Thank You, But It's Still Not a Game

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Every time you write McGonigal, I think of William McGonagall. He is widely regarded as one of the worst Poets ever. I wonder if they are related. It would explain a few things

I'm sorry, but I simply cannot trust the opinion of a man that would turn down free pizza.

I agree wholeheartedly. Games have always had this type of skinner-box compulsion elements, but right now we are flooded by apps that are nothing but compulsion-driven money suckers. They're not games, they're elaborate slot machines. Either that or things like this thank you button.

I would disagree on one point though, and that is that the experience crafted by the game must be enjoyable and delightful. I'm not too sure horror games fit particularly well with either of those adjectives, yet Amnesia or Silent Hill are definately games. I'd look for another adjective, perhaps engaging. However, I'd also add the game must exist in and of itself as an engaging activity before adding on social networks or point incentives. If it is designed the other way around, it's a fancy-shmancy interface for an activity that wasn't gaming in the first place.

I liked this post, thank you jeremy, i'll try and remember that definition you gave. ;)

I'm sorry, but this isn't an article.

Here, I'll provide a review:

I read a guy whine about a thing he didn't think was a thing that other people think is a thing. 2/10

I think the definition of games should be this: A game is a session of play with rules and goals that is designed to entertain and delight a perspective player or players.

I would add "With criteria for success or failure". It doesn't have to be win/loss conditions, but some kind of distinction between doing well or not doing so well.

When I was a kid games was kind of an exclusive thing. Most people didn't play games. Some people might have found it boring to try to learn the rules, others had an upbringing that considered games to be a bad thing. Games in general sometimes had a bad reputation because they were compared to games played for money.

I think some new gamers, what the industry sometimes classify as 'casual' gamers lack the tradition of games. Some people never played Chess, Checkers, Monopoly or card games. I think MMOs attracted some of these people due to the less gamey nature. MMOs are often more like toys. But since they are generally classified as games, people get the impression that anything done without a clear purpose can be a game.

Today games don't have the negative connotations they used to have. It's ok to play a game even for adults or religious people. I think this development is great. But it also means that all these new people have a different approach to gaming which causes the meaning of the term to change.

There's some positive and negative aspects to this development. On the positive side broadening gaming can be a good thing, since it can open our minds to new developments. On the negative side consumers are less critical about what makes a game, and what can be expected. This sometimes results in bad 'games' like click a button or buy virtual cows.

I actually think "Games are unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle" is an amazing definition for a game. The operative word being "volunteer". If work makes you play a stupid 'game', it's not a game. It's a chore. If you choose to participate in the same activity, it becomes a game.

Why you would want to participate in a game you don't find entertaining is perhaps something you should study about yourself. Trying to show to people that a game they enjoy is stupid and boring shows very poor time management skills. Wouldn't you prefer to play a game you enjoy to trying to prove to others they're not having fun?

Bostur:

I think the definition of games should be this: A game is a session of play with rules and goals that is designed to entertain and delight a perspective player or players.

I would add "With criteria for success or failure". It doesn't have to be win/loss conditions, but some kind of distinction between doing well or not doing so well.

"Games are unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle" already includes all those additions. "Obstacles" are rules and goals. Surpassing those obstacles implies success, failing to do it implies failure. If you are volunteering to tackle these rules and goals, you must find something worthwhile in doing them, thus covering any possible genre, from horror games to more traditionally 'fun' experiences.

While it isn't a "game", it's still a better game than Duke Nukem Forever...

I personally don't think anyone should be able to tell anyone else what a game is. If someone creates a game where all you do is push a button on a site, why can't that be a game? Whether it's an enjoyable game or one you'd want to play, that's up to the player. And that's the magic. "Sports" also has this dilemma, and the people who complain that bowling or cheerleading aren't sports are usually the people who play "real" sports that require a lot more athleticism. They feel threatened by the idea that a cheerleader or bowler or golfer might be considered an "athlete" along with them.

The good thing about a game is that it has no walls. Thing about the word in general, away from video games, and anyone with a small child could tell you that literally anything can be a game. Even things that aren't games to adults, like clean-up or cooking. So what's a video game? Anything like that that you interact with in some kind of video format.

So I disagree with both McGonigal (I hope she doesn't transfigure me into a toad) and the author of this article, there is no definition of a "game" and that's how it should be. The individual can decide whether it's a game or not for themselves. But the exercise of trying to define it for everyone is not only misguided and ultimately meaningless, but also a somewhat elitist and egotist approach, that only games that you personally deem games by some arbitrary definition are actually games.

DVS BSTrD:
I'm sorry, but I simply cannot trust the opinion of a man that would turn down free pizza.

Last time I had Pizza Hut, I ended up tossing out the pizza and eating the cardboard box, at least the box tastes better.

So I don't blame a guy for not wanting free that!

Jeremy Monken:
I have an issue with this philosophy. It says nothing about the obstacles being enjoyable. It implies that simulating a hardship you choose to engage in makes something a game. By that definition, not getting my oil changed so I can deal with car repairs in the future is a game. Maybe that is a game, but it certainly doesn't sound very enjoyable.

Ehhhh... By that logic, I don't have to recognize any video game I personally don't enjoy as "a game." There are many things I enjoy that other people might not understand as "enjoyable."

