Reading Notes #1

1) After reading Salen and Zimmerman’s list of game definitions, I think it’s hard for me to choose only one to define what a game is. I appreciated their chart which compiled elements of each definition they listed on what a game is, or what play is. Even that showed the extensiveness of what a game can be.

I liked what David Partlett said about informal games (undirected play) vs formal games (consisting of an ends and means to that end) and what Clark Abt and many others said about decision making. Bernard Suits mentioned a game’s nature to involve a rather inefficient way to reach the end goal and the “lusory attitude” in which players embody to accept this inefficiency in order to play the game. I realized this is true of many games, as it would often be easier to for example plow through the game board to reach the end square, but if that were the point of the game, then it would hardly be a challenge or any fun at all. I agree with Greg Costikyan that games are a form of art too, with all the design that goes into creating a game and also that games are a system, as noted by Elliot Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith.

2) Before thinking deeply about game design or what goes into creating a game, I might have described a game to be fun, something that can be played alone or with others, played as recreation, and so on.

Having done the readings and played games in class, I now agree that games are a form of art, as they require a lot of creative input and design. A game can be a subset of play (which can include undirected play such as playing on monkey bars), that requires rules that guide or restrict players to a desired goal. A well designed game should offer some kind of challenge that hinders players to the goal but does not make it impossible to attain. It should also provoke players to make meaningful decisions along the way that will help them get to the end.

3) As I previously mentioned, I agree that games are a form of art, however I don’t agree that all games require players to manage resources through game tokens. For example, a game of tag doesn’t require the use of any kind of resource or game token, merely the players. Colour and narrative certainly add an extra layer to a game that makes it more interesting for players but I feel are not necessary elements to every game’s success. However, a certain level of opposition that creates a challenge for a player to reach the goal should be embedded into a game in order to make the goal worth achieving and seeking after. Without the challenge, if the goal were too easy to obtain, a game could still be a game but it might not be enjoyable or very long at all for that matter.

His assertions that games require active participation and change with the player’s actions seem true to me as well. Without active participation, there is only observation, which can occur in a game but if observation were all that happened, it wouldn’t quite be a game: there would be no need to make decisions, no goal to obtain. And regarding meaningful decisions, if the game did not change with the player’s actions, the decisions that players make would hold no significance, if choices are obvious or hold no consequence either way, it could still be a game but it would not be very interesting because the goal could be obtained regardless of any decisions the player makes.