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Subject: What's the point of defining "Game"? rss

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Drew Hicks
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There have been a couple recent blog posts (notably, http://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/gaming-glossary... and http://oakleafgames.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/game-like-playa... from OakLeaf Games as well as anything by http://keithburgun.net/ which make an effort to define what a "game" is.

I'm not going to go into way too much detail, and these articles have already summed up many existing academic/theoretical definitions of games, but to be frank, I don't understand the value of this kind of taxonomizing. Writing critically, it is important to have meaningful terminology, and so defining genres of games can be useful. Attempting to 'define' game, though, is subtly different from creating these new categorizations. Typically, attempts to define "Game" have, either inadvertently or VERY pointedly, defined the term out from under itself. That is, under the definitions, one can say something like:
Quote:
According to Bogus, et al, Super Mario Bros / Cards Against Humanity / Minecraft / Roulette / Monopoly / War / Charades / Dungeons and Dragons isn't REALLY a game at all.
A definition of game that doesn't admit one of those GAMES serves what purpose, exactly? Most often, I see it used as a rhetorical bludgeon to excommunicate "bad" games from being games at all. Keith Burgun argues that Street Fighter II is not itself a game, but a collection of games (since character selection can't be a strategic decision, taking place before the game itself has started.) While this is certainly an incendiary opinion that will raise the ire of a lot of Street Fighter players in the comments sections, is it useful for advancing the discussion of that game? Or of any other game, by excluding SF2 from game-ness?

Typically in these discussions, the notion of Family Resemblance comes up, as defined by Wittgenstein...
Quote:
(I can) use the word "number" for a rigidly limited concept, but I can also use it so that the extension of the concept is not closed by a frontier. And this is how we do use the word "game". For how is the concept of a game bounded? What still counts as a game and what no longer does? Can you give the boundary? No. You can draw one; for none has so far been drawn. (But that never troubled you before when you used the word "game".)
...but even academic writers in game studies tend to ignore this, sweep it under the rug, and talk about how games MUST have a list of qualities including:
* goals (yet we play Apples to Apples until we are tired, and play Minecraft for no reason at all)
* choices (yet we teach kids Candy Land, and we gamble, unless one wishes to count choosing to play as the choice itself)
* two or more players (yet Super Mario Bros is a single-player game, Solitaire is a single-player game, perhaps The Game Of Life is a 0-player game?)

...and so on. It's a fun exercise, to be sure, but after all the boundary drawing, we often find that we've excluded something we would very much like to be a game (SimCity? Horse Racing?) or included something we'd rather not (Imprisonment? Life itself?) and so must muddy up our definition a bit so we get all the good stuff in and leave all the bad stuff out.

From this rant you can probably tell that I'm not a great fan of most of these definitions of game. For a while, I struggled with a definition of my own, which was
Quote:
"a system of rules implemented for their own sake"
which, like the definition of art I based it on, is hopelessly vague but doesn't encompass a stranger set of things than some other definitions I have seen. I ended up deciding that it doesn't make talking about games easier than it already is, using the 'folk' definition of game, which is "I know one when I see one."

Has anyone been well-served by using a particular definition of game, in terms of game design, criticism, or what have you? I won't pretend my viewpoint is the only one, and clearly quite a lot of people find haggling over this definition to be worthwhile, but I've yet to find an example where the Family Resemblance definition wouldn't have served just as well.
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Herb
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Being involved in my own taxonomy problem gives me some sympathy for the notion that trying to create a good definition leaves you beating your head against the wall.

Any "normal" language is probably too imprecise to create absolutely clear cut definitions, when those definitions hinge on underlying logical and mathematical structures.

The other problem is granularity. If you use really coarse definition then weird things happen. If you an excessively fine definition then it gets very cumbersome very quickly.

So may friends and I create 50 complete and consistent definitions that work over the 70,000 games in the BGG database. Then some !~@#$%^& game designer comes along, combines two concepts and busts our nice and complete definitions.

All in all it is just human nature to try and classify things. Some people enjoy the challenge more than others.

