Reading Response #1

1. The definitions that appeal to me most are Huzinga’s and Crawford’s definitions.

I like Huzinga’s definition because his is the only one that includes that games are “not serious and absorbing” and that they “create special social groups.” The first part about games being not serious and absorbing are especially appealing to me. When I think of a game, I think of the experience involved in one; becoming immersed in the world of the game while being granted a temporary reprieve from “real” life. Games should first and foremost be fun, and should be played for recreational purposes, which is surprisingly not an element contained in many of the other definitions. I also like how he includes that games create special social groups, which especially applies to modern multiplayer video games. People who play the same games feel an natural affinity for each other, often taking form of friendship or rivalry. It is the same idea as people having similar interests or hobbies; if two people enthusiastically play the same game, they are sure to have something to relate to each other by, if nothing else.

I like Crawford’s definition because he combines the elements of games being make believe or representational, and games being composed of a system of parts, resources, or tokens. While one may argue that this definition of a game is somewhat narrow, I agree with his sentiment. Games, in my opinion, happen outside of “real” life, and involve some of framework in the form of parts, resources, and tokens. Crawford’s definition is most applicable to traditional games, like board or card games, and modern video games.

2. If I had to define a game in my own words, I would choose a definition that would be a combination of Huzinga’s and Crawford’s definitions. Games are a recreational and voluntary activity that provide the player(s) with a temporary escape from reality. In every game, there is an ultimate goal, which allows the player to “win” or “beat the game”, and there is a set of rules which the players must overcome to reach the goal. Games do not necessarily take physical skill to play, although they can and often do, but they should be open ended, allowing the players make their own decisions on their path to victory. Many would say that games can be interpreted as a form of art, which I do somewhat agree, but I think they’re more aptly described as an activity. I think it would be more accurate to say that there is an art to creating a good game, rather than that the game itself is an art form. One major departure I would take from Huzinga’s definition is the stipulation that games are never associated with material gain. Games, like most other things in life, are associated with monetary value. Consumers buy the games and the creator of the game make money off selling the games. In-game items and services can also be bought, and games can be played competitively for monetary gain.

3. I think that Costiyan’s definition of a game is too narrow. While I agree in his basic structure: games should have a goal, involve decision making, and are a system of parts, I don’t really agree with the part of his definition that a game is a form of art. Yes, games can be a form of art, but there are plenty of games that wouldn’t be considered works of art, such as a basic card game like war, or maybe a child’s game like patty cake or tag. In these types of basic games, there is no significant visual medium being used, which is why I don’t think all games should be considered a form of art.

I also don’t agree with his opinion saying that puzzles aren’t games. I think puzzles are games, because they are recreational activities that involve a player with some sort of goal, making decisions to reach that goal, which would be to complete the puzzle. They also involve the manipulation of the puzzles pieces, which can be described as the “system of parts.” I also disagree with his assertion that puzzles are static; the status of a puzzle changes as the player pieces the puzzle together. Second life is also a game, because it involves a player in a fantasy world, actively manipulating in game objects in order to reach a goal.

Costiyan’s distinction between stories and games is also quite interesting. In his definition, he says that stories are linear, while games are inherently non-linear, because they depend on decisions made by the player. While this is somewhat true, games can also be linear, even though decisions are made. Many games that involve decision making are ultimately linear, because while the narrative may branch out depending on which decisions a player makes, the branches frequently converge in the end, leading to the same outcome. Even if they do not, the game can be considered to have multiple narratives. In my opinion, it is hard to separate a story from the game; oftentimes the experience of playing a game is largely dependent on the narrative.

I do, however, think he does a good job in describing elements which enhance the experience a game provides. The notion of what he calls “color” is quite accurate. While it may not be the most central thing to the quality of a game, pageantry and attention to detail are things which are noticed and appreciated by the players. Competition is another thing he touches upon, and which he labels as a type of struggle. I like how he mentions both competition between players and competition between a player and non-player elements. However, I don’t really understand his definition of a cooperative game. He says that cooperative games cannot be made, but it seems to me that many games these days are cooperative games, or have some sort of cooperative mode built into the game. An easy example would be an MMO such as World of Warcraft, where players can join forces to take down more powerful enemies.

Costiyan’s definition is useful and informative, but I think that he misses on some points, while being too particular on others.

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