Can you come up with a definition that includes all games?

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Boogy32

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#1  Edited By Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

Recently someone, yet again, made the claim that Telltale's products weren't actual games without really considering how to define a game. I thought we couldn't rule Telltale's products out of the games category without having a precise definition of a game, so I asked him for a definition of a game that covered everything that he thought were games. Now the OP didn't really provide me with such a definition, but someone else tried. After talking a bit, someone suggested that I made a forum post so that we can answer this question, so here's me, making a forum post, so that we can answer this question.

So let's try to come up with a specific definition. The rules are simple:

  1. The definition itself has to be short as possible (try to avoid long sentences please, but an explanation below the definition is welcome)
  2. It has to cover everything that you consider a game
  3. It has to rule out everything that you don't consider a game
  4. Every viewpoint is valid, and everyone are welcome to join in the discussion

Whenever someone comes up with a definition, we should try to disprove it, either by coming up with something that is considered a game that doesn't fit his definition, OR, something that is not considered a game, but actually does fit his definition. If no one can do that, the author of the definition wins!

And remember folks, let's try to be as open as possible to different viewpoints here.

The newest proposed definition is:

A game is a system comprised of rules, that govern the interaction among players and/or between the system itself. The existence of the game itself cannot be justified by the necessity of everyday life, while allowing the player(s) of the game, to quit at any given time.

Any newcomers to this thread are welcome to comment on this definition, and join in the discussion of the inevitable counterargument.

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Lulu_Lulu

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#2 Lulu_Lulu
Member since 2013 • 19564 Posts

That was Me ! :)

I'm the only one whos been really vocal about it.

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thehig1

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#3 thehig1
Member since 2014 • 7486 Posts

@Lulu_Lulu: it was me who was arguing the other side in that thread

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Lulu_Lulu

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#4 Lulu_Lulu
Member since 2013 • 19564 Posts

@thehig1

Excellent.... Now all we Need is Mastermetal and the Gang is complete ! :p

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Grieverr

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#5 Grieverr
Member since 2002 • 2835 Posts

At it's broadest sense, a video game is a game played on a display of some sort (tv, phone, tablet, VR goggles).

Telltale games are games because they are played on a display and the main goal is to entertain.

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Boogy32

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#6 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@Grieverr:
When you say "play" I assume that you mean, that there is some sort of interaction going on. You also raise the point that they need to entertain. Do you mean that is has to be "for fun" as in "not serious", or do you mean that it just has to burn away some time for the player?
Would you consider Second Life a game then? Most people just consider it a "virtual world" and not really a game. But Second Life has interaction, and it also has the entertain part.
What about Starcraft 2? When someone plays it on a professional level, it can hardly be just "for fun". There's money involved, and the prestige of being the best. But we still consider Starcraft 2 a game right?

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Lulu_Lulu

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#7 Lulu_Lulu
Member since 2013 • 19564 Posts

@Grieverr

He said a game... Not just a video game....

Video Games maybe new-ish but Games in general have been around for quite a while, people have been trying to define them since the 1800s.

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Boogy32

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#8 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@Lulu_Lulu:
Well it wasn't you this time, but you're certainly welcome to join in the discussion. :)

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Lulu_Lulu

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#9 Lulu_Lulu
Member since 2013 • 19564 Posts

@Boogy32

Thats a Shame... I thought I was finaly getting some recognition :(

Anyway I have some reservations, I don't feel comfortable contributing and until I have expanded my gaming knowledge.... I still have to get around to Strategy Games.

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wiouds

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#10 wiouds
Member since 2004 • 6233 Posts

I define games as where there a focus on practical problem solving. Be it mental or physical

How do I score more points that the other player(s)?

How do I get through these enemies?

How should I level up my character?

What I see as iffy is when it is just place items at location to get with problems.

What I do not consider to be part of the game is dialog branches that does not ting to the game play, and QTE.

To me Taletell is falling more and more into the interactive story telling and less game.

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Lulu_Lulu

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#11 Lulu_Lulu
Member since 2013 • 19564 Posts

@wiouds

Would you believe me If I told you some games don't have gameplay ? :p

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Grieverr

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#12 Grieverr
Member since 2002 • 2835 Posts

@Boogy32 said:

@Grieverr:

When you say "play" I assume that you mean, that there is some sort of interaction going on. You also raise the point that they need to entertain. Do you mean that is has to be "for fun" as in "not serious", or do you mean that it just has to burn away some time for the player?

Would you consider Second Life a game then? Most people just consider it a "virtual world" and not really a game. But Second Life has interaction, and it also has the entertain part.

What about Starcraft 2? When someone plays it on a professional level, it can hardly be just "for fun". There's money involved, and the prestige of being the best. But we still consider Starcraft 2 a game right?

Yes, I do mean there is some interaction, or input, on the part of the player.

I knew the entertain part would be asked in regards to competitive gaming. I meant it more as in burning away time, as you put it. Competitive gaming is a by-product of the game and the players. It is possible to play Starcraft and not be a professional.

I've never played or seen Second Life, but my understanding of it is that you interact with this game on a display. So, yes, it is a game. That people can turn the game into something else for themselves is a different conversation.

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mastermetal777

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#13 mastermetal777
Member since 2009 • 3236 Posts

Video games are a form of interactive entertainment where players manipulate images on a computer screen to reach a goal; either obstacle or narrative-based (often both). That's as basic and all encompassing as you can get.

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wiouds

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#14  Edited By wiouds
Member since 2004 • 6233 Posts

@Grieverr said:

@Boogy32 said:

@Grieverr:

When you say "play" I assume that you mean, that there is some sort of interaction going on. You also raise the point that they need to entertain. Do you mean that is has to be "for fun" as in "not serious", or do you mean that it just has to burn away some time for the player?

Would you consider Second Life a game then? Most people just consider it a "virtual world" and not really a game. But Second Life has interaction, and it also has the entertain part.