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Jim Cote
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AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
Has anyone been well-served by using a particular definition of game, in terms of game design, criticism, or what have you? I won't pretend my viewpoint is the only one, and clearly quite a lot of people find haggling over this definition to be worthwhile, but I've yet to find an example where the Family Resemblance definition wouldn't have served just as well.
I use my own definition to differentiate along a spectrum of activities represented by meaningful choices. On one end, you have an activity where every choice you make is deliberate, based on solid information, and affects the future in expected (not necessarily predictable) ways. On the other end, you have an activity that either has no meaningful choices (e.g. pure simulation) or where the randomness/chaos is so overwhelming that choices disappear (like peeing in the ocean). This is really no different from watching TV, except it looks like a game and you physically take part in its execution. No amount of theme can move an activity in either direction on this spectrum.
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Happy to nominate myself here in charge of any decision making.

If you're not sure if something is a game or not, just ask me and I'll let you know.

Glad I could help.

ninja
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Maxim Steshenko
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One or more people voluntarily behave according to strict set of rules within specific space defined by "magic circle".
"Magic circle" is an imaginary circle (or sphere) of space and human mind marked out by practitioners of a game and by rules.
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AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
It's a fun exercise, to be sure, but after all the boundary drawing, we often find that we've excluded something we would very much like to be a game (SimCity? Horse Racing?) or included something we'd rather not (Imprisonment? Life itself?) and so must muddy up our definition a bit so we get all the good stuff in and leave all the bad stuff out.
I have no problems whatsoever accepting there will be constructs falling outside of a(n arbitrary) definition. Either it means that these constructs are not what we think they are, or it means that the definition needs modification still. Or it even hints at a richer structure outside of that definition. I find there is, in the vast majority of cases where a first and initial taxonomy is laid down, richness in being curt and precise. It gives you something simple to study and understand, and subsequently allows much better grip on the more complex examples than you could otherwise have; it also allows you to say why those more complex examples are what they are, and why they don't fit in.

Quote:
Has anyone been well-served by using a particular definition of game, in terms of game design, criticism, or what have you? I won't pretend my viewpoint is the only one, and clearly quite a lot of people find haggling over this definition to be worthwhile, but I've yet to find an example where the Family Resemblance definition wouldn't have served just as well.
Perhaps you haven't asked the right questions then.
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Drew Hicks
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cymric wrote:
AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
It's a fun exercise, to be sure, but after all the boundary drawing, we often find that we've excluded something we would very much like to be a game (SimCity? Horse Racing?) or included something we'd rather not (Imprisonment? Life itself?) and so must muddy up our definition a bit so we get all the good stuff in and leave all the bad stuff out.
I have no problems whatsoever accepting there will be constructs falling outside of a(n arbitrary) definition. Either it means that these constructs are not what we think they are, or it means that the definition needs modification still. Or it even hints at a richer structure outside of that definition. I find there is, in the vast majority of cases where a first and initial taxonomy is laid down, richness in being curt and precise. It gives you something simple to study and understand, and subsequently allows much better grip on the more complex examples than you could otherwise have; it also allows you to say why those more complex examples are what they are, and why they don't fit in.

Quote:
Has anyone been well-served by using a particular definition of game, in terms of game design, criticism, or what have you? I won't pretend my viewpoint is the only one, and clearly quite a lot of people find haggling over this definition to be worthwhile, but I've yet to find an example where the Family Resemblance definition wouldn't have served just as well.
Perhaps you haven't asked the right questions then.

Can you give me a hint as to what the questions might be?
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I find taxonomies extremely useful for thinking about things critically. Definitions and categorization schemes draw things into focus, and can even suggest brand new ideas by drawing attention to gaps between categories. Certainly taxonomies are not perfect. They're more like frameworks for looking at things. As such, it's probably a good idea to have multiple such frameworks that you can switch between.

I've found, for example, Keith Burgun's system of forms framework to be very useful on occasion for thinking about my own game designs. Of course it has its problems (particularly PR problems given its casual dismissal of so many things as "not games") but if you just treat his theory as a tool and one more framework for viewing games none of those issues particularly matter. The book Characteristics of Games, while it doesn't try to define "game" per se (though it does define what they call an "orthogame") is composed almost entirely of game-related definitions and it's one of the most broadly useful game design books I've read. Generally when people write game design theory and don't at least try to define terms and create categories I find them pretty wish washy and useless.

