What’s in a Game?

What's in a Game?

Technology is changing, the game audience is changing -- shouldn't our definition of what a "game" is be changing, too?

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What's interesting to note also is that many purists don't consider gambling to be a game. Some people add the stipulation that a game, as a sort of make-believe, ceases to be a game once it affects the real world.

But the purists and the Huizinga-ites each sort of teeter into their own extremes. The fact is that games do have some impact on real life, but not so much that one could theoretically say that life itself is a game. When my roommate jumps up from his chair and speeds to the kitchen to develop a meal at whirlwind speeds, he's doing so because in one minute he's going to be fighting the undead with twenty four other people.

I think the purists mean that anything played to the goal of changing one's real life is not considered a game. The super-quick meal being made by your roommate is not the goal or the point of why he's playing that game, it's a side effect of the game affecting his real life.

A game is a set of rules with at least one desirable or undesirable final state (commonly victory and defeat) that can be interacted with by one or more intelligent actors.

I completely disagree on the "rules can be broken" part, that allows the empty ruleset to be a game and thus anything on Earth. The rules of the game must remain unbreakable (if there is a rule that permits certain rules to be violated the rules as a whole are not being broken) even if the real rules are not the ones the actors are told about or the designer intended. Any videogame is composed of unbreakable rules, the instructions that are executed by the processor (these can be altered but that results in a different game). Whether these say what the designer wanted them to say is a different question. Oh, right, the designer, I guess we could require one or more of these in our definition of a game too even if the designer is the same as the actor.

Of course we could use the more practical definition of a game: Whatever you can sell to someone as one. Works for art too. Truth and love not so much because those are defined by the physical reality (truth is when a statement matches the physical reality, love is an emotional state in higher animals). In the end it always comes down to what the customer is actually willing to pay you for (and even hobby games tend to have a customer even though it's usually the game's designer and a payoff in the form of fun or appreciation). Probably not the answer people want to hear though.

I believe the author has hit a note here; Games need no longer be about "reaching" some predefined goal, they can be merely about exploring the space of possible actions or states contained within a rule set.

The Sims is a prime example here; Hardly anyone would contend that it isn't a game, yet it has no definitive goal, only an "arena" wherein actions can unfold. this arena consists of unbreakable rules; If you don't drink you die. Go too long without seeing someone and you'll get lonely, etc. etc. - All conditional statements. What the player then does is interact with the world - poke a little there, twist a knob here, and essentially just see what happens.
Only here does the goal-oriented aspect come in. The player says, e.g. "I want to stay alive for 24h," and then does what the player thinks is appropriate to make that happen.

Let's expand a little here; The Sims is too narrow to define a game from. Essentially all games do not carry a sticker that says "go here to win" - It is something the players decide. Take any shooter as an example; Some may claim there is a single way to win, getting to the top of the scoreboard, but in reality, this is a player-imposed condition. It's the player that says "I want to make that or this number higher than anyone else's." Sure, it might be suggested several places that this is the "goal" of the game, but in the end, it's up to the player.

I believe this is what the author means by "breaking the rules" - Playing in a different-than-intended way. Getting something "more," in some sense, out of the game, than what was advertised, and it is this resource that developers have started tapping into with achievements. Making an alternative playing style a goal in itself, and putting these to the forefront of the player's mind, means we'll explore a massively larger part of the game space than otherwise.

However, I also think there's a real downside to making the meta-game (Or rather, parts of it) stand out so clearly: It makes discovery a chore. Instead of some few thinking "Gee, wonder if I can get through the zombie apocalypse with only a pistol," you've got it staring them right in the face that it's possible and they should do it if they want the shiny icon, essentially downplaying a creative nerve, or, in the worst case, killing it completely by giving players a mountain to do and no room to explore.

TL;DR: Article good. Achievements killed the cat.