Over the last few years, gamification initiatives have been calling anything and everything a game. Rudimentary economies in the form of tickets, challenges and achievements that earn you additional points ... systems like these have been put in place in schools and businesses all over the world to make something boring seem fun

"Gamification" is extremely problematic, and I hate it more than most, but the problem isn't how they're using the word "game." They are games. The tack on reward structures to existing obstacles in order to distract us from the usual tedium of these common tasks. Distraction. Diversion (which in many languages is the word for "entertainment").

It's just that they are bad games. Not because of their simple mechanics, but because they are openly manipulative in how they use those mechanics. They reduce the audience to rats in a maze, caring only for the cheese and not the satisfaction of besting the maze.

(Similarly, The Notebook is a movie. It's just a bad movie. Not because it's ineffective -- I cried like a baby -- but because of how it achieves its effect. It runs down a shopping list of emotional triggers and checks each one off to produce teary eyes.)

_____

It might just be that I feel you're too protective over the word "game," like those people who try to say that That's My Boy "isn't a movie," because of how awful a movie it is. Or it might just be that I'm not sure about how you're drawing this distinction.

The Avengers is a great, fun, entertaining movie. The Notebook is a transparent, manipulative crap-fest of a movie. But both are movies. They're intended to grab my attention for a couple hours and draw some emotional reaction from me. A movie's goal is to get me to enjoy itself.

Now, you know what isn't a movie? A commercial. It uses the same audiovisual medium, but its entire purpose is to get me to want something (and eventually buy it). A commercial's goal is to get me to enjoy something other than itself.

And then there are grey areas. How about educational movies (like Planet Earth), designed to "sell" something immaterial and free (knowledge, enjoyment of nature, environmental awareness)? Or movies that have a clear political message underneath the plot? Or how most 80's kids cartoons were really just a commercial for the toys, but fleshed out into a show -- which is it: good commercial, or bad show?

That grey area is where I see most "gamified" experiences. There is clearly an ulterior motive -- to get you to enjoy work, or to enjoy cleaning, or to enjoy surgery or something -- but people can also enjoy the reward structure itself. To me, they are games being used badly.

As for this one: Push button, receive warm fuzzies. Boring, crappy game trying to manipulate people into feigning gratitude at each other? The case could be made. Most games are based on a "push button, receive widget" structure. Or we could argue that, because it's only goal is to promote something outside itself, it is "using game mechanics to manipulate people," and as such is not a game. (I'm more in the latter camp, myself. It uses the parts from a game, but it doesn't use them as a game.)

But when we say "It's not a game," it's not because of how it's played or how it looks. It's because of how it's used.

Uh oh, watch out Oprah!

Well that entire read was unnecessary. Not sure if I'm more angry for wasting my own time or just bewildered that this exists here. The whole thing was just an arrogant opinion piece on the use and definition of a word. The author goes so far as to tell you, the reader, what you can and cannot find personally entertaining. On top of it all, it was also written and formatted rather poorly.

Okay, so you don't like small tasks being called a game and suggest the definition of game be changed--as if somehow you get to decide what entertainment is. What has been achieved? Pretend no one on Earth from now on will refer to small tasks as games. Instead of saying "game," they will say "activity." Got it in your mind? Okay. Now, what's next? What's the grand result of the word game no longer being used in that context? Suddenly the heavens part and the world over regards the electronic products you refer to as video games as some form of legitimately important element in human history?

This article may well be the best example of rhetoric I've come across. Never in all my time has someone argued so incorrectly for a word over its subject.

"Games are unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle."

Well, start from an incorrect premise, reach an incorrect conclusion. Because that definition includes "Helping someone move."

Eh, the button sounds like lazy feel-good slacktivism with even less activism than normal.

I remember working at Pizza Hut in high school. They had this "C.H.A.M.P.S." thing where you earned points that you could use to get hats and free pizzas for doing your job well. I thought, "Isn't my reward for doing my job the money you pay me? How 'bout you give me some more of that?"

I stopped playing when they were less than responsive to my suggestion.

Heh, reminds me of a Reddit thread last week about lousy contest prizes.

McGonigal told the crowd, "I want games to be a force for good in the world."

Because they weren't before? This is like watching a Christan metal band.

I think the definition of games should be this: A game is a session of play with rules and goals that is designed to entertain and delight a perspective player or players.

"Prospective", perhaps?

Eh, if hers was too broad, that is too specific. Not to descend into the games-are-art pits AGAIN, but if you said that a movie was a series of images designed to entertain and delight an audience, someone would whack you over the head with Schindler's List or something of similar gravity. From what I've seen, reviews of Spec Ops: The Line are similarly sparse on words like "entertaining" and "delightful" while still recommending it and certainly not questioning its status as a game.

I have a better game, let's count Oprah's photos on that page you linked. I counted 7. Even Chairman Mao wouldn't have had that many.

DVS BSTrD:
I'm sorry, but I simply cannot trust the opinion of a man that would turn down free pizza.

Hey, I never said I turned down the free pizza. I just would have preferred the cash value of the pizza.

...To purchase pizza from Papa John's.

Interesting article. It's really hard to create a precise definition of a game, and I think the spectrum of games is narrower than Oprah thinks, but wider than you think, Jeremy. That's about all that I feel I can confidently say.

Jeremy Monken:

DVS BSTrD:
I'm sorry, but I simply cannot trust the opinion of a man that would turn down free pizza.

