[This message has been edited by DavidRM (edited August 10, 1999).]

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Geoff -

I concede that a victory condition must be present in order for an activity, even if it's a fun one, to be classified as a game.
I thought that when I said "a game is where rules begin", I meant to imply that victory condition would be set.

I guess I should have added that rules are the definitions of which actions taken in the activity are to be measured and evaluated.

When you can measure the success of an activity, you can set goals to achieve.

When a certain goal has been achieved, you have the victory condition.

blah blah blah... I talk to much.

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Time for me to chip in...

I have to agree with the original assesment of the definition of a game, but i take issue with the SimCity thing.

SimCity Classic, as it has later been dubbed, did not have a pre-set goal, per-se. There was no place where the Maxis people just said, "ok, you won," but we've already agreed that when you win, you don't have to stop. You include games with high-scores as games, because your victory condition is getting the highest score.

In Sim-City, there was no one, "score," but you could go for highest population, safest city, or if you were the sadistic type, highest crime rate. There were also Scenarios with difinite win-conditions. You can continue playing these cities afterwards, but i personally never felt the desire to.

Anyway, i would classify SimCity as a game, even if only barely.

-Shelrem

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I agree with you that the scernarios were games, but I think it is a good thing to see SimCity classic, less the scenario maps (which I dont actually remember if they gave goals, as you may not have and then you didnt really have to save the city from Godzilla), would fall under the category of a "toy, near-game" because of its next-step readiness into being a game.

As for the score, you could go for highest population but it didnt keep track of the people who got the top 10 populations, so this becomes a personal goal, instead of a game provided one, such as a pinball machine has.

-Geoff

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- A game must interact with the player.

Playing is a form of interaction so this is a somewhat circluar definition.
perhaps
*A game must have at least one player.

- A game must state all the rules (even flexible rules) so that the player knows what must be done.

Myst stated no rules. Is it not a game? The quake game engine has many rules enabling rocket jups etc. The damage of rockets and the height you can jump were not stated. You could argue that those are not realy rules then but that would mean that a game must state all the stated rules, which is silly.

- A game must have some sort of challenge, an obstacle for the player.
Agreed.

- 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).

I have played deathmatch quake for hours on end and stopped without lookin at my frag score. I play because the playing is fun. The fact that deathmatch doesn't really give a point of closure I think is one of the reasons it has been so enduring.

- 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.

If all of the players understood the world because all of the rules were plain to see then adventure games would not work. Many games are based upon people figuring out what has to be done and how to do it.

- A game is created for the purpose of entertainment.

Some games are created for the purpose of gambling and to make money. Some play these games for entertainment, some play to try to make money. Nevertheless They are created for the pupose of making money.
Some games are created for the purpose education.

It is not the fact that it was created to entertain that makes it a game but rather that players who play the game find it entertaining.

I still think a game definition is worth striving for. It will be extremely difficult to come up with a definition that excludes all non games but allows all games. Especially when there are probably some things that some people think are games and that others think they aren't.

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I would note on the above topic that the "rules" in Myst are shown as boundaries limiting what the character can do, much like an "out of bounds" limit on many games. "You cannot leave the path in this screen" is as much a rule as "You can't step over this line or you're out of bounds" is in basketball.
Similarly, it is not necessarily "hiding" the rules when one has experience points, algorithms for damage, etc, in adventure games. It is the introduction of random chance, which is common in a vast number of games, especially those of the board game variety. For instance, when playing Monopoly, one would not expect to know the exact dice roll they will have in a game, or the property they will have the chance to acquire. The player simply knows the parameters possible (I will be able to move between 1 and 12 spaces when I roll this dice, and the set of possible results of the spaces I land on within those 12 moves is clear). Thinking of the possible outcomes of the dice roll as a (very simple) algorithm makes it very similar to the "rolls" done by computers in adventure games. The main difference is that most people don't want to get out their calculators for Monopoly (alright, take my dice roll times 5, subtract 3, mod it with 3, and... ooh. Baltic Avenue.) while in computer games relatively complex arithmetic is no problem whatsoever.

-fel

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>- A game must interact with the player.
>
>Playing is a form of interaction so this is a somewhat circluar definition. perhaps

Definitions shouldnt take things for granted IMO.

>- A game must state all the rules (even flexible rules) so that the player knows what must be done.
>
>Myst stated no rules. Is it not a game?

All of the things you mentioned here HAVE rules or all rules. Rules dont need to be specified on the box or a manual or something to be rules. If they constrict the player, they are rules whether they are stated explicitly or not. Obviously in board games you need to specify the rule as you dont have the computer to take care of it for you.

>- 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).
>
>I have played deathmatch quake for hours on end and stopped without lookin at my frag score.

Most likely you are playing with short victory conditions of one kill, or avoiding being killed without having it explicitly stated. Explicit rules or goals are not necessary to have rules and goals.