I think what may be even more important than what constitutes a game, is what is being sold out there in the market that ISN'T considered a game, and what the hell is it?
If GTA without the tasks is simple exploration, what territory does that "product" fall into? GTA IV: The Experience? Saints Row III: The Journey? Little Big Planet: Just make shit up?
What other "gamey" content can we put on a DVD and entice people to buy?

I read It! yay!

Ok, but seriously, game companies are now making games that are "cool" eg.res evil 5.
Just look at the monster of a muscle he has got.

I personally think that some game developers has missed the point of having a Fun game rather then a "cool" game. The hulk came out, and now their making "prototype", Its The Same...just with more powers

GTA <Was> good, only because it escaped the enclosed battles. Eg. Halo
But now, its just boring. [Just my point of view]

Yes, they make games with the Sky above you, but, you are still stuck on the ground with many walls blocking your path, its the same...only that you can Pretend you are not underground again.

Game developers are not changing because they are still earning a lot of money, from people who are unable to see the repetition in the games. People who can see are forever cursed fates, to live through these games.

I intend to make a company and be a game designer myself, i have already taken noticed of the repetition in gaming, and have already started to gather ideas for a game.

I am just 17 now, and am still studying, I intend to make the games after 5 years.

To game developers who bothered to read this, I'll give you a hint on what I would do.
Hint: You are looking too far. Space, Aliens and Destruction of the world is going to get Old fast.

Note: There are obviously other things not mentioned, but i'm just too lazy to write them down >.<

I thinks a story and characters. I hope.

ejhio:

Note: There are obviously other things not mentioned, but i'm just too lazy to write them down >.<

And that's what makes a good game developer. Laziness!
I kid, making games is a lot of hard work.

Sorry, i meant lazy, as in it is still morning, and my brain is still rather fuzzy.

Yeah i agree, making games are hard, i'v been working on ideas for 5 games >.<
Only 2 are actually having any progress at all.

Isn't this more an argument about semantics? Problems with the language barrier seem to be more often a source for this article than actual concepts. The word "game" is too broad a category to start with.

ejhio:
Sorry, i meant lazy, as in it is still morning, and my brain is still rather fuzzy.

Yeah i agree, making games are hard, i'v been working on ideas for 5 games >.<
Only 2 are actually having any progress at all.

Designing is fun and all, but I would recommend utilizing your time developing the skills to make your ideas a reality. Scripting fundamentals, PROPER GRAMMAR, and ancillary asset creation skills (3D modeling, Sound design, etc) are what make you worth a damn to a game dev studio.
The cold, hard truth is that . . . we all have ideas . . . all of us . . . but not all of us have the skills and connections to make those ideas become a reality.

Yes, i'm from Singapore, and English here isn't very good.

AND, i'm going to learn to skill required, its the education law here anyway.

Edit: i haven't even start school yet.

I think The Sims has at least one loss state (everybody is dead) and while a player can decide he wants to reach the loss state it's undesirable for most players most of the time. It doesn't have a victory state but it does have scales of "goodness" that the player can decide to maximize. If we take the philosophical stance we can argue that even reaching the credits is an arbitrary goal that the player picks for himself but it's still intended by the designer to be the goal state the player should aim at. I really think that challenging the player (or at least attempting to) is a mandatory part of a game. If it's just a set of options with none more desirable than any other the result is what the Addy series calls a simulation (these were tools where you would have some system and could tweak its variables, e.g. a business with the various variables like the health of the economy, investment into the product and marketing, strength of the competition, etc).

If you look at what we consider games there's always an element of challenge there.

Huh.

I thought games were all about trying to be movies.

SultenSalami:
I believe the author has hit a note here; Games need no longer be about "reaching" some predefined goal, they can be merely about exploring the space of possible actions or states contained within a rule set.

The Sims is a prime example here; Hardly anyone would contend that it isn't a game, yet it has no definitive goal, only an "arena" wherein actions can unfold. this arena consists of unbreakable rules; If you don't drink you die. Go too long without seeing someone and you'll get lonely, etc. etc. - All conditional statements. What the player then does is interact with the world - poke a little there, twist a knob here, and essentially just see what happens.
Only here does the goal-oriented aspect come in. The player says, e.g. "I want to stay alive for 24h," and then does what the player thinks is appropriate to make that happen.