Hey, I never said I turned down the free pizza. I just would have preferred the cash value of the pizza.

...To purchase pizza from Papa John's.

Now THERE's a man a can work with.

Entertainment isn't definition for a game that I would use, it sounds logical but only because games are young. It would be easy to make a similar definition about films or books and then realise that you're no longer counting The Hunger Games or The Road or Holocaust films, because they're less entertaining and more thought provoking.

Spec Ops: The Line by all accounts isn't necessarily an entertaining experience but it is a meaningful one and the objectives thing is a limiting idea too because we have objectiveless games like Minecraft, you're software toys etc. Entertainment is also very subjective, you're ruling out boring games from being games.

I think defining gameplay by your definition would be fine, the thing is games and gameplay aren't the same thing by any means (well it's complicated, videogames/board games aren't necessarily games in gameplay terms but clearly aren't other things). Gameplay is stuff like Snap! and Tag! and Chess, contextless relying purely on rules and objective filling.

Whereas games are anything that anything that falls into the space created by the three axis of art, narrative and gameplay, where gameplay is involved in some form however diluted.

Actually the Thank You button would still count as gameplay I feel, even under your defintion. Their are clearly rules. Press button when you've thanked someone, whatever, their are clearly objectives, do something to press button, try to be able to rightfully press the button as much as possible and theirs even some feedback through the data collected by the button. It's clearly meant people feel positive for completing the goal, so it fills your criteria of being for the purpose of entertainment.

It's just not very good gameplay.

The button isn't the game... the challenge to say "thank you," is.

If I challenge you to go through a whole day speaking only in song titles, is that not a game? It's a game you probably won't participate in, but it sure sounds like a game.

The "unnecessary challenge" thing is pretty accurate if you don't go into a semiotic rage over exactly what "necessary" means. If your car needs to be repaired, that's pretty necessary, regardless of what idiocy you went through to put it in such a condition. If you help your friend move, that's pretty necessary, at least to them. That guy is on the right track, and going much further would just get annoying because overly long definitions tend to be annoying.

"Challenges primarily meant to be fun," might be the best way to say it.

And language divides. Gamification and game are allowed to split in meaning. Menu, minute, and minutiae all have the same root, but no one freaks out and claims that menus shouldn't be large because it's root meant "small" for millenia.

Ruzinus:
And language divides. Gamification and game are allowed to split in meaning. Menu, minute, and minutiae all have the same root, but no one freaks out and claims that menus shouldn't be large because it's root meant "small" for millenia.

I suppose... but if you X-ify something, you are adding the qualities of X to it. If someone use the word smallify, I would certainly assume they meant to make something smaller. Gamification is sold to people that want things to be more like games. It is implied that if things are more like games, they will be perceived as fun. If there's any disconnect in the meaning of that word, it's in the minds of the ones selling it, not the ones buying it.

Kian2:

Bostur:

I think the definition of games should be this: A game is a session of play with rules and goals that is designed to entertain and delight a perspective player or players.

I would add "With criteria for success or failure". It doesn't have to be win/loss conditions, but some kind of distinction between doing well or not doing so well.

"Games are unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle" already includes all those additions. "Obstacles" are rules and goals. Surpassing those obstacles implies success, failing to do it implies failure. If you are volunteering to tackle these rules and goals, you must find something worthwhile in doing them, thus covering any possible genre, from horror games to more traditionally 'fun' experiences.

I think the "unnecessary obstacles" definition is too broad. If I volunteer at Habitats for Humanity, I'm creating unnecessary obstacles in my goal of going from work to couch to bed, but I don't think that anyone would describe it as a game. I think Bostur's definition is much more focused.

The "session of play" is important because it separates what you normally do with the act of playing the game, an activity with separate rules and goals. "Success and failure" is important because you need some sort of metric to judge how far you are from your goal. The only thing I have a problem with is the word "delight". "Entertain" is fine, because it lacks the happy connotations, but still implies enjoyment; I know people who would be entertained by a horror movie, but not delighted.

On a semi-related note, I think that Minecraft does count as a game, using our definition. There are sessions of play, rules (the games physics and AI), but also some goals. They are very broad, but they are described right in the world type: Survive or Create. If you survive in a Survival world, you have achieved success, and if you create something in Creative, you have also achieved success.

So correct me if I'm wrong, but did someone make "Cow Clicker" again, but this time do it NOT as a joke?

Jeremy Monken:

Ruzinus:
And language divides. Gamification and game are allowed to split in meaning. Menu, minute, and minutiae all have the same root, but no one freaks out and claims that menus shouldn't be large because it's root meant "small" for millenia.

I suppose... but if you X-ify something, you are adding the qualities of X to it. If someone use the word smallify, I would certainly assume they meant to make something smaller. Gamification is sold to people that want things to be more like games. It is implied that if things are more like games, they will be perceived as fun. If there's any disconnect in the meaning of that word, it's in the minds of the ones selling it, not the ones buying it.

"Adding qualities of X"... or perhaps it'd be better to say "aspects" of X is right on the nose for gamification right now. Meaningless points and economies have been an aspect of games since at least Monopoly... probably longer, probably since the first time someone used chips instead of money for poker. Maybe they added up points for whatever lost games they played with dice in ancient Egypt.