>- 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.
>
>If all of the players understood the world because all of the rules were plain to see then adventure games would not work. Many games are based upon people figuring out what has to be done and how to do it.

This is incorrect. They do not need to understand all the obstacles completely, they need to understand the rules which make up the world. For instance, in reading, everyone understands reading english you read from the left to right, top to bottom. This could be considered a common understanding that everyone has. This is the type of thing I was talking about, only games define more than one activity, they usually define your entire range of activities.

>- A game is created for the purpose of entertainment.
>
>Some games are created for the purpose of gambling and to make money. Some play these games for entertainment, some play to try to make money.

This is a context confusion. You are confusing the purpose of the developer with the purpose of the product and the purpose of some people playing the product.

Gambling game: Developer makes it for money. The game is DESIGNED for entertainment of the player, taking money (and giving) being the way of entertaining. Some players play specifically to make money.

Whats left here is that there is a design purpose for the game that it will entertain in some aspect. Is all gambling a game? No, I dont think so IMO. But most of the things people associate with gambling probably are.

-Geoff

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A lot of the comments Ive gotten while bringing up the topic of defining what a game is, have been straightforwardly or often implying "Why bother with this?". So I figured we should take a new thread and go over this to leave the definition thread just to trying to define.

I see the importance in defining things because all learning seems to invariably start with understanding the terms. When I learned networking, at least half of the learning curve was understanding the terms, once I knew them, it became a lot easier to understand what was going on and how things worked together.

Again, when getting into game development there are a lot of terms one needs to learn to be able to discuss things with anyone else, and often to create anything by yourself. So even when you dont have to communicate outwardly, understanding terms of what has already been created or figured out becomes important.

While this is pretty easy to understand when trying to learn DirectX, or another API, because of their inherent use of special terminology, it becomes seemingly less important to define things in the overall sense. After all, everyone knows what a game is right?

Yet, as soon as someone tries to define what a game is, 20 other people have their own opinions and interpretations. Immediately this should throw up a flag that there is not a clear definition that is agreed upon about what a game is.

So, does there need to be a definition? Obviously if people are going to communicate a subject matter, there needs to be a common language they can use. Definitions for this purpose become critical. But what about personal use and learning?

IMO, this is just as important. Definitions are supposed to give an encompassing scope on the situation at hand. If a subject is defined, then any situation dealing with that subject should be covered by the definition. The more complete the definition, the more complete the understanding of the subject and the subject's components.

In dealing with game design, I think this can be seen rather clearly. With the definition that I have come to after a lot of thinking and discussing with different people, all elements of games seem to be covered quite clearly and there are several distinct pieces which can be extrapolated from this. Thereby giving me a roadmap to designing a game.

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

- A game must interact with the player.
- A game must state all the rules (even flexible rules) so that the player knows what must be done.
- A game must have some sort of challenge, an obstacle for the player.
- 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).
- 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.
- A game is created for the purpose of entertainment.

Just by following the guidelines of these rules I can write a simple game by knowing the different stages involved. The concept of it mattering whether I know the definition or not is the same as any kind of concept of education, and I would personally rather be educated in a field I choose as my profession.

-Geoff

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>Definitions shouldn't take things for granted IMO.

In that case you forgot to define interact :-)

>All of the things you mentioned here HAVE rules or all rules.
>Rules dont need to be specified on the box or a manual or something to be rules.

But the original statement wasn't that they should have rules but that they should state them. Some games do not state the rules.

>This is incorrect. They do not need to understand all the obstacles completely,
>they need to understand the rules which make up the world. For instance,
>in reading, everyone understands reading english you read from the
>left to right, top to bottom. This could be considered a common understanding
>that everyone has.

You need to be explicit about what kind of knowledge should be this common understanding knowledge. Otherwise you have merely, 'There must be some premises which are true in the game which the player knows are true in the game'. Given that x=x is probably true in the game and that the player knows that. The definition is too weak without including what type of knowledge is needed.

>This is a context confusion. You are confusing the purpose of the
>developer with the purpose of the product and the purpose of some people
>playing the product.

Well The purpose of individuals is very debatable and many a philosopher has considered the probelm with little success.
That doesn't seem to really be a problem because the purpose of the people is not actually being considered it is their intent.

The intent of the developer was to make money. The intent of the player could be either to entertain themself ot to make money. Traditionally the purpose of an object is considered to be to perfom the function that it's creator intended. You can sit on a computer case but that does not make it's purpose to be a chair. Hence the term, not for it's intended purpose (which also points out the intent/pupose link).

To allow The intent of people into the specification could lead to a subjective definition of what a game is. You need some group definitions of what players should be.

You need a bit of modal logic. I'd write a reasonable appoximation to what's needed for players but I don't have the symbols in this font. (also the symbol set seems to vary from university to university, which is annoying)

You could have as a requirement..

A game is played by some players with the intent of entertaining themselves.

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