Let's expand a little here; The Sims is too narrow to define a game from. Essentially all games do not carry a sticker that says "go here to win" - It is something the players decide. Take any shooter as an example; Some may claim there is a single way to win, getting to the top of the scoreboard, but in reality, this is a player-imposed condition. It's the player that says "I want to make that or this number higher than anyone else's." Sure, it might be suggested several places that this is the "goal" of the game, but in the end, it's up to the player.

I believe this is what the author means by "breaking the rules" - Playing in a different-than-intended way. Getting something "more," in some sense, out of the game, than what was advertised, and it is this resource that developers have started tapping into with achievements. Making an alternative playing style a goal in itself, and putting these to the forefront of the player's mind, means we'll explore a massively larger part of the game space than otherwise.

However, I also think there's a real downside to making the meta-game (Or rather, parts of it) stand out so clearly: It makes discovery a chore. Instead of some few thinking "Gee, wonder if I can get through the zombie apocalypse with only a pistol," you've got it staring them right in the face that it's possible and they should do it if they want the shiny icon, essentially downplaying a creative nerve, or, in the worst case, killing it completely by giving players a mountain to do and no room to explore.

TL;DR: Article good. Achievements killed the cat.

Interesting point, but I would argue that the Sims, as it stands, is a toy, not a game.

Where it becomes a game is at the point where you as a player define a set goal you want to reach and the restrictions within that you will not break. (ie, I will have my Sims survive for 24 hours, but just shutting down the program for the day isn't allowed.) At that point, you've taken this toy and made a game you can play with it. In that way, it's much like how a football is just a toy until you apply the rules around scoring a touchdown (or goal, depending on what you think think a football is)

Now I will agree that the players of a game are the definers of the game much more than the designer, as they are the ones who decide which of the "designed" rules that they're going to stay within. However, I'd suggest that the author's use of the term "breaking the rules" to describe this interaction isn't quite accurate.

But I'll disagree that achievements lessen that in any way. In fact, I tend to think they enhance it, by making people think about how there are a multitude of game-spaces available within the overarching game. Heck, there are now sites devoted to players making their own achievements.

MikoWilson:

ejhio:
Sorry, i meant lazy, as in it is still morning, and my brain is still rather fuzzy.

Yeah i agree, making games are hard, i'v been working on ideas for 5 games >.<
Only 2 are actually having any progress at all.

Designing is fun and all, but I would recommend utilizing your time developing the skills to make your ideas a reality. Scripting fundamentals, PROPER GRAMMAR, and ancillary asset creation skills (3D modeling, Sound design, etc) are what make you worth a damn to a game dev studio.
The cold, hard truth is that . . . we all have ideas . . . all of us . . . but not all of us have the skills and connections to make those ideas become a reality.

Good job harassing some poor kid Miko, shame!

" I can tell stories about exploding shurikens, backflips and ninjas. I've pulled off shots I never thought possible, and just barely made some landings. I've pulled ahead in a race and broken into a sweat countering punches. These are the real experiences that our medium generates whether they're designed with intent or not."

Our generation will replace Golf stories with Halo-kill stories.

"So I'm in the middle of the woods, it's raining like hell, and my ball is in this puddle of mud, like, up to HERE..."

"So I'm on at like 3 in the morning, on this shitty server, with a bunch of screaming ten-year old German kids, and the rest of my team QUITS..."

teknoarcanist:

Our generation will replace Golf stories with Halo-kill stories.

"So I'm in the middle of the woods, it's raining like hell, and my ball is in this puddle of mud, like, up to HERE..."

"So I'm on at like 3 in the morning, on this shitty server, with a bunch of screaming ten-year old German kids, and the rest of my team QUITS..."

Haha, good one! You can imagine how pathetic the previous generation think we are!

 

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