What about Starcraft 2? When someone plays it on a professional level, it can hardly be just "for fun". There's money involved, and the prestige of being the best. But we still consider Starcraft 2 a game right?

Yes, I do mean there is some interaction, or input, on the part of the player.

I knew the entertain part would be asked in regards to competitive gaming. I meant it more as in burning away time, as you put it. Competitive gaming is a by-product of the game and the players. It is possible to play Starcraft and not be a professional.

I've never played or seen Second Life, but my understanding of it is that you interact with this game on a display. So, yes, it is a game. That people can turn the game into something else for themselves is a different conversation.

I do not think being interactive narrow as enough for something to be called a game since being interactive is not enough for something to have game play. A game must have game play to be a game.

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wiouds

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#15  Edited By wiouds
Member since 2004 • 6233 Posts

@mastermetal777 said:

Video games are a form of interactive entertainment where players manipulate images on a computer screen to reach a goal; either obstacle or narrative-based (often both). That's as basic and all encompassing as you can get.

Being narrative-based is not a game.

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#16 Lulu_Lulu
Member since 2013 • 19564 Posts

@Grieverr

Actually 2nd Life is a Simulation.... Its like Facebook had Sex with the Matrix and had a child together.

2nd Life isn't any more of a game than Facebook is.

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Boogy32

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#17 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@Grieverr:

Do you mean that you think the game turns into something else when you play it competitively? I've always thought of games as these static things that don't really change, regardless of what your intent with it is.
Poker is still a game whether or not you play for money, however the game would not be as interesting if you didn't play for anything.

But I do think the "intent" part of your argument could fit into a final definition of a game.

I'll make a mental note of the intent of the player and reflect about it.

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#18  Edited By Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@mastermetal777:

When Minecraft first came out, there was no win-state in the game. You could of cause argue and say that you made a personal goal. Your personal goal was to build a very long railroad, but that's not really part of the game is it? That's part of your fantasy, but we still consider Minecraft to be a game right?

I'd argue and say that Minecraft is an example of a game without a goal.

I would also like to point out that I think you are correct by saying that they don't have to have a narrative either. Pong for example has no narrative.

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Quit975

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#19  Edited By Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts

OK, my turn:

if you're asking about a game, I would lend my idea from games' theory and say that a game is a series of interactions (be it between people or between a player and objects) that is governed by a set of rules. So, in other words, if there are interactions that are goverened by rules, you have yourself a game. And it would apply to a game of tag as well as to a computer game.

If you're asking about a definition of a computer game, it would be what I just said + interaction is held via electronic means =)

And I agree - narrative, goals, end-game conditions - these are just options and are not essential to create a game

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Grieverr

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#20  Edited By Grieverr
Member since 2002 • 2835 Posts

@Lulu_Lulu: Again, I've never even seen 2nd Life, so I can't speak to it. But I thought it was like PS Home where you have an avatar and locations and activities.

@Boogy32 said:

@Grieverr:

Do you mean that you think the game turns into something else when you play it competitively? I've always thought of games as these static things that don't really change, regardless of what your intent with it is.

Poker is still a game whether or not you play for money...

No, the game stays the same. Playing for leisure or competition doesn't change the game, just the way the players interact with it, or what they get out of it.

Think of a hot dog eating contest. The hot dog doesn't change, but how many or how fast it gets consumed does. But it's still a hot dog. Just like poker. I don't like to gamble, so I play for fun (or for pennies). I still enjoy it and am not changing the game of poker.

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Grieverr

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#21 Grieverr
Member since 2002 • 2835 Posts
@quit975 said:

OK, my turn:

...a game is a series of interactions (be it between people or between a player and objects) that is governed by a set of rules.

Perfect! That is exactly what I was trying to convey.

Although, I still think "entertainment" needs to be in there somewhere. My interactions at work, for example, are governed by a set of rules. Yet, I wouldn't call my job a game.

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#22  Edited By mastermetal777
Member since 2009 • 3236 Posts

@Boogy32: I just gave the two most common objectives for a game and usually it's one or the other in many cases. And even though Minecraft has no predetermined goal, it allows players to make a goal for themselves, so it still sort of applies because the tools allow those goals to happen.

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#23 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@Grieverr:

Then we agree that your original definition is too broad, otherwise we let in such dregs as Second Life into the games fold?

But of cause, if you narrow it down, you run the risk of freezing some games out. It's a tough one to describe. :)

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Boogy32

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#24 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@quit975:

Golden star for you. Having a set of rules is indeed a criteria for a game, that we simply must have. There are no games without rules.

What about traffic though? Traffic is a set of interactions, that are governed by rules, but we don't call traffic a game. Your definition is too broad. :)

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Quit975

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#25  Edited By Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts
@Grieverr said:

Although, I still think "entertainment" needs to be in there somewhere. My interactions at work, for example, are governed by a set of rules. Yet, I wouldn't call my job a game.

Well, not necessarily. Entertainment is not always present when playing a game. In fact, there can be games where entertainment is barely present - remember the Deer Hunter? They were playing the game of russian roulette =) I don't think they were entertained =)

@Boogy32 said:

What about traffic though? Traffic is a set of interactions, that are governed by rules, but we don't call traffic a game. Your definition is too broad. :)

Yep, i thought someone will call this out =) I used the word "rules" as opposed to regulations (this also applies to the "job" example from Grieverr) Obviously we know that there are rules how to behave in a workplace, on a street, but I would call these regulations. Why? Because they are in a way forced on you and not abiding by them will get you in trouble and you'll have to face consequences forseen by law. Rules in a game, on the other hand, apply only within this environment - you are bound by them as long as you play the game, and breaking them will get you disqualified from the game at most. Now, I know i gave the example of russian roulette where players are forced to play it, and then breaking the rules may meet with much more drastic consequences. However, I think this would be going to far into "what if" scenarios (what if you were forced to play a game) and does not affect the overall understanding of a concept of a game.