Gamification doesn't have to actually makes things into games. I could glue feathers to something and say I birdified it and it'd be a weird as hell thing to do, but people would mostly understand the words I was saying.

Ruzinus:
I could glue feathers to something and say I birdified it and it'd be a weird as hell thing to do, but people would mostly understand the words I was saying.

I guess the real question is: Would birdification be a game or just a fun activity?

Ruzinus:
The button isn't the game... the challenge to say "thank you," is.

If I challenge you to go through a whole day speaking only in song titles, is that not a game? It's a game you probably won't participate in, but it sure sounds like a game.

This exactly. People saying that the Thank You Game isn't a game seem to be confusing the term game with video game.

I would say that the Thank You Game isn't a video game, because the primary mechanic of the game occurs outside of an electronic interface. Same thing with things that have been gamified. But seeing how many times you can say "thank you" and then click a button on a web page is just as much of a "game" as Call of Duty is.

Dastardly:

Jeremy Monken:
I have an issue with this philosophy. It says nothing about the obstacles being enjoyable. It implies that simulating a hardship you choose to engage in makes something a game. By that definition, not getting my oil changed so I can deal with car repairs in the future is a game. Maybe that is a game, but it certainly doesn't sound very enjoyable.

Ehhhh... By that logic, I don't have to recognize any video game I personally don't enjoy as "a game." There are many things I enjoy that other people might not understand as "enjoyable."

I am almost always able to count on my good buddy Dastardly to chime in on these topics! Sweet! ;) Let the bro-mance begin!

Raph Koster defined "game" once as "Playing a game is the act of solving statistically varied challenge situations presented by an opponent who may or may not be algorithmic within a framework that is a defined systemic model." Now that being said I suppose I would add, specifically, video games and the fundamental system structure required to fashion an executable program with a defined beginning and end.

If I add those couple words to it, then it would make sense... in that a software product must "run" as it where, to be sold as software. Now when we look at this "button", it rides on a preexisting framework, and really is nothing more than a loop counter. So I am thinking, as a video game, as software, it's not really much of anything on it's own.

It is a delivery system though... but for what?

What has occurred here though? In one sense in it's ontology, it is a game, or at least looks like one. Looking a little further to define how it is a game with an epistemology, it crumbles. I'm sure we can figure out the issue though as we move forward.

Over the last few years, gamification initiatives have been calling anything and everything a game. Rudimentary economies in the form of tickets, challenges and achievements that earn you additional points ... systems like these have been put in place in schools and businesses all over the world to make something boring seem fun

"Gamification" is extremely problematic, and I hate it more than most, but the problem isn't how they're using the word "game." They are games. The tack on reward structures to existing obstacles in order to distract us from the usual tedium of these common tasks. Distraction. Diversion (which in many languages is the word for "entertainment").

It's just that they are bad games. Not because of their simple mechanics, but because they are openly manipulative in how they use those mechanics. They reduce the audience to rats in a maze, caring only for the cheese and not the satisfaction of besting the maze.

(Similarly, The Notebook is a movie. It's just a bad movie. Not because it's ineffective -- I cried like a baby -- but because of how it achieves its effect. It runs down a shopping list of emotional triggers and checks each one off to produce teary eyes.)

May pull a Plinkett on this one and say that it (Notebook) is very "efficient" at what it does.

Part n' parcel of the issue that I see coming up over and over again as it relates to games, art games, social games, persuasive games, and by that token movie analogies are the reliance upon ludology and often times an ontological ludology (similar to narratology).

Where I myself run a ground "it is not a game" is in applying systems logic, as found in game theory and often times overlooking the game study (ludology).

Folk who are not particularly "systems" people frame positions from ludology or narratology about as regular as an atomic clock. Many many of the proponents of these "games" hold degrees certainly... almost without fail... liberal arts degrees.

Example 1)

As a quick note to what this implies, chess is an explicitly strongly interactive (with respect to it's systems), that offers itself easily to a games theory definition as to it's status as a "game in theory and practice" in very fundamental and simple language. It is implicitly "weakly interactive with respect to the opponent".

Success in chess begins with a strong understanding of the rules of the game, far more than the disposition of my opponent. While that may be a factor mono-a-mono, clearly a computer "chess" system is one tough hombre' and couldn't give a metaphysical shit less about who I am.

Example 2)

Now I kick a ball around and the dog chases it, dog brings it back, and we start playing "keep away" from each other. There is certainly "play" involved, it is interactive physically perhaps even emotionally... (playing with a happy dog is very authentic), but the "game" aspect is demonstrably "weakly" interactive.

So playing ball with the dog is implicitly weakly interactive with respect to the game system, but explicitly strongly interactive between the opponents.

This activity fails "game in theory and practice". This is due to the game offering some serious challenges if I were to really attempt to quantify a winner or looser in a game that has no discernible structure or rule set. I suppose one could say "everyone, everything" wins, if fun-entertainment was had.

Now that said is it not easier to simply refer to "playing with the dog" as "playing with the dog".

What is the game though? What facilitated the play?

The ball.

A ball is not a game. It's a tool in which games/play are facilitated.

Does it hold then that the "button" is not a game. Yet a tool in which a game is being played?

I think so.

_____

It might just be that I feel you're too protective over the word "game," like those people who try to say that That's My Boy "isn't a movie," because of how awful a movie it is. Or it might just be that I'm not sure about how you're drawing this distinction.

