Reading Note #1 | Xiaotian Chen

Xiaotian Chen

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

I like the author’s definition the most:
A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.
It is most selective hence most narrow definition. It mentions the 6 most important points of game: system, player, artificial, conflict, rules, and quantifiable outcome. I think they are necessary to a game. Rules makes a game playable; Conflict makes the game attractive; Quantifiable outcome is the goal which gives people a reason to play. Artificial world is the background which the game grows on; Player interacts and make decisions in the game; And the whole is viewed as a system.

2. How would you define a game in your own words?

Game is a system with an artificial and constrained world, in which players interact and make decisions for a goal.
I agree on most key points with Salen & Zimmerman. Here I would put the word goal because I don’t think it need to be quantifiable. Sometimes the goal is vague, like to explore more in a RPG. But as long as it drives you to play it is a good goal for a game. Also I put the word constrained, referring to the rules, limit, boundary and inefficiency. And I split interaction and decision-making since they are both so important.

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”?

I think Costikyan’s definition is too broad. He didn’t mention the game rules and mechanisms that make the game playable. And he put game as a form of art, which is still not generally agreeable.
I’ll put puzzle in game. Like the argument in S&Z, puzzles contain all elements needed for a game: system, player, rules, artificial, conflict, outcome. I also regard second life a game. Although it don’t give players a request, every one has their own goal. Some want to make money and buy stuff, some want to make more friends, some want to explore all aspects of the game. As long as they have a goal in mind and are pushed to play, it is a good game.
Costikyan think game is not story telling, but narrative tension can strengthen a game. I agree with that. The nature of game makes it hard to conduct a good story. But good use of story can drag plays more into the game world.
Color is another element make a game interesting to players. It is not essential. But with a theme, it is easier to design more feature into the game, and the theme can make more fun.
Costikyan put opposition as a big part of game. That includes opposition to other players and non-player characters. Competition can be a goal of game. It can add more fun and intense to a game. But it is not necessary. Many game don’t involve competition and are still interesting, like dart by oneself.
Game has the potential to express the author’s thoughts. But it still has some distance from art. Until now there’s not much good game conducting deep emotions or thoughts. Because of the interactive nature of game, part of the control is in hand of players. So the author cannot express as he like as traditional form of arts. If game is to become a form of art, creators needs to get use of this new form. It may come with a new way of thinking.

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