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#26 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@quit975 said:

Yep, i thought someone will call this out =) I used the word "rules" as opposed to regulations (this also applies to the "job" example from Grieverr) Obviously we know that there are rules how to behave in a workplace, on a street, but I would call these regulations. Why? Because they are in a way forced on you and not abiding by them will get you in trouble and you'll have to face consequences forseen by law. Rules in a game, on the other hand, apply only within this environment - you are bound by them as long as you play the game, and breaking them will get you disqualified from the game at most. Now, I know i gave the example of russian roulette where players are forced to play it, and then breaking the rules may meet with much more drastic consequences. However, I think this would be going to far into "what if" scenarios (what if you were forced to play a game) and does not affect the overall understanding of a concept of a game.

You raise yet another valid point. Consequences.

Some would argue and say that it stops being a game when there's a chance that someone could die. It then turns into something else. Something more sinister. As much as the Romans would like to say that it is, gladiatorial combat is, to me, not a game. The Hunger 'Games' is, to me, not a game. War is definitely, to me, not a game. And as such I don't recognize Russian Roulette as a game either.

So what about boxing? Or a match of taekwondo between two martial artists. These are of cause sport, but so is football and tennis. But aren't football and tennis games as well, with the added chance of someone getting seriously hurt. I mean we see that all the time in a match of soccer. Someone constantly gets hurt, and there are even examples of players dying on the pitch.

@mastermetal777 said:

@Boogy32: I just gave the two most common objectives for a game and usually it's one or the other in many cases. And even though Minecraft has no predetermined goal, it allows players to make a goal for themselves, so it still sort of applies because the tools allow those goals to happen.

I think that's a very good argument, I'm not sure everyone would agree though. I don't think that just because the game allows you to create your own goal, that it becomes the goal of the game itself. It remains your goal, not necessarily my goal.

A specific activity that I used to do a lot, when I was younger, was to log into my WoW account and jump around in Stormwind. There were no specific goals for this activity, however there were rules. I couldn't for example touch the sunlit areas of the ground. I had to stay in the shadows, jumping from shadow to shadow. Wasn't I still playing a game though?

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#27 The_Last_Ride
Member since 2004 • 76371 Posts

A game is if you can interact with it, and you can do that with Walking Dead

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#28  Edited By mastermetal777
Member since 2009 • 3236 Posts

@Boogy32: well if there are certain rules you must follow (every game has them) in order to achieve your goal, then there you go.

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DaX_Factor

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#29  Edited By DaX_Factor
Member since 2003 • 167 Posts

What makes a game is having a winner and/or loser. Interaction is important because if the "player" is not part of the process of deciding the outcome of the so called game, then it is just an interactive story. Now in the case of TWD, if you make the wrong choice or fail to press on a button in a given amount of time, then you lose/ die. Games don't have to be fun (ie. Saw movies) but still there are winners and losers (those who live=winners and those who die=losers).

In short, competition is what makes a game. Anything in life can be made a game if you mind makes it into a competition vs. someone or something (ie. vs. yourself, vs. time, vs. random people who do not even know they are competing with you)

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The_Last_Ride

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#30 The_Last_Ride
Member since 2004 • 76371 Posts

@DaX_Factor said:

What makes a game is having a winner and/or loser. Interaction is important because if the "player" is not part of the process of deciding the outcome of the so called game, then it is just an interactive story. Now in the case of TWD, if you make the wrong choice or fail to press on a button in a given amount of time, then you lose/ die. Games don't have to be fun (ie. Saw movies) but still there are winners and losers (those who live=winners and those who die=losers).

In short, competition is what makes a game. Anything in life can be made a game if you mind makes it into a competition vs. someone or something (ie. vs. yourself, vs. time, vs. random people who do not even know they are competing with you)

a winner or a loser isn't always required seing how singleplayer experiences are different

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#31 DaX_Factor
Member since 2003 • 167 Posts

@The_Last_Ride:

@The_Last_Ride said:

@DaX_Factor said:

What makes a game is having a winner and/or loser. Interaction is important because if the "player" is not part of the process of deciding the outcome of the so called game, then it is just an interactive story. Now in the case of TWD, if you make the wrong choice or fail to press on a button in a given amount of time, then you lose/ die. Games don't have to be fun (ie. Saw movies) but still there are winners and losers (those who live=winners and those who die=losers).

In short, competition is what makes a game. Anything in life can be made a game if you mind makes it into a competition vs. someone or something (ie. vs. yourself, vs. time, vs. random people who do not even know they are competing with you)

a winner or a loser isn't always required seing how singleplayer experiences are different

I tried to think of a single player experience where there is no winner or loser, I can't think of one.

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#32 Lulu_Lulu
Member since 2013 • 19564 Posts

@Grieverr

Well... It actually is like PS Home.... Its got minigames inside it....

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#33 Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts

As for consequences this is not something that would be a good criteria for deciding what is a game and what is not. Consequences (be it losing life, a limb, money or simply just losing the game) are just negative effects of risk the players are taking. And while risk itself is not essential in games, there are thousents of games where risk is the main factor. Maybe in the evening I'll find a great mini-comics that perfectly fits into this argument :)

When it comes to competition it is also optional, just like risk. There are plenty of games where you don't compete - minigames that were mentioned for example. Cleaning windows on eye-toy anyone? Or what about games played at the beginning of some meetings or holidays, that help everyone get to know the group. Everyone provides answers to questions about themselves on sheets of paper and the rest of the group has to guess who provided given answers as well as judge if the answer was true or false. Is it a game? Yes. Is there a competition, are there winners or losers? No

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#34 DaX_Factor
Member since 2003 • 167 Posts

@quit975 said:

As for consequences this is not something that would be a good criteria for deciding what is a game and what is not. Consequences (be it losing life, a limb, money or simply just losing the game) are just negative effects of risk the players are taking. And while risk itself is not essential in games, there are thousents of games where risk is the main factor. Maybe in the evening I'll find a great mini-comics that perfectly fits into this argument :)