Bernard Suits's book probably does the best job of capturing the meaning of game out of all the books I've read, though because he is philosopher and not a game designer his definition is more theoretically interesting than practically useful. But I think he pulls off the definition convincingly and I think his book is IMO a successful answer to Wittgenstein.
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Maarten D. de Jong
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AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
Can you give me a hint as to what the questions might be?
Respectfully, no. My statement was not meant as a patronising riddle for you to get right or wrong, but more as a challenge to yourself to let go of the notion that boundary drawing is useless (and thus challenge Wittgenstein's idiotic statement which can easily be generalised to the point where any attempt at defining a human activity is useless). You were very dismissive in your opening post about boundaries excluding things which 'we' wanted to see included all the same. As any hint I can give will have this as a consequence, it is pointless to give examples at this point.

As a side note, I find that listening to the ramblings of philosophers is very rarely worthwhile. It's like reading transcripts of closed mental echo chambers.
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AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
I'm not going to go into way too much detail, and these articles have already summed up many existing academic/theoretical definitions of games, but to be frank, I don't understand the value of this kind of taxonomizing.
As a scientist who does game-related research, I can tell you that it is virtually necessary to define what a game is when you write a scientific article in this domain. The reason is that scientific research tries to generalize, and if you want to make generalizing statements on 'games' then your readers want to know what YOU assume the term means. Otherwise your generalizing statements are meaningless. But it does not matter what exactly your definition is, as long as you give it.

Why anyone outside science would be bothered about such terminology I don't know.
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Hello!

AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
From this rant you can probably tell that I'm not a great fan of most of these definitions of game. For a while, I struggled with a definition of my own, which was
Quote:
"a system of rules implemented for their own sake"
which, like the definition of art I based it on, is hopelessly vague but doesn't encompass a stranger set of things than some other definitions I have seen. I ended up deciding that it doesn't make talking about games easier than it already is, using the 'folk' definition of game, which is "I know one when I see one."

Actually, I think your definition is going into the right direction, although I think that the "implementation for their own sake" might be replaced by "designed to be engaged in for enjoyment".

Quote:
Has anyone been well-served by using a particular definition of game, in terms of game design, criticism, or what have you? I won't pretend my viewpoint is the only one, and clearly quite a lot of people find haggling over this definition to be worthwhile, but I've yet to find an example where the Family Resemblance definition wouldn't have served just as well.

Well, as you already hinted, having a working definition of game can be useful - provided everyone uses it - so as to properly inform people about things that are games and things that are not, based on those criteria. Of course, if the manufacturer still prints "game" on the box for something that is not a game by definition, things get confusing (^_^;;

So, in general, I see the advantage of clear, agreed-upon definitions that you really know what the other person is talking about and what they are not talking about (I kind of feel some frustration about solitaire board gaming in this respect, although some conventions seem to be in development to clear things up - but I think Mice and Mystics will never correct their player count (^_^;; ).

Yours,
Deathworks
 
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Throwing another monkey wrench into the works, consider Second Life (an online virtual world if you weren't aware of it.) I chafe at it being called a game. It's more of an escape from reality than any other acknowledged "game."

Too many lines to be drawn. Just enjoy.
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Rob Harper
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Deathworks wrote:
Actually, I think your definition is going into the right direction, although I think that the "implementation for their own sake" might be replaced by "designed to be engaged in for enjoyment".

...but what about, say, Brenda Romero's "Train". Definitely a game. Probably not enjoyable and certainly not designed to be.

The problem is that any time we create a boundary definition for a game, we can come up with something that most of us can agree is a game which lies outside the boundary.

That said, I still think there is merit in trying to define what a game is, if only because if we want to do academic study of games, we need to be able to define what we are studying. We just need to be willing to accept that we are unlikely to create a single definition that covers everything.
 
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Hello!

polyobsessive wrote:
Deathworks wrote:
Actually, I think your definition is going into the right direction, although I think that the "implementation for their own sake" might be replaced by "designed to be engaged in for enjoyment".

...but what about, say, Brenda Romero's "Train". Definitely a game. Probably not enjoyable and certainly not designed to be.

But that would actually not be a game by the originally suggested definition, as its rules are not implemented for their own sake. There is a strong political/moral message to it.

Although, you could also question whether "Train" in its completeness is actually a game or whether it is rather a piece of modern, political art using a game as a part of it (so, while including a game, it is not a game itself).

Quote:
The problem is that any time we create a boundary definition for a game, we can come up with something that most of us can agree is a game which lies outside the boundary.