The Avengers is a great, fun, entertaining movie. The Notebook is a transparent, manipulative crap-fest of a movie. But both are movies. They're intended to grab my attention for a couple hours and draw some emotional reaction from me. A movie's goal is to get me to enjoy itself.

Now, you know what isn't a movie? A commercial. It uses the same audiovisual medium, but its entire purpose is to get me to want something (and eventually buy it). A commercial's goal is to get me to enjoy something other than itself.

Same page different explanations. The movie is the strongly interactive element, it has structure, a beginning and an end. It's complete... for better or for worse as it is, for what it is.

A commercial... is a ball.

And then there are grey areas. How about educational movies (like Planet Earth), designed to "sell" something immaterial and free (knowledge, enjoyment of nature, environmental awareness)? Or movies that have a clear political message underneath the plot? Or how most 80's kids cartoons were really just a commercial for the toys, but fleshed out into a show -- which is it: good commercial, or bad show?

As I have gotten older, and my sanity and patients have been eroded away by the Alzheimer, I tend to go with "there is some grey area in this". Pretty much just leaving it at that. Maybe a cost benefit analysis, simply looking at the trade offs of the good and it's associated bad. Star Ship troopers has some pretty strong political messages in it... but the movie is also entertaining for what it is... it's "layers" of complexity... or simplicity are creative, and creativity "executed well" is (to me) "Creative".

That grey area is where I see most "gamified" experiences. There is clearly an ulterior motive -- to get you to enjoy work, or to enjoy cleaning, or to enjoy surgery or something -- but people can also enjoy the reward structure itself. To me, they are games being used badly.

As I said, same page. It's not a game, it's a tool. How a tool is used is a reflection of the person using it... not the tool itself.

As for this one: Push button, receive warm fuzzies. Boring, crappy game trying to manipulate people into feigning gratitude at each other? The case could be made. Most games are based on a "push button, receive widget" structure. Or we could argue that, because it's only goal is to promote something outside itself, it is "using game mechanics to manipulate people," and as such is not a game. (I'm more in the latter camp, myself. It uses the parts from a game, but it doesn't use them as a game.)

But when we say "It's not a game," it's not because of how it's played or how it looks. It's because of how it's used.

I actually don't see a mechanic in this particular "button". Such a thing is so thinly implicit that it could just as well be facilitated with a chain letter... which for all practical purposes, that IS what THIS is. A new spin on the chain letter.

So if the button isn't a game, but just a tool... what is the real game being played?

I agree that this "Thank You" button isn't a game. To me, a game is an unnecessary obstacle that one chooses to surpass. An obstacle that tests you and competes against you. This obstacle can be anything from a series of floating platforms, a boss fight, a high score or even another player. I'm not just talking video games, either; I'm referring to sports or athletic competitions, too. However, there is no test, no competition, to this dumb button. It would be a game if it was "type out 'Thank You' as many times as you can within a minute" or "press this button as many times as you can within 30 seconds". I'm not saying that it would be fun, but it would be a game.

I'm all for thanking people, but this just isn't a game. Not to me, at least.

Major_Tom:
I have a better game, let's count Oprah's photos on that page you linked. I counted 7. Even Chairman Mao wouldn't have had that many.

Bah I hate that woman... and on the topic of hate...

OT: I didn't like that article because there was not enough hate and discontent for the f-ing button...

mfeff:
Raph Koster defined "game" once as "Playing a game is the act of solving statistically varied challenge situations presented by an opponent who may or may not be algorithmic within a framework that is a defined systemic model." Now that being said I suppose I would add, specifically, video games and the fundamental system structure required to fashion an executable program with a defined beginning and end.

If I add those couple words to it, then it would make sense... in that a software product must "run" as it where, to be sold as software. Now when we look at this "button", it rides on a preexisting framework, and really is nothing more than a loop counter. So I am thinking, as a video game, as software, it's not really much of anything on it's own.

Big fan of Raph Koster's stuff. Basically all he's saying here is that games require opposition, goals, and rules, and that the opposition may or may not have free agency (as to include human and automated opponents). And I can agree with all of that. The challenge comes in just how esoteric we allow interpretations of some of these terms to get.

When I play 1-on-1 basketball against someone, let's say to 10 points, it's clearly a game. There is opposition, and there are rules and goals. But if, say, I choose to play basketball by myself to 10 points... what now?

One might say there's no opposition. Another might say that the opposition is between my Skill and the Forces resisting it -- gravity, exhaustion, limits to my concentration or hand-eye coordination. Basically, physical and mental calisthenics (You are your own resistance/opposition). What's more, forces like gravity have predictable rules, and my goal is clearly to put ball in hoop.

Playing Solitaire makes the deck, or perhaps the notion of "probability," your opponent. If probability can be an opponent, why not gravity? See where they line can get cloudy? (As an aside, both gravity and probability -- or even the concept of "a deck of playing cards" -- are "existing frameworks" these games are built upon, so I'm not sure how much weight that particular nugget carries.)

Folk who are not particularly "systems" people frame positions from ludology or narratology about as regular as an atomic clock. Many many of the proponents of these "games" hold degrees certainly... almost without fail... liberal arts degrees.