When it comes to competition it is also optional, just like risk. There are plenty of games where you don't compete - minigames that were mentioned for example. Cleaning windows on eye-toy anyone? Or what about games played at the beginning of some meetings or holidays, that help everyone get to know the group. Everyone provides answers to questions about themselves on sheets of paper and the rest of the group has to guess who provided given answers as well as judge if the answer was true or false. Is it a game? Yes. Is there a competition, are there winners or losers? No

The only way that I can see competition as optional is only if the player opts out of the game. In the case of your icebreaker game, just because no winner or loser will be declared doesn't mean there is not one. If you guess right (you win), you guess wrong (you lose). Though it is presented as a non-competitive game, a person playing the game may possibly be keeping score. The premise of a game like that is similar to non-competitive sports. Point are not kept, no one wins or loses and everyone gets a trophy. The only people who really keep to the no-point-tracking rules are the coaches and refs because they have to. Every parent is keeping track. Every child is trying to beat the other kid. I'm trying not to make this feel like I'm stretching this "competition" opinion of mines. Ice breaker games have plenty of competition. Player vs player, player vs embarrassment, player vs social rejection. Winning and losing can happen within only one person.

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#35 Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts

@DaX_Factor: i will have to disagree with you here. The examples of scorekeeping that you've mentioned don't count for me. Why? Because they are not included in the rules of the game. I think we will all agree that rules are what keeps a game together. If something is not included in the rules, it is not a part of the game. So if someone for his own purpose turns an icebreaker game into a pvp, that's fine, but it doesn't change the fact that the game is not competetive at its core.

And the examples player vs embarrassment are not correct either. These are the emotions of a particular player evoked by the game, or possible results. These are not elements you interact with, therefore you cannot play against it.

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#36 DaX_Factor
Member since 2003 • 167 Posts

@quit975 said:

@DaX_Factor: i will have to disagree with you here. The examples of scorekeeping that you've mentioned don't count for me. Why? Because they are not included in the rules of the game. I think we will all agree that rules are what keeps a game together. If something is not included in the rules, it is not a part of the game. So if someone for his own purpose turns an icebreaker game into a pvp, that's fine, but it doesn't change the fact that the game is not competetive at its core.

And the examples player vs embarrassment are not correct either. These are the emotions of a particular player evoked by the game, or possible results. These are not elements you interact with, therefore you cannot play against it.

I had already debunked my opinion with the same reasoning you had, but I wasn't going to just give you the win lol. Great counter-point!

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#37 The_Last_Ride
Member since 2004 • 76371 Posts

@DaX_Factor said:

@The_Last_Ride:

@The_Last_Ride said:

@DaX_Factor said:

What makes a game is having a winner and/or loser. Interaction is important because if the "player" is not part of the process of deciding the outcome of the so called game, then it is just an interactive story. Now in the case of TWD, if you make the wrong choice or fail to press on a button in a given amount of time, then you lose/ die. Games don't have to be fun (ie. Saw movies) but still there are winners and losers (those who live=winners and those who die=losers).

In short, competition is what makes a game. Anything in life can be made a game if you mind makes it into a competition vs. someone or something (ie. vs. yourself, vs. time, vs. random people who do not even know they are competing with you)

a winner or a loser isn't always required seing how singleplayer experiences are different

I tried to think of a single player experience where there is no winner or loser, I can't think of one.

Walking Dead, Journey, etc. You don't really win the game there

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#38 doubalfa
Member since 2006 • 7108 Posts

computer generated and interactive entertainment

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#39  Edited By Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

Glad you could make it Dax.

Now in order for something to be a video game, do we need failure- and win-states? Minecraft is an example of a video game without win-states, but I can't come up with a video-game without failure-states. Unless we count Depression Quest as a video game. I actually don't know if there are failure-states in Depression Quest.

We've also discussed Second Life a bit, and some of us agreed that it wasn't really a game, more of an interactive virtual world.

Also to lend some academic credibility to this thread, I've dug up one of the articles that I've read when I studied this a few years back. If you don't want to read it, you absolutely don't have to, but I think it's good insight. The link is below:

http://www.jesperjuul.net/text/gameplayerworld/

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#40 Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts
@quit975 said:

Maybe in the evening I'll find a great mini-comics that perfectly fits into this argument :)

As promised, here it is =)

http://www.smbc-comics.com/comics/20090416.gif

I would say it is still a game, even though the odds for surviving are not exactly in their favor =)

@DaX_Factor said:

I had already debunked my opinion with the same reasoning you had, but I wasn't going to just give you the win lol. Great counter-point!

Thanks =)

@Boogy32 I did some cheat... ekhm research as well and checked how others (academics) define the term game. To my surprise (or not) there is no consensus as to what a game is exactly. One approach seemed interesting at first - that if there is no goal/end game condition, it is no a game but a toy. So it would mean that games like SIm City, SIms, or Minecraft are not games but toys. Interesting idea, but I think it's too radical, and it would classify too many games as toys, I believe. To me all these examples are games through and through - and the fact that you can never win/lose doesn't change that. Oh, and by the way - does SIm City have a lose state? Can you actually lose this game? Correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think there is a "you lose" screen in let's say Sim City 4.

So to sum up, I thought about my definition for a while today. What would you say about the following:

a game is a system comprised of rules, that govern the interaction among players and/or between players and the system itself.

We have rules here - something I think we all agree is a must here. There are players - this is also another must, a game must account for the participation of at least one player. Without the possibility to play, no game obviously. And the most crucial differenting thing here is the interaction among players or between players and system. I think that solves our issue with traffic. Regulations in a traffic, do not govern interactions but individual behavior of each and every driver. You have clear do's and don't's that you need to follow (on red light you need to stop, if you have a car on your right, you need to let them through first, etc). Rules in the game, on the other hand, provide you with the possibilities of interacting with players/games (even if in many games you have only one possibility, like throwing dice) with clarifications what is considered a legal or an illegal move. Maybe that sounds a bit fuzzy, maybe I don't use clear enough a language, but to me the difference between these two examples is obvious. What do you guys think about it?

