Reading Notes #1

1. Though my own definition of a game would be a combination of the definitions in the article, I most closely associated with Bernard Suit’s definition. His definition of playing a game is “the voluntary effort to overcome unnecessary obstacles”, with emphasis on the rules and unnecessary obstacles as limiting factors. I thought that his additions of inefficiency and obstacles into the list of qualifications was accurate, yet his definitions were still inclusive of many different types of games. Games essentially provide obstacles and introduce inefficiency in order to prolong play and the game experience.


2. A game is a created experience or activity that provides the player with some form of benefit (amusement, knowledge) through engagement with the game according to a set of rules and objectives.

To come up with my own definition of a game is difficult because of all the exceptions that come to mind when I define one parameter. I added in the idea of reaping a benefit because of my own experience with all the games I’ve played. In some way or another, most games amuse, help pass the time, or facilitate learning. Otherwise, there would be no incentive to play or even create the game. Even a game that is specifically created to have no meaning in a sense has a purpose… to demonstrate a concept of nothingness.


3.  Costikyan certainly does a good job with analyzing what makes a game “good”, engaging, and culturally significant. However, in doing that he narrows it down too much and excludes many forms of games that are still relevant yet don’t fit his criteria. His inclusion of game tokens seems to be a bit of a stretch, as I can think of many games that I enjoy that have no tokens. In fact, tokens seem to exclude most sports, puzzles, and physical games such as Twister, etc.

I do think that puzzles are games. Though they may be static, it has all of the strategy, goals, and mental engagement as any game has. In fact, many games include some sort of puzzle factor to make the game more interesting. As Costikyan says himself, to eliminate puzzle-solving entirely would strip the game of challenges and make it too explorational and open-ended.

This would include Second Life, an online world experience. Because there are no rules or objectives, I would consider it more of an experience than a game. Although, some people may turn it into a game by providing their own set of objectives for themselves to accomplish on their own. It comes down to the player’s desire to project meaning into it, so what may be a game for some may not be viewed as so by another.

I also disagree strongly with his idea that narrative cannot be present within games, mostly because I’m a fan of games with a story structure and plot. I often play games that have a ‘right’ answer or action, such as escape games and RPGs like the Final Fantasy series. Although it does make it a bit puzzle-like, the presence of a plot doesn’t detract from its legitimacy and quality as a game. The player still has some freedom and some degree to which they can control how the story goes, the only difference between an RPG and a game without a story structure is the degree of freedom the player has. In fact, I think by taking some freedom away from the player, the experience can be enhanced as many people lose interest because of the lack of an objective.

As for color, it really boils down to the author’s preference of appealing aesthetics. Aesthetics can greatly add to the game, but its not the main part of the game. Competition also can add greatly to a player’s enjoyment of the game because of an added objective— to beat the other player.

Lastly, games don’t have to be considered art. In fact, they don’t even have to be culturally appreciated. As long as a game provides some sort of benefit to a player, it still has legitimacy as a game.