Similarly, "systems" people can often overlook intent. Two identical mechanical experiences can differ greatly in their intent, and I feel that can greatly shape whether or not the system holds a particular label... but that being said, it can also introduce a grey area (which "systems people" tend not to like).

If I take an experience that is profoundly not a game, but I make it a game through my own intent, is it? If I take something that is definitely a game, and I use it with some other intent, does that remove its "gameness?"

Now I kick a ball around and the dog chases it, dog brings it back, and we start playing "keep away" from each other. ...

This activity fails "game in theory and practice". This is due to the game offering some serious challenges if I were to really attempt to quantify a winner or looser in a game that has no discernible structure or rule set. I suppose one could say "everyone, everything" wins, if fun-entertainment was had.

Now that said is it not easier to simply refer to "playing with the dog" as "playing with the dog".

I think "fetch" can often become an example of "game emerging from play." Play that has no 'point' is rarely classified as a game... but it also rarely stays that way. Goals and structure tend to emerge during the course of play.

You throw the ball, the dog brings it back, and you think, "Nah, too easy." So now, you throw it further, or around a corner or something. Or you do the old "pretend to throw, hide it behind your back" trick. Your goal just became to fool the dog, and his goal is not to be fooled.

(In a sense, it's a game, but you've taken on the role of the automated opposition, rather than the player-challenger. You're the rules.)

And coming back to the "playing with," we don't want to bog ourselves down in terminology. Most folks I know call it 'playing Fetch,' too. It's just we don't usually say, "I'm playing Fetch with the dog" all in one sentence. We tend to emphasize either the game (We're playing Fetch) or the company (I'm playing with the dog).

What is the game though? What facilitated the play?

The ball.

A ball is not a game. It's a tool in which games/play are facilitated.

Does it hold then that the "button" is not a game. Yet a tool in which a game is being played?

I think so.

I agree completely. But no one has, to my knowledge, posited that the button is the game. There's a clear recognition that the button is the tool on which the game is played. Better to attack this would-be game based on the activity, not the interface.

Same page different explanations. The movie is the strongly interactive element, it has structure, a beginning and an end. It's complete... for better or for worse as it is, for what it is.

A commercial... is a ball.

There we go: We're back to one of the major differences being intent. If the "goal" portion of our trinity (opposition-rule-goal) is something outside the experience, we might be looking at a commercial... or we might be talking about a prize... and that means we have to dig deeper to draw that distinction. Or someone does, 'cuz I'm not doing it right now.

As I said, same page. It's not a game, it's a tool. How a tool is used is a reflection of the person using it... not the tool itself.

But part of the "gameness" of an experience may just be tied to intent. The creator's intent, the player's intent, it can play a huge role.

While I might look at the button and think, "Not a game," someone else might say, "The opposition is my own self-preoccupation, the rules are 'hit the button,' and the goal is to be one of the people that did." Another person might think the goal is to see how many people we can get to hit the button.

I actually don't see a mechanic in this particular "button". Such a thing is so thinly implicit that it could just as well be facilitated with a chain letter... which for all practical purposes, that IS what THIS is. A new spin on the chain letter.

So if the button isn't a game, but just a tool... what is the real game being played?

The button is a tool in a game, and the game is a tool in attempted social manipulation. Maybe it's an attempt to get people to think about gratitude... maybe it's an attempt to get people to simulate gratitude... maybe it's just there to allow people to feel they've met their 'gratitude quota' by proxy.

All I'm saying is that we're better off placing this in its own category of (bad) games than we are trying to argue that it is not a game. For all its ridiculousness, "gamification" has a point -- with the right intent, a person can turn nearly anything into some kind of game.

The reason "gamified" things bother me isn't because they somehow sully the good name of gaming by taking up the label of "game." If I take someone's hunting rifle and I use it to commit a crime, I haven't made it "not a gun." I've just misused it.

Gamification misuses gaming, in my opinion. It uses gaming to manipulate a person's behavior for someone else's reasons. To me, that is a more worthy direction to take this, as it puts the focus on what its results rather than its structure.

hentropy:
I personally don't think anyone should be able to tell anyone else what a game is.

I like this idea. We shouldn't need unnecessarily restrictive so-called "definitions" for the words we use. Now, excuse me while I turn on my toilet roll so I can spend some time writing my turnips.

Dastardly:

mfeff:
snip.

Big fan of Raph Koster's stuff. Basically all he's saying here is that games require opposition, goals, and rules, and that the opposition may or may not have free agency (as to include human and automated opponents). And I can agree with all of that. The challenge comes in just how esoteric we allow interpretations of some of these terms to get.

I knew you wouldn't let me down! Good show ole' bean!

Fan of Raph as well... (tip of the hat for Ultima Online), and I like your assessment of his definition. As far as esoteric, what I attempted to do with the Chess analog was too begin a dialog that states that as far as:

Explicitly strongly interactive game systems exhibit a "system" that entails that all rules are demonstrably present in the structural framing of the product/itself.

That is to say that all the rules of chess must be present in the codified structure of the program. If we where to program a chess game, all the rules would have to be sufficiently represented. If we leave out or modify rules, it's no longer chess.

While chess leverages a strong system, it's opponent structure is implicitly weak to the point of near irrelevancy. We may react to an opponent, but that reaction is in opposition to the field not necessarily the opponent. The optimum response is not opponent driven, it is system driven to the field of play. That is to say that the best chess game one could play, is played arithmetically. As you mentioned, one is calculating the maze, not another rat for the cheese.