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#41 loafofgame
Member since 2013 • 1742 Posts

This:

@quit975 said:

if you're asking about a game, I would lend my idea from games' theory and say that a game is a series of interactions (be it between people or between a player and objects) that is governed by a set of rules. So, in other words, if there are interactions that are goverened by rules, you have yourself a game. And it would apply to a game of tag as well as to a computer game.

And this:

@quit975 said:

Yep, i thought someone will call this out =) I used the word "rules" as opposed to regulations (this also applies to the "job" example from Grieverr) Obviously we know that there are rules how to behave in a workplace, on a street, but I would call these regulations. Why? Because they are in a way forced on you and not abiding by them will get you in trouble and you'll have to face consequences forseen by law. Rules in a game, on the other hand, apply only within this environment - you are bound by them as long as you play the game, and breaking them will get you disqualified from the game at most. Now, I know i gave the example of russian roulette where players are forced to play it, and then breaking the rules may meet with much more drastic consequences. However, I think this would be going to far into "what if" scenarios (what if you were forced to play a game) and does not affect the overall understanding of a concept of a game.

And this:

@quit975 said:

a game is a system comprised of rules, that govern the interaction among players and/or between players and the system itself.

We have rules here - something I think we all agree is a must here. There are players - this is also another must, a game must account for the participation of at least one player. Without the possibility to play, no game obviously. And the most crucial differenting thing here is the interaction among players or between players and system. I think that solves our issue with traffic. Regulations in a traffic, do not govern interactions but individual behavior of each and every driver. You have clear do's and don't's that you need to follow (on red light you need to stop, if you have a car on your right, you need to let them through first, etc). Rules in the game, on the other hand, provide you with the possibilities of interacting with players/games (even if in many games you have only one possibility, like throwing dice) with clarifications what is considered a legal or an illegal move. Maybe that sounds a bit fuzzy, maybe I don't use clear enough a language, but to me the difference between these two examples is obvious. What do you guys think about it?

This is an interesting discussion. One could approach the last point from the perspective of voluntary acceptance of the given rules, which is basically a different way to say what was said in the second quote. With games, we voluntarily choose to accept the rules of the game as they are. With work or traffic, there is less of a choice. We cannot choose NOT to take part in traffic or work when we are confronted with it, without facing consequences that might affect areas outside of the game space (accident, loss of income, etc.). Games always require a voluntary and full acceptance of the given rules. If people are forced to play a game, I'd say it's not a game. At least, not for that person. People need to voluntarily enter the game space and not be forced by external elements (in the case of work this would be the necessity of financial income, in the case of traffic this would be the necessity to get to work or your house). In that sense, The Hunger Games is not a game, since the people involved do not participate of their own accord. The Saw films do not contain games, since people are forced to complete certain tasks against their will.

This could potentially mean that traffic, for example, can in fact be a game, if one voluntarily enters the traffic space to reach goals that are governed solely by traffic rules. One should aim for goals that are part of the game and not external to it. All actions within the game space should pertain to game's goals and not be motivated by any external factors.

Sorry for the lack of coherence. I guess what I'm trying to add to the definition is personal attitude...

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#42 Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts

@loafofgame: I think you touched upon an interesting aspect of games here. Indeed, many people would define a game as a voluntary action. For me it doesn't add up though. Imagine the following situation: i put a gun to your head and say 'let's play some fu#@?n monopoly - you lose, you die'. Now, I agree that for you this activity is no longer a game - it's a fight for survival. But it doesn't change the fact that monopoly IS a game and that you and I would be PLAYING a game of monopoly.

The point about the ultimate reason why we engage in games is a deceptive point here. Initially, it seems obvious that we engage in games for entertainment as opposed to, let's say, work. But entertainment is not the only reason: you can play for money, you can play because someone asked you to play with them, you can play in hope of getting social recognition, out of boredom etc. Imagine a worker who has to sort tons of documents. Out of boredom, he comes up with an impromptu game about stacking documents on shelves, he creates a scoring system - maybe something like hanoi towers, he can put documents only if the file below is thicker. He plays a game but the reason here is to do some work (although it's also true he could do that to entertain himself while working)

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#43 loafofgame
Member since 2013 • 1742 Posts
@quit975 said:

I think you touched upon an interesting aspect of games here. Indeed, many people would define a game as a voluntary action. For me it doesn't add up though. Imagine the following situation: i put a gun to your head and say 'let's play some fu#@?n monopoly - you lose, you die'. Now, I agree that for you this activity is no longer a game - it's a fight for survival. But it doesn't change the fact that monopoly IS a game and that you and I would be PLAYING a game of monopoly.

A game doesn't exist outside of its participants. There is no game if it isn't played. All participants need to agree on the rules and goals of a game, otherwise we can let any individual dictate what a game is. All participants should voluntarily enter the game space, accepting the goals and rules within that space. If death is a consequence of losing a game of monopoly and the player does not accept or agree with that game rule, but doesn't have the option to exit the game space, then he is not playing a game. He's simply being forced to follow a rule set. Monopoly is not a game because it is sold as such, it is a game because all participants agree to it.

@quit975 said:

The point about the ultimate reason why we engage in games is a deceptive point here. Initially, it seems obvious that we engage in games for entertainment as opposed to, let's say, work. But entertainment is not the only reason: you can play for money, you can play because someone asked you to play with them, you can play in hope of getting social recognition, out of boredom etc. Imagine a worker who has to sort tons of documents. Out of boredom, he comes up with an impromptu game about stacking documents on shelves, he creates a scoring system - maybe something like hanoi towers, he can put documents only if the file below is thicker. He plays a game but the reason here is to do some work (although it's also true he could do that to entertain himself while working)

I gave the wrong examples in my previous comment. The necessity of financial income or getting to your house are indeed reasons to accept certain rule sets (like work regulations and traffic rules) and it doesn't really matter if they motivate someone to play a game.

