1) SALEN & ZIMMERMAN
I am most interested in:
a. Involves decision making. This relates most directly to how a game may be seen to involve a player to a greater extent beyond the triviality sometimes assumed about games. It suggests a manifestation of a mental capacity that is highly valued by the society. By exercising this capacity, on one hand, it demonstrates the comparison of certain mental “fitness” we impose on ourselves. And on the other, it is a play of involvement/response toward certain subjects/situations that we may otherwise avoid to be involved in other context, due to our understanding of the implications and consequences – certain societal burden from decision making.
b. Voluntary. This is highly interesting because it seems to suggest that there is a prior decision made before entering a game, a configured situation that is grounded in trust, sharing emotions, enforcement of rules, and etc.. But at the same time, this pretext is also highly fragile because it’s arranged at the beginning of a game and assume for the rest of the game. If anything, this seems to be a vulnerability/great power of which a player may be agreed into certain subjugation/situation that he/she would otherwise be unwilling to experience in a prior context.
c. Uncertain. The uncertainty can be seen more as a action rather than a observation. There is an implied certainty (to some extent) when players engages with each other and expectations are formed, then there is a feeling of uncertainty in that whether or not the actions match the expectations, but at the same time it is also within expectations when there is a mismatch. Therefore, the uncertain is acted on by the players, taking a shot/testing a variation, and is more powerful in itself as a gamebit rather than an assumption about games in general.
b. A form of art. Duh.
2) MY DEFINITION
a. A game is a series/rounds of reciprocal stimulation that is advantageous/rewarding (fun, personal gain, domination) to at least one party involved (game designer, player, host, sponsor, spectator) but not necessary all.
b. A game consists of durations of controlled movements (speech, gesture, facial expression) and durations of uncontrolled movements (heart-rate, coughing, distraction).
c. A game starts with an initial, self-defined state and changes its state in relation to the players’ involvement, but a game does not required an ultimate end state. A game is over when there is no more change can be introduced.
d. A game may involve involuntary participant (person, animal). And therefore, games are not immune from ethical scrutiny.
e. A game starts with only voluntary participants can not assume the participants’ involvement to be voluntary for the entire game.
Published in 1994, Costikyan’s definitions are good starter analysis into the rhetoric around game design. It lays the foundation in sections like Information, Position Identification, Socialization, and Narrative Tension which are still major areas of investigation in today’s games. The Diplomacy section is something addressed in games like MMO’s but is lacking in RTS and other genres even today after 16 years! In addition, his prediction on the move from solitaire games to more cooperative is dead-on with the recent emphasis on multi-player functionality.
However, perhaps because of the game development at the time of his writing, his essay is less applicable in today’s climate due to the lack of depth. The ideas he introduced in Color and Simulation are interesting in that they address a visual/tonal/atmospheric quality inherent and necessary in games, but it could be explored much further to really tie in with his other points – and ought to be addressed throughout most of the sections.
I think the use in conceptually distinguishing puzzles and games is that it offers a mean of isolating particular mechanism or element in a playful experience. “We must think of a continuum, rather than a dichotomy; if a crossword is 100% puzzle, Zork is 90% puzzle and 10% game.” On on e hand, it perhaps offers a quantitative way of analysis the composition of how a game may be successful, retaining more attention, and etc.. And on the other hand, it offers a suggestion to consider the play in a broader context; it is not that a crossword is 100% mechanism, its narrative might be that it is played while you’re eating breakfast in real life; its lack of narrative is to be paired with your daily activities; 90% puzzle and 10% breakfast. Puzzles are games.
Why wouldn’t Second Life be a game? The lack of defined goals might separate it from the common forms of games, but nevertheless a player engage the game with a particular purpose in mind – perhaps it is as trivial as killing time or chatting with random strangers. If by playing a character in Second Life fulfills that purpose, then playing Second Life is purposeful. Although one may argue that Second Life is not particularly competitive or has a clearly defined opposition to overcome, but as soon as a new character is created he/she starts from a initial state that is different than those who have been in the community longer, the process to assimilate into the the community is an opposition to overcome in order to reach the desired state, and the pace of which one sets up to accomplish such is either self-competitive against expected time-line or competitive among other new players – seeing how they progress compare to yourself.