Reading Response 1

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

 I find Roger Caillos’ definition of play, which I believe is also meant to describe games, appealing. For the most part, I would agree with each part of Caillos’ definition, especially the make-believe part. I find this appealing because even a game that is highly physical, like football, ultimately is not real life. Although a physical game can have physical consequences like injuries, the player should not necessarily perceive the game as reality. When a person plays World of Warcraft, they know that reality doesn’t actually consist of orcs and dragons, that the in-game death of their character doesn’t actually mean that the human player will actually die.

I particularly like Bernard Suit’s succinct definition of games; I think the thing that makes it unique is the line “playing a game is the voluntary effort to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” A game doesn’t force anyone to play it, the players will volunteer to be participants and to abide by the rules and to surpass some obstacles. The obstacles make the game challenging and fun. If a game had no obstacles, there would be no challenge and quite possibly no fun and enjoyment. Anyone who has played a game on god mode would definitely know this; the game is fun for a little bit, but then it gets boring quickly because there is no more challenge in the game. You then voluntarily go back to the normal mode and agree to attempt to overcome the obstacles.

Greg Costikyan’s definition is also appealing for a couple reasons. I agree with all the parts of the definition except for the idea that a game is art. Of course, this goes along with my definition of art; I wouldn’t necessarily call poker a form of art. The other parts of the definition apply to many types of games and particular games that I can think of. I do believe that games are inherently decision based, which also entails player participation.
2. How would you define a game in your own words?

            Coming up with my own definition of a game is certainly difficult because of the sheer amount of games in the world. In my own words, I would describe a game as: a medium in which one or more players voluntarily choose to be a part of and make decisions which achieve a certain outcome. It is definitely challenging to incorporate all the elements that I can think of into the definition of a game, but I think that my words encapsulate most of the elements of a game. I wouldn’t call a game art, so I choose to call it a medium. When a person participates in a game, that person is usually called a player. Players also need to voluntarily take part in the game, since I believe that games are inherently meant to be entertaining and fun, and being forced to do something can definitely take away from enjoyment. A game also requires decision making and action; one isn’t necessarily playing a game by being passive or not making decisions. Lastly, games are meant to be played by players to achieve a certain outcome.
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”?

            As mentioned earlier in the first question, I mostly agree with Costikyan’s definition of games. I do not think that all games are a form of art, although games are definitely part of a people’s culture. I don’t think that his definition is too broad; it certainly encapsulates just about all the games that pop up in my head. Games certainly do require players who make decisions. I think that most games can be interpreted enough to fit Costikyan’s definition; even one that doesn’t seem to feature traditional resource management, like football, is very much a game. When I think of a game and resource management, I might think of a currency, health, or energy that must be managed in order to successfully complete the game.

            In regards to puzzles, I definitely think that they are games. According to the respective definitions of various people, puzzles may not be games, but to me puzzles are at least very similar to games and fulfill the same needs of entertainment and diversion. Games function as a means of enjoyment and diversion, as do puzzles. My definition of games would include puzzles as games, but my definition is rather broad. I would interpret a jigsaw puzzle as being a game since it fulfills the criteria of my definition. It’s rather peculiar to me that people think that puzzles are not games. Maybe it’s pointless to debate the matter, since puzzle are not very serious and are merely meant to serve as a means of enjoyment and diversion.

            I have never played Second Life but I know a few things about it. As far as I can tell, the game is meant to mimic reality and the appeal is that players can do things in it that they can’t do in real life. I do think that Second Life is a game, according to my definition and Costikyan’s definition. In reality, I think that one’s number one goal is survival. Even if the game isn’t necessarily about surviving an onslaught of zombies or something like that, it is still about survival at its heart. Thus, it does feature some perceivable goals, although the goals are mostly what the player wants them to be. Just like real life, Second Life must incorporate resource management. Whether the game is art is open up to debate.

            I agree with Costikyan’s ideas about narrative. A real life example is when I play Monopoly. Once someone has become obscenely rich and owns a huge chunk of the developed properties, the game just dies for me unless I’m the one in the lead. The players essentially play for the climax and mild “climaxes.” It would be a good idea for the game to have the greatest climax at the end of the game.

            Costikyan has some good ideas in regards to color and competition in games. Games need to be engaging, and this can be achieved through various forms of stimulation. Visual stimulation is one form that is usually very necessary in a game. To people who play video games, this could related to the graphics of the game. Playing a game that only has 4 colors would quite possibly be a lot less appealing than playing the same game with 256 colors. In terms of competition, I think that games are inherently competitive. The idea of winning entails that someone or something loses, which also entails a competition or contest. There is almost no way around it. I especially agree with Costikyan’s line “A game without struggle is a game that’s dead.” Struggle implies competition, and competition means victory and defeat, which are things that are inherent in my idea of games.

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