I didn't mean to talk about the reasons why we play games; my intention was to talk about the goals of the game having to take place within the game space. I never mentioned entertainment. As has been said before entertainment is not a necessary component of a game. What seems necessary is choosing to accept the game space as it is. The worker playing the stacking game has created a game space with goals and rules that exist within that space, not outside of it. Work and traffic can in fact become games, if the participants agree on the given rule sets and goals. If someone's game goal is to make money and he accepts the work regulations as the rules that govern his way to that goal, then work can be perceived as a game. If, however, he doesn't agree with the rules, but is unable to change them or can't exit the game space, then the game ceases to exist.

I forgot about this, but Jane McGonigal wrote a book called Reality is Broken and what she sees as the four fundamental characteristics of a game are goals, rules, a feedback system (in the broadest sense of the word) and voluntary participation. I guess that's where my idea of the necessity of voluntary acceptance of the rules comes from. She also quotes Bernard Suits, who defines playing a game as 'a voluntary attempt to overcome superfluous obstacles.' (that's not a direct quote; I translated a dutch translation back to English) What's interesting here is the 'superfluous' aspect. The regulations of work and the rules of traffic are in many ways necessary; they aren't there to be a hindrance or a challenge. Game rules, however, are often intentionally limiting or challenging. They do not optimize the road towards the goal, but make it a challenge; a challenge we voluntarily accept.

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#44 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@quit975 said:

@loafofgame: I think you touched upon an interesting aspect of games here. Indeed, many people would define a game as a voluntary action. For me it doesn't add up though. Imagine the following situation: i put a gun to your head and say 'let's play some fu#@?n monopoly - you lose, you die'. Now, I agree that for you this activity is no longer a game - it's a fight for survival. But it doesn't change the fact that monopoly IS a game and that you and I would be PLAYING a game of monopoly.

I don't think the player's intentions or motivation for playing has anything to do with the game itself. If you put a gun to my head, and force me to play a game of Monopoly, I'd certainly play the game different than if I was just playing for fun and giggles, so I do agree that the game stays the same whether or not I am being forced to play it. This round of Monopoly is no longer 'just a game' to me, but it's still a game.

@loafofgame said:

This is an interesting discussion. One could approach the last point from the perspective of voluntary acceptance of the given rules, which is basically a different way to say what was said in the second quote. With games, we voluntarily choose to accept the rules of the game as they are. With work or traffic, there is less of a choice. We cannot choose NOT to take part in traffic or work when we are confronted with it, without facing consequences that might affect areas outside of the game space (accident, loss of income, etc.). Games always require a voluntary and full acceptance of the given rules. If people are forced to play a game, I'd say it's not a game. At least, not for that person. People need to voluntarily enter the game space and not be forced by external elements (in the case of work this would be the necessity of financial income, in the case of traffic this would be the necessity to get to work or your house). In that sense, The Hunger Games is not a game, since the people involved do not participate of their own accord. The Saw films do not contain games, since people are forced to complete certain tasks against their will.

This could potentially mean that traffic, for example, can in fact be a game, if one voluntarily enters the traffic space to reach goals that are governed solely by traffic rules. One should aim for goals that are part of the game and not external to it. All actions within the game space should pertain to game's goals and not be motivated by any external factors.

Sorry for the lack of coherence. I guess what I'm trying to add to the definition is personal attitude...

So while I don't think the intentions or motivation of the player is important, I do think the intention of the 'game' itself is important. If the purpose of the game is to kill or harm another human being, it ceases to be a game to me. Maybe this is exactly the same thing as with the Monopoly example above, but I just feel like the intention of the game is not equal to the intention of the player. But of cause if the intention of the 'game' is to harm (and when I say harm, I mean seriously damage) another person, then the 'player' should seek to do that to his opponent, but then the 'game' ceases to be a game, and it turns into another activity. Like war for example.
We mentioned risk earlier. I said that when there's a chance (risk), that someone could get hurt, then it stops being a game. Let me rephrase that. When the intention of a game is for someone to get hurt, then it's no longer a game. There is no longer any risk involved. The risk has become an inevitability, someone will get hurt. In The Hunger Games someone will get hurt. The 'game' wont stop until all but one is alive. The purpose and intent of the activity is to make the other players kill everyone until there's a last man standing situation. It just stops being a game to me, when the rules (intent and purpose) of the game is like that.
What do you guys think?

Also, the thing about traffic is that it can never be a game, but it does have elements of play into it. Who can reach the destination before everyone else etc. All activities mankind engages in has elements of play, even warfare, but that doesn't make said activities, games.

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#45  Edited By Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts

@loafofgame: you Sir are a wizard, i think that's exactly what we have been missing : superflous, artificial, unnecessary. A game is a system of rules governing the interactions among players and/or between players and the system THE EXISTENCE OF WHICH CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED BY THE NECESSITY OF EVERYDAY LIFE. So it means that these rules become a game only if they are artificial, i.e. It is not necessary to carry out our daily tasks. Traffic rules are necessary because without theme there would be chaos on roads. Rules at the workplace are necessary because without theme nobody would be doing any work, eventually leading to a local/global financial collapse. Bit stacking documents in a hanoi fashion? That's not necessary, that's superfluous. Bam! It becomes a game.

Boogy32 - i believe that what you're saying is just a matter of increasing stakes. The game doesn't stop being a game (as a creation, not as an activity) just because the stakes were changes. Following the revelation from the previous paragraph, i would therefore say that hunger games were in fact a game, because their existence didn't originate from an everyday necessity (unless i got it wrong im not really a fan :-))

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#46 loafofgame
Member since 2013 • 1742 Posts
@Boogy32 said:

I don't think the player's intentions or motivation for playing has anything to do with the game itself. If you put a gun to my head, and force me to play a game of Monopoly, I'd certainly play the game different than if I was just playing for fun and giggles, so I do agree that the game stays the same whether or not I am being forced to play it. This round of Monopoly is no longer 'just a game' to me, but it's still a game.

