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Tutorial Doctor

What's in a Game?

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What really makes games so integral in human culture. Games are historic by nature. Good game design predates the Atari. 


I have been watching videos on table top games and I just started reading the wikipedia entry on games:




Now, I am new to game programming, and as I have said in other posts, I think there is so much left uncovered about games in video game design. 


So, I am on a mission to uncover exactly why games are so much a part of human interaction. 


The wikipedia article gives me some insight into game design, as well as the videos I have seen, but I do see something else in games, I can't quite place a finger on it, but there is more to games that I am sure most "gamers" will ever realize. 


Anyone have any ideas as to what this special phenomena might be (I don't think it is quite human interaction, especially when I think of war-gaming).


Chris Craford's definition of a gamean interactive, goal-oriented activity, with active agents to play against, in which players (including active agents) can interfere with each other.

Edited by Tutorial Doctor

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Like Sun mentioned you could start with understanding play.


I think what you were trying to get at is there's a deeply rooted Psychology necessary to understand games 'why?'. I'm just going to propose now that it's easier not to question.



But some of what you mentioned sounded more like a complaint that you're stuck, not sure where to go.



I can't remember the exact name of the hierarchy, but I know it looked like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom%27s_taxonomy#Cognitive


What you want to do is learn how to analyze, evaluate, and create; and know that if you just started it's impossible. At the rookie stage recognition is when you finally stand up on both legs from crawling and say you like games; and it's there that most game developers will be stuck recognizing they enjoyed a particular game, they don't quite know why or what to do with it. It is a common (human) fault to skip straight to evaluation and make gut judgements about how improvements are everywhere and anything.


So the short answer is a game was based on every game that came before it.


The media would like you to believe that every moment recorded now is a historical moment.

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Mimesis is a specific type of pretend play where humans playfully imitate activities they might theoretically have to do in real life at some point


Perfect post! That is what I was thinking, that games are a way of emulating real life without the risks. It can be a form of practice for real life also. This is an interesting thing though. For this reason, games have to be interactive. Which makes me wonder why gaming companies hold your hand even more!! 


You see, I have a previous post about why Tomb Raider is no longer a good game. What I was trying to convey in that post has come out in this one, and your post makes it even clearer. 


I said that games should be challenging, and that they should not hold your hand. 


That post was sparked by a conversation my cousin and I had, where we had observed the world, and saw how society wants to pacify people by giving them things they did nothing to earn, thereby making them think they have accomplished something without accomplishing anything worthwhile. 


It is more a degradation of society as a whole. 


In real life, no one holds your hands. No one solves problems for you. So for this reason I think games should be designed in such a way to present challenges that are actually challenging. 


That post also lead to a post I made about education in games. I finally understand games, and their real purpose. Now I could make a game that can hold up and be of real value. The fun aspect sorta does make it more a game than a simulation though. 


I finally broke through the barrier that was keeping me from understanding the gaming industry. Of course, I have less respect for AAA companies even more so now.


Thanks for the great post. 

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Thank you for the compliments, glad you liked the post.  smile.png   As far as "hand-holding", I don't think the issue is as one-sided as you are seeing it.  Tasks in real life do often take place in a framework that has been designed by someone else to streamline a process.  Tutorials for everything from plumbing repair to seducing people to painting like VanGogh abound on the internet, and the person who knows how to seek out and use help has many advantages over the person who prefers a trial and error method.  Jobs too often involve following an official list of steps and filling out paperwork, and for those still in school, doing homework requires much the same kind of patience that playing through tutorials in games does.  In fact we pay colleges huge amounts of money to do a bit of hand-holding us through higher education because the professor/lecture/textbook system has for centuries been demonstrated to be waaaaay more efficient at educating people than self-study or apprenticeship.


David Deutsch, among others, has written about the fact that for much of human history being good at conforming to society was much more important to reproductive success than being good at innovation or creative problem solving.  Only since the renaissance have some human societies decided individual achievements are more important than being a team player; probably as a direct result of capitalism becoming pervasive and partially replacing social approval as the determining factor of who gets to marry and reproduce and who doesn't.


None of that is directly related to the question of whether more challenging or less challenging games are more fun.  But Simon Lesser wrote something about fiction which I think is the key to relating the two ideas.  He said, the goal in creating fiction is to remove "distracting irrelevancies" and instead present an experience which is more intense than real life.  In other words, the goal is verisimilitude but not realism.  Many of the traditional difficulties in games were distracting irrelevancies that weren't there because they made the game fun, but instead because interfaces were primitive, user-friendliness was still evolving, and the development budget for each individual game could only support a few innovations in "hand-holding", even though many people even back in the 80s would have liked games to be easier to learn how to play.


