1. After reading Salen & Zimmerman’s taxonomy of game definitions. explain which definition(s) for game appeals to you most?
Johann Huizinga definition appeal to me the most. The points that stand out to me the most are that games are outside ordinary life, are ‘not serious’, are not associated with material profit, and that games proceed according to rules. Games create an alternate space where its just the players and the game. It is slightly disconnected from reality in that a game shouldn’t have an effect on your life. Of course there might be some negative feelings of one party toward the other, but the actions shouldn’t carry over. This also means that they aren’t serious. Whenever games cross over into reality, they are no longer games but activities that you must accomplish or succeed in in order to achieve a form of success. The same goes for when games give material profit. For example poker is no longer just for fun when a poker player studies and plays to earn money. At this point poker is the player’s occupation and no longer a game. Games must also have rules. If there are no constraints then it is just like any other activity. There is no challenge or point in playing if anyone is allowed to do anything. Many of these ideals resonate with my own definition which are further explained below.
2. How would you define a game in your own words?
A game is a composed of a set of rules that a player or players go through to achieve a goal and obtain some sort of reward. There can be a set of many subgoals within a game that may or may not lead to the final goal but each in itself is part of the game experience. Without rules, there is no game because then there are no constraints that distinguish it from any normal activity. The same goes if there isn’t a goal and an award. If there is nothing to work towards then it might as well just be working.
A game is also more than what was just listed. It also depends on perspective. There are lots of activities that fall under the definition of working towards a goal/reward with a set of rules, however, it can only be called a game if it is treated lightheartedly or perceived as lighthearted.
For example a student can be assigned a homework that they must accomplish within a day, without cheating, and as a reward they get a grade. A normal student would not consider this to be a game, however, if the teacher proposed this as a game and said that the student gets a certain amount of candy for a certain amount of correct problems then there is a different perspective that turns it into a game. There are still consequences but they actually harmful to the student or player.
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 agree and disagree with Costikyan’s definition of games. In some areas like the art aspect is too broad in that it gives games an unlimited amount of creative space. At the same time it can be too narrow when considering ‘toy’-like games and game appearance.
According to Costikyan puzzles are not games and I agree. However games that integrate puzzles are still games. For example any of the Professor Layton games fall into this category. They are all well-known great puzzle games, however, what makes it a game is integrating all the puzzles together to achieve an end-goal. It is interactive in that the player gets to make choices along the way. By completing puzzles, certain parts of the game open up as a reward and this is how the game interacts with the player. A game that is just a puzzle is more of a problem to solve that a game that is interactive and lets you progress.
Costikyan would consider Second Life a toy like how Sim City is a toy. In both worlds players have all the control given a set of tools and objects but there are no set objectives. They have the free will to create their own goals and objectives. Because of this Costikyan considers these not games just ‘toys’. However, I think these ‘toys’ are still games. They are games in the players’ eyes just not the creators. The creators gave no set objective or rules, these are all defined by the player themselves if they choose to set them. In this way, Second Life is a game or a toy depending on whose perspective and what use it is put to.
As for the narrative, I agree with his statement that stories are linear and games are not. This is not to say that narrative is not an important aspect of a game, just that stories and games are distinctly different and a narrative shouldn’t be all encompassing of a game. If you make a game too much like a story you take away the players’ choices. If there are no choices then there is no game to play just a story to listen to. For example, in DND, if the game master told you to do an exact series of actions then you have no choice in the matter and you might as well be watching a puppet show.
His emphasis on color is a little bit extreme. While it is a completely necessary component of a game, many classical games have horrible ‘color’ but were extremely popular. Pacman and Pong were not even close to aesthetically appealing as well as the other old pixel-y games like Mario. While color is important, with good game play it isn’t as necessary.
Competition, on the other hand, is necessary. Either direct competition with other players, NPCs or indirect competition such as competing with yourself. The obstacles a player encounters are what makes the game challenging and worthwhile.
Costikyan’s definition presents a more modern outlook on games. It is broad in that it brings art into the definition thus making the definition of games even more debatable. Art usually has a lot of difficulty already in defining itself, and it isn’t until years later after long analysis that something is categorized as art. Costikyan is applying this form of thought to games as well instead of the structural definitions provided by the other authors from the previous reading.
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