I have to disagree. This is not about intention or motivation, it's about voluntary participation. I do admit that wasn't entirely clear in my very first comment, but I have hopefully cleared it up a little in my second one. When you suggest participation does not have to be voluntary one could assume that a robot (or better yet, a machine, since robots and even computers are often considered humanoid) can play a game, which I do not think is possible, unless you accept a definition of a game that excludes the necessity of a participant (which a machine is not). A robot arm returning a pingpong ball is not playing a game.

Plus, if you accept that participation does not have to be voluntary you allow for others to dictate the characteristics of a game. A game is only accepted as such by its participants, otherwise it wouldn't actually need participants to still be a game (it just needs someone who proclaims it a game), which to me doesn't make any sense.

@Boogy32 said:

So while I don't think the intentions or motivation of the player is important, I do think the intention of the 'game' itself is important. If the purpose of the game is to kill or harm another human being, it ceases to be a game to me. Maybe this is exactly the same thing as with the Monopoly example above, but I just feel like the intention of the game is not equal to the intention of the player. But of cause if the intention of the 'game' is to harm (and when I say harm, I mean seriously damage) another person, then the 'player' should seek to do that to his opponent, but then the 'game' ceases to be a game, and it turns into another activity. Like war for example.

We mentioned risk earlier. I said that when there's a chance (risk), that someone could get hurt, then it stops being a game. Let me rephrase that. When the intention of a game is for someone to get hurt, then it's no longer a game. There is no longer any risk involved. The risk has become an inevitability, someone will get hurt. In The Hunger Games someone will get hurt. The 'game' wont stop until all but one is alive. The purpose and intent of the activity is to make the other players kill everyone until there's a last man standing situation. It just stops being a game to me, when the rules (intent and purpose) of the game is like that.

What do you guys think?

Also, the thing about traffic is that it can never be a game, but it does have elements of play into it. Who can reach the destination before everyone else etc. All activities mankind engages in has elements of play, even warfare, but that doesn't make said activities, games.

That's a moral argument. While I obviously agree with the argument itself, in my opinion it shouldn't be part of the definition of a game. If killing people is part of the game and the participants voluntarily participate in this activity and agree to the rules, it can be considered a game. Whether or not you consider it a game is irrelevant, since you do not participate, nor agree to the rules. You are not part of the game space created by these people (unless you are one of the targets, in which case you're a goal, not necessarily a participant).

@quit975 said:

@loafofgame: you Sir are a wizard, i think that's exactly what we have been missing : superflous, artificial, unnecessary. A game is a system of rules governing the interactions among players and/or between players and the system THE EXISTENCE OF WHICH CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED BY THE NECESSITY OF EVERYDAY LIFE. So it means that these rules become a game only if they are artificial, i.e. It is not necessary to carry out our daily tasks. Traffic rules are necessary because without theme there would be chaos on roads. Rules at the workplace are necessary because without theme nobody would be doing any work, eventually leading to a local/global financial collapse. Bit stacking documents in a hanoi fashion? That's not necessary, that's superfluous. Bam! It becomes a game.

Haha, quoting someone else does not make me a wizard, but I'm glad you appreciate the input.

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#47 Boogy32
Member since 2007 • 49 Posts

@quit975: @loafofgame:

But we might as well include war as a game then. People willingly participate in wars. I don't presume that you know what they are thinking, I certainly don't, but do you think war is just a game to them? I still think the definition is too broad, but we could narrow it down by introducing this morality part. I am having some trouble deciding whether I think this is subjective or objective thinking. But, either way, people willingly and regularly take part of rule based activities that they probably don't consider a game themselves. Another example could be charity. I strongly think we need to further narrow down our definition.

I think that I probably see games as more static things than you do. I also don't think that we should allow everyday activities to qualify as games. Playing a game is certainly an everyday activity though.

@quit975 said:

Boogy32 - i believe that what you're saying is just a matter of increasing stakes. The game doesn't stop being a game (as a creation, not as an activity) just because the stakes were changes. Following the revelation from the previous paragraph, i would therefore say that hunger games were in fact a game, because their existence didn't originate from an everyday necessity (unless i got it wrong im not really a fan :-))

The purpose of a match of soccer, is not to hurt your opponents. That's a risk you run, when you try to take the ball from someone else. The Hunger Games' purpose is to get the players to kill. That's not a case of increasing the stakes, that's a case of rewriting the fundamental aspects of the activity, so that it is no longer a risk but a guarantee. When someone dies in a war, it is the consequence of a deliberate action by another 'player'. When someone in soccer gets hurt, it is usually a consequence of an accident.

Guys I'm having some difficulty just accepting our current definition without reservations.
I feel like it's incomplete. But again it might be subjective thinking on my part. :)

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#48 Grieverr
Member since 2002 • 2835 Posts

@Grieverr said:
@quit975 said:

OK, my turn:

...a game is a series of interactions (be it between people or between a player and objects) that is governed by a set of rules.

Perfect! That is exactly what I was trying to convey.

Although, I still think "entertainment" needs to be in there somewhere. My interactions at work, for example, are governed by a set of rules. Yet, I wouldn't call my job a game.

So, to quote myself, @quit975 and @loafofgame :

A game is a series of interactions that is governed by a set of rules, agreed to by all players, to overcome superfluous obstacles, for the purpose of entertainment or leisure.

I wholeheartedly agree that the purpose of a game is to entertain, or pass the time, or to be done for leisure. You can play poker for free. People have made it so that money is involved, but you CAN still play for fun, there is no obligation from the game itself that makes it so that you have to pay. The goal of poker is to have the better hand.