Which is quite frustrating sometimes. Defining other categories can help, like "activities", although boundaries are somewhat blurry (spontaneously, I had to think about "pen and paper RPGs", "board games", and "table top (war) games" as an example of such fuzziness within the category).

Quote:
That said, I still think there is merit in trying to define what a game is, if only because if we want to do academic study of games, we need to be able to define what we are studying. We just need to be willing to accept that we are unlikely to create a single definition that covers everything.

As I said, I can see it as being also useful for discussions if one party doesn't know an item - at least they know what to expect when the other says that it is a "game", even if no further detail is provided.

As for the impossibility of covering everything, I am afraid you are right, although I hope someone may some day come up with a really good one.

Yours,
Deathworks
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Hi! I'm Oakleaf Games I saw your comment on the blog, but since this is a longer critique, I'll respond here.

The purpose of defining "Game" (Capital G) is not to exclude things we don't feel are games. The purpose is to exclude things in a non-arbitrary way.

We do this to avoid avoid the type of argument which is "You said something isn't a game, but you're wrong because I say it is a game." And we should examine why we don't consider some things to be games. But we should also consider why we do consider other things to be games. Is it just because we have called them games?

A definition of "game" can't possibly include everything we call a game, but I wouldn't want it to. A definition gives us a way to evaluate whether something meets the definition or not, to avoid the "I know it when I see it". There is no productive discussion in that. But by defining the term, we can say "I see why you don't consider this a game. I do. Why and how do we disagree?" This is much productive.

In short, the goal of excluding is to frame a constructive discussion. If we end up excluding something we'd like to call a game, then we have to decide whether we adjust the definition to include it, or accept that it doesn't fit the definition. And it happens the other way around sometimes, too, where we want to exclude something, but find that it fits the definition. (For me, Hanabi is in that category. It doesn't feel very game-like, but nevertheless, I am forced by my own reasoning to accept that it can be a game).

Thank you for reading and giving a very thoughtful response. I hope that this has done a good job of explaining my goals.
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Sivilized wrote:
Hi! I'm Oakleaf Games I saw your comment on the blog, but since this is a longer critique, I'll respond here.

The purpose of defining "Game" (Capital G) is not to exclude things we don't feel are games. The purpose is to exclude things in a non-arbitrary way.

We do this to avoid avoid the type of argument which is "You said something isn't a game, but you're wrong because I say it is a game." And we should examine why we don't consider some things to be games. But we should also consider why we do consider other things to be games. Is it just because we have called them games?

A definition of "game" can't possibly include everything we call a game, but I wouldn't want it to. A definition gives us a way to evaluate whether something meets the definition or not, to avoid the "I know it when I see it". There is no productive discussion in that. But by defining the term, we can say "I see why you don't consider this a game. I do. Why and how do we disagree?" This is much productive.

In short, the goal of excluding is to frame a constructive discussion. If we end up excluding something we'd like to call a game, then we have to decide whether we adjust the definition to include it, or accept that it doesn't fit the definition. And it happens the other way around sometimes, too, where we want to exclude something, but find that it fits the definition. (For me, Hanabi is in that category. It doesn't feel very game-like, but nevertheless, I am forced by my own reasoning to accept that it can be a game).

Thank you for reading and giving a very thoughtful response. I hope that this has done a good job of explaining my goals.

I understand this somewhat, but what I don't immediately 'get' is how arguing over something's "game-ness" can be productive when it has been established that both parties are using different definitions. If, like you said, I were in a discussion with someone where I could say "I see why you don't consider this a game. I do. Why and how do we disagree?" the answer would lie in our different definitions... for example, maybe I think Candy Land is a game, but you don't because it lacks meaningful decisions. or, I think Second Life is a game, but you don't because it lacks goals and strategies.

My problem with these arguments is that I completely agree with you regarding the attributes (lack of goals, lack of choices) of Candy Land or Second Life, the only place we disagree is on the "game-ness" of those things, the definition(s) of which we have constructed independently. I suppose that I agree that the construction of such a definition can be an informative exercise (though it seems doomed to fail) because the inevitable exceptions will inform us.

