Reading Response 1

1.

My preferred definition of a “game” that was described by the author is the one that he created himself. It is one of the only definitions presented that encompasses everything that I would consider a “game”. It includes everything from the most complex games like “Civilization 5” to gambling to the simplest kind like Tic-Tac-Toe, one that was not necessarily included in every definition before it. The definition also embraces the fact that a game might be played alone. The requirement of a game being “artificial” was something I hadn’t considered before. Something like real life War is something I’m not sure fits into the category of a “game” because my immediate reaction to the word “game” is that they are enjoyable to play. That is not to say that every game I have played has been enjoyable, but it was certainly the intent of the game. Even though a game is not enjoyable, the intent in creating a game is so that it can be enjoyed by someone, if not everyone. They are a form of interactive entertainment.

Of the eight other definitions from other authors, I found Bernard Suits’ to be the most interesting and relevant. The idea that a game is entirely voluntary was very interesting. I feel that that is an important distinction because, as mentioned before, games are meant to be enjoyed. Also, the idea that rules cause an inherent lack of efficiency in games was another interesting point, though I don’t know if it applies to every single game. It is through this kind of inefficiency, though, that a game can be considered “fun”. The inefficiencies cause challenges, and it is through the challenges that a player can have “fun” by feeling they have accomplished something.

 

2.

Initially, before reading the previous article, my definition of a game was as follows: A game must have a goal that can be attained by one or more players, it must have rules, and it must be created with the intent of creating something enjoyable for the players (though this doesn’t always happen). I didn’t necessarily consider a game to be something that needed to be defined as being separate from real life and needing to be artificial, nor something that required “conflict.” A game like Solitaire may not fit so perfectly into the idea of “conflict” in a game, but there may certainly be frustration of the player as a form of conflict – there is a problem to solve.

The idea that a game must have “decision makers” also struck me. I initially thought this to be true – in all games, the player must be making decisions, strategically or otherwise. This however, does not hold true for every game. Candyland, as we discussed in class, is a game where absolutely no decision is required whatsoever – the game nearly plays itself and will have the same outcome regardless of who is playing. While decision making is not integral to the construct of a game, it is certainly integral to a game being fun and engaging. While thinking about a definition for a game, this kind of rule was found for the designing of games: always allow the player to make a decision. I originally thought that trying to create a definition for “game” was arbitrary and not so important, but in thinking about how games are played and what they are, one can extract what exactly makes games interesting and fun.

 

3.

I think he is making his definition too narrow in some regards. He certainly makes goods points, but seems to focus on what makes a game enjoyable rather than what makes something a game. As mentioned before, decision-making is not necessarily integral to a game, but is mandatory for a game to be even remotely enjoyable. I would rather keep the definition for a game in general more open and instead define what makes a game enjoyable more strictly so that there are always more avenues of gameplay to explore.

Puzzles are games. You have a goal and the player must work through difficulties to achieve the goal. Some video games are comprised entirely of puzzles and I think it’s foolish to leave them out entirely from the spectrum of gaming. Picross on Nintendo DS, for example, is nothing but picross puzzles. In the end I think it depends on the kind of puzzle itself. Interactivity is key when it comes to games, and some puzzles, such as logical ones where the answer is simply thought about, may not be considered “interactive”.

I’m not too familiar with Second Life, but if I understand correctly, it is something like Playstation Home in which you control a virtual person around an environment, interact with others and customize the character. For some reason, I want to call this a game, but I’m having trouble justifying it. It doesn’t necessarily have an explicit goal, but for every player there will be a different objective. I don’t know if a goal needs to be explicit in a game. Minecraft, although in beta, does not have an explicit goal, and yet is very successful as a game. The ability to create allows for lots of goals set individually by the player.

As for his discussion on narrative, I think he has some valid points. It makes sense that as a linear story grows more and more tied to a game, the game must take some decisions away from the player. However, some games now have told a very good and focused story without sacrificing, but rather enhancing, game play. Mass Effect is one example in which the player is given many options and meaningful decisions. It uses the heavy integration of the story in order to accomplish this. Without having as robust a story as it did, the game would have failed. Heavy Rain also falls into this category. Games can be about telling a story.

When discussing the “color”, he means the aesthetic of the game. Monopoly, for example, could be played using little white blocks instead of houses, and with spaces that are simply numbered “A1” or “B3”, but it would be an entirely less enjoyable game. I greatly value the art direction in games, specifically modern video games, so I agree that the “color” is important. I admit that there have been times when I have stopped playing a game simply because it didn’t look good or that I continued to play a game, despite it having awful mechanics, simply because it was pretty. As far as competition goes, I think he views cooperative games too narrowly. With modern games placing such a large focus on cooperative gameplay, I think it’s safe to say that it can, indeed, be fun and people have stopped “playing Mortal Kombat” for it. He doesn’t seem to consider the idea of two people cooperatively working toward the same goal and against the same opposition. It does not always degrade to “let’s all throw a ball around.”

As far as games as art go, they are made up many things called “art” (concept art, 3d models, etc), and they can convey and evoke emotion, so it almost comes naturally that they would be considered art, though I know there is debate about this. I personally don’t find it fruitful to argue over whether or not something can or should be defined as “art” because it’s simply a word, and would rather focus on whether or not I enjoy something. I have fun playing games, and enjoy aspects of creating games from what I’ve experienced, so it’s something that I’d like to occupy myself with.

Garrett J

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