That people gamble, or make a living, or add other consequences to the game, well, those are modifiers that can be added to any game.

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#49  Edited By loafofgame
Member since 2013 • 1742 Posts
Boogy32 said:

@quit975: @loafofgame:

But we might as well include war as a game then. People willingly participate in wars. I don't presume that you know what they are thinking, I certainly don't, but do you think war is just a game to them? I still think the definition is too broad, but we could narrow it down by introducing this morality part. I am having some trouble deciding whether I think this is subjective or objective thinking. But, either way, people willingly and regularly take part of rule based activities that they probably don't consider a game themselves. Another example could be charity. I strongly think we need to further narrow down our definition.

Well, we still have the aforementioned 'superfluous' aspect. The rules of traffic, work and war are created to optimize the road to a given goal; they are made to achieve goals as effective as possible. Game rules are there to create a challenge, to create obstacles that are inefficient and unnecessary; they're there to limit and challenge. That is where games differ significantly from other rule based activities we voluntarily take part in. It might be one of the most vital parts of the definition.

As for the voluntary aspect, it carries more weight in games than it does in war, traffic or work. It's easier to voluntarily enter and exit the game space than it is to voluntarily enter or exit the work, traffic or war space. Games present a much more separated and confined space. And as I said, once we enter we should have an option to exit. When we're in a war situation, there are no options to instantly quit and exit the war space, yet when we play Battlefield we can quit the game or press the pause button. Anyway, the voluntary aspect is only part of the definition, but I think it should be part of it, otherwise you can include a myriad of activities people do against their will and more importantly, you might be dismissing the fact that games need an actual player, instead of some instrument or object that simply keeps the game process going.

As far as I'm concerned these are the most important aspects of a game so far: goals, rules, a feedback system (which hasn't really been discussed, but still), voluntary participation and superfluous obstacles. I think those aspects make for a definition that is narrow enough to exclude most of the examples that have been discussed so far, like war, traffic and work.

@Boogy32 said:

I think that I probably see games as more static things than you do. I also don't think that we should allow everyday activities to qualify as games. Playing a game is certainly an everyday activity though.

I think that taking the above aspects into consideration excludes most everyday activities from the definition.

@Boogy32 said:

The purpose of a match of soccer, is not to hurt your opponents. That's a risk you run, when you try to take the ball from someone else. The Hunger Games' purpose is to get the players to kill. That's not a case of increasing the stakes, that's a case of rewriting the fundamental aspects of the activity, so that it is no longer a risk but a guarantee. When someone dies in a war, it is the consequence of a deliberate action by another 'player'. When someone in soccer gets hurt, it is usually a consequence of an accident.

Boxing is a game: it has goals, rules, a feedback system that provides information about the progression of the match, both players voluntarily take part in this activity and accept the rules as they are, and there are superfluous obstacles that stops people from reaching the goals in the most effective way (players aren't allowed to hit certain body parts, they wear protective head gear, a referee is allowed to interfere, etc.). Most fighting games also have a concede option, so there's the possibility to end the game at any moment. I don't think we should exclude boxing as a game just because you hurt other people. The Hunger Games do not qualify, because the players do not voluntarily take part and because they can't quit the game. Work, traffic and war do not qualify, because they do not have superfluous obstacles, because some aspects of the activity might be involuntary and because, again, there's no immediate option to quit. I stress the option to quit, because I believe voluntary participation is continuous, not just initial.

Edit: or what @Grieverr said in far less words... ;-) (although I'm still sceptical about the entertainment and leisure part; that doesn't seem to be a fundamental characteristic, even though it probably drives the majority of people who play games)

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#50 Quit975
Member since 2014 • 25 Posts

Okay, so basically we have a couple of approaches here =) I think mine is the broadest, as for me a game doesn't have to be voluntary nor safe, nor entertaining. Loafofgame agrees but you would aslo say that a game is a voluntary activity. Boogy32 would agree, but you would say that it has to be relatively safe for participants (i.e. they are not at great risk when playing) and Grieverr would agree but you would say that it is for leisure/entertainment =)

So, let me try to argue (in a civilized manner of course =p) with each one of you:

@loafofgame you say that once a player is forced to play a game, it's no longer a game. I think we would need to distinguish between two things here: a game as a construct (so a particular game like ludo or a particular computer game) and playing a game as a verb, activity. I would totally agree, that if I am forced to play ludo under the threat of losing my life, that is not playing a game for me, it's serious any my life depends on it. But I will still claim that ludo is a game. Why? The game as a construct exists in a vacuum and is unaffected by external factor. The fact that I am forced to play it doesn't change it's properties. And if it's properties and features remain unaltered, i don't see how it could stop being a game.

@Boogy32 you say that it is not a game when there is a serious threat to at least one of the participants. To answer that claim, I'll propose the following argument: I will agree that a game that often results in people being seriously injured/dead may be immoral from a religious/ethics point of view, and illegal from the point of the law, but the game doesn't have to be legal/moral to be a game. For many religions, casino games like blackjack or hold'em are immoral, yet that doesn't mean these are not games. Not to mention morality and law are relative and different in each and every country/culture. Imagine this absurd scenario - we are playing a game of ludo with a small modification: whenever a player rolls '3' on his die, one of the bombs planted in the house where we play explodes (pretty nice, isn't it). Such a game would be insanely dangerous and most likely would result in killing at least one of us. But the rest of rules remain unaltered. Does a CHANGE (not addition/deletion) of a rule takes away a status of a game? For me it doesn't.

@Grieverr leisure and entertainment. These two totally depend on personal taste. I may enjoy playing a game of chess but for you it may be boring. Leisure and entertainment make room for subjectivity, relativism. You cannot have that in a definition. Otherwise, you would end up with a situation, where for me a given object is a chair, but for you it is a swimming pool, just because a part of a definition would allow for personal feelings toward an object.