With regards to Hanabi, that's actually the kind of situation I'm concerned about. You say that you're "forced" to accept it as a game, but that you want to exclude it because it doesn't 'feel' game like. That's an odd position to be in when attempting to categorize things. "Game-ness" as a family resemblance (for you) would seem to exclude Hanabi, but the definition admits it, so you accept it despite its' lack of "game-ness" (again, to you. I think Hanabi is clearly a game ).
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
I'm not going to go into way too much detail, and these articles have already summed up many existing academic/theoretical definitions of games, but to be frank, I don't understand the value of this kind of taxonomizing.
As a scientist who does game-related research, I can tell you that it is virtually necessary to define what a game is when you write a scientific article in this domain. The reason is that scientific research tries to generalize, and if you want to make generalizing statements on 'games' then your readers want to know what YOU assume the term means. Otherwise your generalizing statements are meaningless. But it does not matter what exactly your definition is, as long as you give it.

Why anyone outside science would be bothered about such terminology I don't know.

I'm also a researcher and am fine with this practice, however in research it's usually written as "for the purposes of this work, we define X as..." which admits the impossibility (or at least difficulty) of universally defining now and for always, something like "game". Such definitions are rarely turned outward, but with game design the practice seems common.
 
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cymric wrote:
AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
Can you give me a hint as to what the questions might be?
Respectfully, no. My statement was not meant as a patronising riddle for you to get right or wrong, but more as a challenge to yourself to let go of the notion that boundary drawing is useless (and thus challenge Wittgenstein's idiotic statement which can easily be generalised to the point where any attempt at defining a human activity is useless). You were very dismissive in your opening post about boundaries excluding things which 'we' wanted to see included all the same. As any hint I can give will have this as a consequence, it is pointless to give examples at this point.

As a side note, I find that listening to the ramblings of philosophers is very rarely worthwhile. It's like reading transcripts of closed mental echo chambers.

I don't subscribe to the belief that all taxonomy/definition is useless, however with concepts like "game-ness" I think his frustration at arguments about such things being mostly word-games and not actually dealing with the underlying concepts is pretty well founded. That's about the extent that I will drag philosophy into this, because I generally agree with the echo chamber... a lot of philosophy is intricate models built on a very personal foundation.
 
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Seems like most people who want to define "Game" like the thoughtful process involved.

Then people who don't care to bother, don't bother.

It's a unique circumstance putting this much effort into "why bother".

I'm not defending or criticizing: this stance; defining "game"; not defining "game". Just find the contrast interesting.
 
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MooseyFate wrote:
Seems like most people who want to define "Game" like the thoughtful process involved.

Then people who don't care to bother, don't bother.

It's a unique circumstance putting this much effort into "why bother".

I'm not defending or criticizing: this stance; defining "game"; not defining "game". Just find the contrast interesting.

I suppose so. I like discussing games, but I find it frustrating when the conversation is eventually derailed into "but what really IS a game?" which actually happens often enough that it's become sort of a meme.
 
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AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
cymric wrote:
AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
Can you give me a hint as to what the questions might be?
Respectfully, no. My statement was not meant as a patronising riddle for you to get right or wrong, but more as a challenge to yourself to let go of the notion that boundary drawing is useless (and thus challenge Wittgenstein's idiotic statement which can easily be generalised to the point where any attempt at defining a human activity is useless). You were very dismissive in your opening post about boundaries excluding things which 'we' wanted to see included all the same. As any hint I can give will have this as a consequence, it is pointless to give examples at this point.

As a side note, I find that listening to the ramblings of philosophers is very rarely worthwhile. It's like reading transcripts of closed mental echo chambers.

I don't subscribe to the belief that all taxonomy/definition is useless, however with concepts like "game-ness" I think his frustration at arguments about such things being mostly word-games and not actually dealing with the underlying concepts is pretty well founded. That's about the extent that I will drag philosophy into this, because I generally agree with the echo chamber... a lot of philosophy is intricate models built on a very personal foundation.

A large part of the problem is that the word "game" is being defined in terms of words instead of mathematics. Defining a game in terms of its mathematically properties would reduce much of the "fuzziness." However even using mathematics would leave some "fuzziness."

So if you have a master list of everything that anyone thinks is a game, any definition will include some things that you really don't want to include, and it will exclude some things that you'd really like to include.
 
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Obviously, defining "Game" is a game all by itself!

... now, can someone point me to the rulebook?
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AnEvenWeirderMove wrote:
I find it frustrating when the conversation is eventually derailed into "but what really IS a game?"