I may go a step further and state that a strong systems game has a finite amount of "games" as may be "played" that is calculable. There is a limit to the number of Chess games that may ever be played. Something like 10 e 120 games... most of which are fail, 10 e 100 ish are potentially solutions.

-----

hentropy:

The good thing about a game is that it has no walls. Thing about the word in general, away from video games, and anyone with a small child could tell you that literally anything can be a game. Even things that aren't games to adults, like clean-up or cooking. So what's a video game? Anything like that that you interact with in some kind of video format.

Going to pick on hentropy real quick... "the good thing about a game is that it has no walls."

Ever play Final Fantasy 13? More walls than the movie "The Wall".

As I mentioned above, chess is decidedly a game, and it is demonstrably finite as to any game played, with respect to any movement of any of the pieces.

Clearly it is a box with 4 walls. Now one could make a "game" out of just about anything, but the intent would not be a codified game (or to codify a game), it would be something "other" than a game. Making it structurally less game (as theory) and more game (as study). The game is then a "device", "tool", "toy", in which the "other" thing happens.

My email is not a "game". It's email. If I write a thank you letter to someone, it's a thank you letter to someone. Where is the game?

Clearly it is "outside" of the context of the email.

The button in question here... has the same issue. Sure, one could "interpret" it's "game" aspects... but... internally, within it's own code structure, none of that "interpretation" would be present.

I could not simply reverse engineer "the button", and discern the "point" of the game. I would have to be told outside of the context of "what it is", as to "it's point".

Thus, it's not explicitly a game. It's a tool that requires extraneous information in which to define it's "game" aspects. That makes it as a system "weakly interactive". As ludology, perhaps strongly interactive. It is akin to narratology because it needs a substantial amount of "context" in which it would be defined as "a game".

The game can't tell you. Cause it's not in the game. Because it's not a game. The "game" is everything but "the game or the button" whatever they want to call it.

----

When I play 1-on-1 basketball against someone, let's say to 10 points, it's clearly a game. There is opposition, and there are rules and goals. But if, say, I choose to play basketball by myself to 10 points... what now?

One might say there's no opposition. Another might say that the opposition is between my Skill and the Forces resisting it -- gravity, exhaustion, limits to my concentration or hand-eye coordination. Basically, physical and mental calisthenics (You are your own resistance/opposition). What's more, forces like gravity have predictable rules, and my goal is clearly to put ball in hoop.

I agree with all this. So much in fact that what you have described is potentially codify-able in an interactive simulation. I wouldn't have a problem with calling such a systematized product a game. However, until it has been systematized, it is (to me) a narrative of what "could be", not "what is".

I would propose simply 2 sliding scales, one of system interactivity, one of self referential narrative. As the game becomes more systematized and the interactivity falls onto calculation the reliance on "contextual" narrative falls away. Let's say, it transitions from meta-esoteric-transcendental to a more formed structural system (gives rise to internal context and consistency). This helps us get away from wallowing in the metaphysical or metastructural (is that even a word?).

Playing Solitaire makes the deck, or perhaps the notion of "probability," your opponent. If probability can be an opponent, why not gravity? See where they line can get cloudy? (As an aside, both gravity and probability -- or even the concept of "a deck of playing cards" -- are "existing frameworks" these games are built upon, so I'm not sure how much weight that particular nugget carries.)

Again though in a game of Solitaire there is a finite result of the number of games that could ever be played. It's deterministic, the probability is a hidden factor from the agency interacting with the game structure. It's not random in play (only in the shuffle - and that is probably debatable), the player just doesn't have access to the what I call "total systems knowledge". It's uncertainty in the agencies approach to a finite system's problem.

A maze looks like a maze from the top down. 1st person... it's a totally different ball game. That is inconsequential to the maze though.

Probably relate it to an old problem with Artificial Intelligence, in that the computer opponent is often structured to have complete access to everything in the field, and as such, is not hindered by the myriad unknowns.

When player agency circumvents this "fog of war", it is often referred to as "cheating". It has diminished the systems side in exchange for a narrative approach by the agency. I'm simply proposing that sliding the scale all the way over to narrative, makes the system's transparent to the point of not existing. That is, it stop's "being" a game, and starts "being" something else... lets say... "a tool"... a narrative game emerges that is existential to the agency rather than to the tool. It's a context shift.

Folk who are not particularly "systems" people frame positions from ludology or narratology about as regular as an atomic clock. Many many of the proponents of these "games" hold degrees certainly... almost without fail... liberal arts degrees.

Similarly, "systems" people can often overlook intent. Two identical mechanical experiences can differ greatly in their intent, and I feel that can greatly shape whether or not the system holds a particular label... but that being said, it can also introduce a grey area (which "systems people" tend not to like).

If I take an experience that is profoundly not a game, but I make it a game through my own intent, is it? If I take something that is definitely a game, and I use it with some other intent, does that remove its "gameness?"

Again, I certainly agree... I miss this all the time! Running down framing of various people and discerning how and why they believe thus and such is always a concerted effort. That being said if and when I do work on projects I find it valuable to have people from different perspectives offer their input on the project. It's an old philosophical problem, figuring out "intent" and conversely how something will be "perceived". As with anything though, intent must be met with solid work and delivery. I don't think anyone ever engages in, let's say school, with the intent of failure... yet failure does happen.

