Gaming Definition Reading Response – Roman

1. After reading Salen & Zimmerman’s taxonomy of game definitions. explain which definition(s) for game appeals to you most?

Salen & Zimmerman give a lot of definitions or descriptions of games, finding fault with each of them, including their own final definition. In the end, I feel that their final definition is the most accurate, and therefore the one I like the most. “A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.” This definition covers everything, from cooperative to competitive games, and from single player to multi-player. Even their explanation of role-playing games within this definition is satisfactory.
2. How would you define a game in your own words?

My only complaint would be that Salen & Zimmerman’s definition does not contain any mention of enjoyment or fun. It is true that not all games are fun, but games are usually designed as a leisure activity, to be enjoyed by the players. If this definition added a little phrase, it would be closer to what I think a game is. In short, “a game is a system, usually designed for the enjoyment of the players, in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.” Note that this does not change the essential definition. Just because a game is usually designed for enjoyment does not mean all games are.

3. What is your opinion of Costikyan’s definition of games, is it too broad , too narrow,which aspects of his definition do agree with and which do you disagree with? Are puzzles games? Is second life a game? What do you make of his ideas about narrative in games? And his notions of color and competition? What about his idea that games should be considered “art”?

Costikyan’s definition is much too narrow, in that not all games are necessarily a form of art. I agree with him that games are more about decision-making than interactivity and that games have goals and conflict. But it seems to me that resources, and the management of them, are not entirely necessary for a game to be a game. While it is hard to imagine a game that does not involve resources (even pattycake involves the resource of hands), games are not necessarily defined by the manipulation of resources. The same argument goes for game tokens.

I must also disagree with Costikyan and say that puzzles are, in fact, games. There are a set of rules, and even conflict between the player and the system itself. It seems that Costikyan does not want to term puzzles as games because he finds them boring.

And I think this is the main problem. Costikyan is focusing more on what makes games fun (for him) rather than on what games actually are. He talks extensively about having many choices to make, about having narrative, color and competition. But while these would certainly make games fun, they do not necessarily define what a game is.


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