Chris St. Jacques
Reading Notes Chapter 7
1. After reading Salen & Zimmerman’s taxonomy of game definitions. explain which definition(s) for game appeals to you most?
The first definition provided by the historian David Parlett is the definition that appeals to me the most because it is a clearly structured definition that fits what my most basic conception of what a game may be. When I think about a game, I think about it as a competition. Maybe that is connected to my general competitive nature of viewing games as a challenge where there is a winner and a loser in the end. It is also formulated in a way that would encompass in my mind anything that I would consider a game. It is in general a broad enough definition that it does not come across the same issues as some of the other possible definitions of a game like the one provided by Clark C. Abt. Abt provides a similar definition with a more narrow view on the role of the competitors or players of the game and the overall effect of the rules. Although this definition could be viewed as a more detailed description of what a game is, as the book mentions, there must be a balance within the definition to avoid being too specific or too broad. I feel as though the definition provided by Parlett is more successful in this case.
I connect least to the definition provided by Johann Huizinga because I can see many instances of games that are very serious and profitable. As an athlete I view some sports related games as being a very serious event and something that can be very profitable as well. I also think of games that people would gamble on as being something that is obviously profitable.
2. How would you define a game in your own words?
To me defining a game is much like the definition provided by David Parlett. I would define a game as an event or activity that has a defined set of rules in which players actively follow in pursuit of a common goal. In the end there is a single winner (individual or team) that was able to accomplish that goal which ends the game. I believe that adding more detail like many of the definitions provided in the book did only works to limit the definition of “game” and I see game as being a very broad term. Although the authors may have been seeking a very narrow definition for the word game, I think that it is unfitting to do so.
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 believe that the definition provided by Greg Costikyan is too narrow. I believe that the specific aspects of game being an art and that it requires manipulating resources is true for many cases of what should be considered a game but I think that it eliminates a wide range of games that are not artful in any way and do not necessarily rely on any specific set of resources. I agree with most of his definition however. I believe that games require decision-making players and that there is a specific set of means by which players attempt to achieve some sort of objective. These are all valid points that I think are critical to the definition of the word game. I view puzzles and second life as being games and I think that even by the complete definition provided by Costikyan, these would fit under the category of a game but I believe that some games as simple as tic-tac-toe would not be classified as a game by Costikyan’s definition. I do not see all games as being artistic or any form of culture but I would personally still classify them as being a game. This is not to say that some games are not artistic because with the evolution of games especially in today’s modern era games are becoming heavily dependent on the artistic aspect of them, but to be in the complete definition of “game” provides too narrow a view on what can be described as a game.
Puzzles and RPGs should still be considered games because by my view of what the definition of a game should be, they still involve rules and even RPGs have various goals to accomplish. As mentioned in the chapter there may not be specific victory conditions but I feel as though what would be considered a victory is something that RPGs allow the users to determine. For some people that may mean reaching the highest level allowed in the game and for others it may mean something very different. This sways a bit from most definitions of what a game is but I think that it would be incomplete to not include RPGs into what constitutes a game.
As far as narratives and their relationship with games, Costikyan views them as being very different. He describes narratives as being very linear with a specific timeline that must be followed in order for the narrative to be interesting. Games on the other hand he describes as being non-linear because they depend on decision making. By this point he therefore concludes that gaming is not about telling stories because that is a limiting factor in the freedom of the decision making of the players. I believe that he has a very valid point. I think that it is very important for games to avoid restricting the decisions that a player can make in order to allow for the game to provide different experiences for different players. Avoiding linearity allows for games to be meaningful more than once.
His notions of color and competition are also interesting points when describing games. He uses color not in reference to the actual colors of the game but of how the game setting is created and the overall visual appeal that it provides. It is a key component in appealing to the emotional aspect of the players. He also explains the importance of competition in games. Not just in the fact that it provides the game with winners and losers but because it provides struggle. It is not simply enough to have some way of beating your opponent but to make the means of defeating your opponent meaningful. This is a very important concept to me as a gamer. A simple game is still a game, just not a very interesting one. Finally games as being an art form as I mentioned earlier is something that I think applies to most games but I believe that there are definitely exceptions that still constitute a game. Like the idea of a game where beating your opponent is too easy, a game that lacks the artistic component may still be a game but will be missing an aspect of games that makes them more appealing to players.