Heck, I think if I were to discuss this any further I would be waxing vainly on "risk -assessment and management". ;)

Sadly I am the asshole who wants focus groups, product samples, rapid prototyping... I hate unknowns... especially when loot is on the line.

(In a sense, it's a game, but you've taken on the role of the automated opposition, rather than the player-challenger. You're the rules.)

I do think I have been working around that idea some above and in the previous post, as the codified rule structure becomes or is non-existence, the "game" shifts contextually/existentially to the player agency. I would just use the term "pretend".

And coming back to the "playing with," we don't want to bog ourselves down in terminology. Most folks I know call it 'playing Fetch,' too. It's just we don't usually say, "I'm playing Fetch with the dog" all in one sentence. We tend to emphasize either the game (We're playing Fetch) or the company (I'm playing with the dog).

I think the dog understands interactivity, but not necessarily the game "fetch", the person does... but the person is also in a "pretend" mode when it comes to the nature of the game being played. I don't know how to ask the dog if it understands what a game is. It's just interacting with the field, one being modified by the player. So in that sense, one is not only the rules, but the computation machine keeping the rules, making all the decisions, deciding what is fair and not... thus, there is no structure outside of self reference. Which sounds an awful lot like "pretend"... smirk... as in pretending it's a game.

I agree completely. But no one has, to my knowledge, posited that the button is the game. There's a clear recognition that the button is the tool on which the game is played. Better to attack this would-be game based on the activity, not the interface.

That's just it though, one has to pretend it's a game, because the button cannot tell you in the course of it's nature. Kinda liking this... wonder how much traction I can get off it...

As I said, same page. It's not a game, it's a tool. How a tool is used is a reflection of the person using it... not the tool itself.

But part of the "gameness" of an experience may just be tied to intent. The creator's intent, the player's intent, it can play a huge role.

While I might look at the button and think, "Not a game," someone else might say, "The opposition is my own self-preoccupation, the rules are 'hit the button,' and the goal is to be one of the people that did." Another person might think the goal is to see how many people we can get to hit the button.

Yeah, but that is just it though. That is existential to the player agency as to it's purpose and it's merit as a game. The button, as codified, cannot nor could ever "tell" us this upon an examination. Thus the game, is the one that the player is concocting in the player's own mind, the button, a tool, just facilitates that internalized "what if". I suppose it is an interesting approach to the chain letter. I also question how internalized that "what if" was before the "intent" of the game was written out to the side of the button.

It's like a lot of nonsense, it needs a philosophy paper to describe what it is... because what it is... is a button. The game, is the philosophy paper next to the button and the imagination of the participant that is stirred by the paper.

The button is a tool in a game, and the game is a tool in attempted social manipulation. Maybe it's an attempt to get people to think about gratitude... maybe it's an attempt to get people to simulate gratitude... maybe it's just there to allow people to feel they've met their 'gratitude quota' by proxy.

I have no idea either... that's that whole "intent" aspect which is very difficult to discern especially when the creator is "at liberty" to change what they say at any given moment to suit the breeze. See: Cheating.

All I'm saying is that we're better off placing this in its own category of (bad) games than we are trying to argue that it is not a game. For all its ridiculousness, "gamification" has a point -- with the right intent, a person can turn nearly anything into some kind of game.

The reason "gamified" things bother me isn't because they somehow sully the good name of gaming by taking up the label of "game." If I take someone's hunting rifle and I use it to commit a crime, I haven't made it "not a gun." I've just misused it.

Gamification misuses gaming, in my opinion. It uses gaming to manipulate a person's behavior for someone else's reasons. To me, that is a more worthy direction to take this, as it puts the focus on what its results rather than its structure.

I agree again, although I am of the mind to say it doesn't need it's own category... because (for me) it clearly has not demonstrated sufficiently "anything" that merit's it as "a game". To call it a bad game, is still calling it a game. It's no more a game than my email is a game.

It's a tool, with a philosophy paper tossed next to it. I suspect it data mines and all sorts of unseemly rubbish.

It's no more a game than some software one would write to phish for peoples account information. I mean, there is a game being played... more like a confidence trick... but it's (the button) is not a game.

I mean... what's wrong with calling shit "fraud"? Whatever happened to that word? ;)

All I'm going to add is I've dabbled with Godfather: Five Families on yahoo, until I realised the hundreds of dollars you'd have to invest to get anywhere, and it just keeps on harrassing you.

Personally I hate any game where you can gain advantages just by throwing cash at the game, as it reduces that game to the crushing inevitability of real life, where the rich get all the breaks, and if you do catch a few breaks and start advancing, don't get noticed or someone powerful will use their advantages to smack you back down where they feel you belong.

Bleak, but that's exactly what I don't want reminding of in game, I want to forget it all and imagine that skill would have a part to play in my success.

EDIT: also, the idea that Oprah designed this game for the site...hmm.. closer to the truth that she said 'how about a button on the site?' and someone else retro-created all the BS surrounding it?

Lastly, how about just actually saying 'thank you' to people who help you or deserve it instead? It'll do a fuckload more good for the world than pressing a button.

That or press the button on that other site that donates rice to the starving for each click. Not the one that incrementally makes Oprah even more rich.

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