Reading Notes 1

1. I was particularly drawn to the definitions of Clark C. Abt and Chris Crawford. Abt’s definition of games is fairly refined in that it includes four different components that I agree are essential in games: activity (or process), decision-making (interactivity/response), objectives (or goals), limiting context (rules that create boundaries and structure). Similarly, Chris Crawford summarizes games as having four qualities, though he does not necessarily provide a definition of games. The first quality, representation, describes a game as a closed formal system, meaning it is self-sufficient as a world bound by explicit rules. Secondly, interaction is similar to Abt’s quality of decision-making, allowing individuals to “generate causes and observe effects.” Crawford also describes the significance of conflict in a game, which allows a player to meaningfully pursue a goal. Crawford also includes an element that I did not think about: safety, in other words, “a game is a safe way to experience reality.”

2. A game is a system with limits in which individuals make decisions to achieve goals or overcome conflicts to reach a quantifiable or unquantifiable result in an artificial and relevant environment.

3. I appreciate Costikyan’s definition because he identifies games as a form of art, though I would not consider all games as art; rather I would describe them as culturally relevant. His inclusion of “managing resources,” “game tokens,” “pursuit of a goal.” are all similar characteristics of games as defined by others. “Managing resources” allows players to make decisions to achieve a goal while “game tokens” are the means to make those decisions.

However, I believe Costikyan’s definition is too narrow. He states that puzzles are not games because they are static and not technically interactive. This is debatable because the definition of interactive (in terms of art, games, design) is not concrete. On the other hand, Costikyan’s example of Sim City as being a toy and not a game is difficult to agree or disagree with. Clearly, there are no objectives defined by the designer, though players could create their own goals and then there would be objectives, but then that would be blurring the definition of games. In terms of Costikyan’s view on narratives and games, I would consider those narratives as interactive stories in which players can make decisions that activate predetermined alternatives, but the underlining story remains unchanged. However, I believe games can tell stories in terms of bringing awareness to social issues, history, institutions, etc.

Lastly, Costikyan provides the element of color with an appropriate role in a game: color “can greatly add to a game’s emotional appeal.” By color, I believe he is addressing the context and details of a game, but also the aesthetic qualities that may enhance the appeal of a game. Thus, “color” is secondary but essential.