Here's a personal example: the Rock Band games.  They have 4 difficulty settings.  The easy difficulty in the game is inarguably MUCH easier than whatever the real musicians did to produce the song.  Yet, even the easy difficulty setting in the game is highly challenging to someone who isn't familiar with the guitar or drum controller.  Of the two, the guitar controller bears some similarity to a gamepad or wiimote, so people who have gaming experience will have a bit of a starting place there, but the drums insert drumsticks and a foot pedal into the process, so experience at pushing buttons isn't really helpful.  For me personally, even at Easy difficulty and with tutorials I found it so hard to gain that initial competence at drums that I almost gave up on trying to play with that controller.  I'm much better at the guitars, but I still prefer playing at Easy difficulty with them to playing at Medium because I want to enjoy listening to the music and have fun earning positive feedback from the game, not have to concentrate so hard on hitting notes that I feel stressed, and screw up so often that I feel judged unsatisfactory, and can't enjoy the music.

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David Deutsch has a very interesting point about conforming to society, and I think that is one of the issues. Sure, it is easier, but not entirely dependable, nor is it a good way to be. Soceity is changing indeed, for the worse. Conform? Well, I wouldn't like to, but as you say, it could be (sorta has been)a determing factor, especially in this capitalist society, of who get's married and who doesnt, who has a job and who doesnt, who can eat and who can't.

I do think structured education is a more efficent method of education, as long as it has useful content in it, and for the most part, I can get the same information doing it myself and saving the money I'd owe in student loans.

Good illustration of Rockband and difficulty settings. yeah, soometimes you want to just play for the fun of it, not to strain and wreck your brain over a game. I have played UNO for the fun of it, and can play the same game at a higher skill level (more consideration).

There was a post in one of my other threads where someone said that AAA companies try to appeal to soceity, and sell which games society is likely to play, because they want a profit, yet, at the same time arent't they also influencing society in that matter by conforming to it?

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A video series about game design, worth watching it :)

Or another definition from the book : Art of Game Design by Jess Schell. (which I highly recommend)

"A game is a problem solving activity, approached with a playful attitude."

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Neat video Navezof, gives me a little more insight, but I think it is too broad in its definition of game.

The reason we need definitions is because we need a means to distinguish it from other things.

If a game is whatever you want it to be, can a game be a cup?

Not all things can be left to interpretation.

In the Wikipedia article, it distinguishes a game from a puzzle, from a toy.

It also tells how you can turn a toy into a game (did this as a child).

Is Tetris a puzzle or game? In which case is it a puzzle, and in which case is it a game? The subject of "Game Theory" has a standard definition of a game, which I will have to look up again once I get the chance.

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A difference between a puzzle and a game is that a puzzle does not define an interaction that drives the outcome toward failure for the player, that the player can avoid with knowledge and/or skill.


In Tetris, once the game starts, if the player does nothing the blocks stack to the top and the player gets a gameover.


The session where block starts falling and the player can move and rotate -> A defined interaction involving the player

If the blocks stack to the top the player loses -> A defined failure mode for the player

The blocks tend to stack toward the top unless the player does something -> A force from the design of the interaction that drives towards the failure mode

The player decides where to put the block -> Knowledge and skill that the player can use to avoid the failure mode


Toy: May not have a defined interaction

Recreation: May not have a defined failure mode

Puzzle: May not drive the player toward failure

Coin-flip: May not provide the player a way to avoid failure


To turn an interaction into a game is to define these:

1. Failure mode - Define a state where the player loses

2. Failure-driving force - Design how the interaction would drive toward failure (if the player doesn't do anything)

3. Gameplay - Design what decisions and actions the player can do to avoid failure



The reason we need definitions is because we need a means to distinguish it from other things.


A reason you want definitions, is that when you get good at defining things, you can define these what "the best game" means and you will know how to design it accordingly.

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Good posts Active. And Wai! This reminds me of a recent popular game (that I knew was an instant classic)- Disney Infinity.

That game has some good elements. They have almost all the elements of play that make something fun.

You can play a game, or you can play with toys. You don't really play a puzzle (you solve it).

That game had all of these forms of play.

I wonder if there is a such term as "play mechanics", because peronally, there are few games that feel like play. These war games feel like training or simulation.

Seems one would also have to distinguish genreral play from gameplay.

This leads to another question. What makes a game a fun game?

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