I guess that's part of the point. When we both have definitions, we no longer need to argue over the "game"-ness of a game. You've understood and stated my opinion of the game without us having to argue whether "game" is the right word.

We can argue what concepts the word "game" should stand for separately from arguing whether the term applies to every single game.

That said, the same word can represent different concepts for different people. I'm not trying to say that everyone needs to have the same definition for a word. But everyone should have a definition, so you can always return an argument to the conceptual level, instead of just on a language level.

As for the "inevitable exceptions", that's when a definition is most useful. You're eventually have to exclude something from your definition. (I wouldn't call my morning commute a game.) Having a good definition makes that evaluation process easier. The ultimate motivation is to be able to use the concept. Because of that you can always change your definition as long as you apply it consistently. So if it eventually breaks down into "Because I said so", I've wasted my time creating it at all.
 
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AnEvenWierderMove wrote:
"a system of rules implemented for their own sake"

I actually quite like this definition, as ambiguous as it is

I'm tempted to add the caveat that the system of rules should define how the game starts, is played, and ends. But maybe not?

Tag for instance, without and predetermined end point is more akin to a structured activity of sorts. If you put some structured parameters around it (play for 30 minutes? Play till everyone has been IT at least once?) it starts to be more of a game.

Your definition also leaves the door open for the "Orthogame" sub-definition, which is "a competition between two or more players using an agreed-upon set of rules and a method of ranking." This in my mind is a competitive-game perspective. Cooperative games can still be "games" - but they aren't orthogames by that definition.

Sivilized wrote:
A game is a system defined by rules that include a goal and provide an opportunity to make meaningful choices in order to create an experience for a player.

"Meaningful choices" and "create an experience" don't add much to the mix in my mind. It doesn't pass the laugh test since it puts Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, War, and plenty of other commonly understood "games" outside the box of what a game is, and does so by layering on a value judgement. Personally, I find more inclusive definitions with fuzzy edges are better.

To modify your definition, I'd say ...

"A game is an activity with a system of rules for one or more players that describes how to start, play, and end and that has a non-predetermined outcome."

It makes no judgments otherwise and casts a pretty wide net. Tag with a goal / end trigger is a game. Candy Land is a game. Solitaire is a game. Pandemic and Hanabi are games. Football is a game.

What pushes pure puzzles out of the definition (crosswords, logic puzzles, soduku, etc) is the "non-predetermined outcome" piece. In pure puzzles, there is generally 1 fixed, predetermined outcome or "win" state. This makes Hanabi or Solitare "games" in my mind because you can't just keep playing them until you "beat the puzzle" - something will trigger and end the game with various different outcomes being possible. Technically, Candy Land once setup, has a predetermined winner - but this changes from one game to the next and can't ever be known to the players within the context of a single game. There's no "solution" to Candy Lane or War like there is with a puzzle. Maybe the game knows who will win, but the player's certainly don't.

That's my two cents on the topic
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Luca Morini
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Well, we have quite a bit of academics in here...Nice to meet you all!
I recently attended a "Critical Evaluation of Game Studies" seminar, and of course one of the main points of discussion was the multitude of definitions of "game". One of the presentations was built around reviewing the main "themes" that the most "popular" philosophical and academical definition touch, which were presented as such:

- rules
- conflict
- purpose
- artifact
- unproductivity/uselessness
- separation from "reality"
- goals

At this point a philosopher in the audience argued that starting from definitions is an academic fixation, and these themes reflect more philosophical preoccupations than something pragmatically useful in design processes (I'm going to interview her about this, among other stuff, in a couple of days, so stay tuned!). I partially concur, in that I still think that defining, while most assuredly an academic fixation, is something that is very useful in starting discussions and bringing them to deeper levels of insight, even if only by taking definitions themselves apart.

By the end of the day Espen Aarseth even suggested that "that of games is not a good analytical category, as we can only overdefine or underdefine it". Personally I concur with this too, as I believe that the capacity for playfulness is the core of our ability to construct semantic boundaries. In short, I think that by trying to define games we're getting into something even more recursive than the good ol' " define 'define' " problem.

So, all that said, what's the point in arguing about the definition? Personally, I find it quite fun, and since it has all the rules of analytical discussion, it's probably a nice game in itself.

(and if it is, I must add that the OP has, IMHO, set himself in a very good position, with "a system of rules implemented for their own sake"!)
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