Reading Notes #1

1. While reading the game definitions, I originally sided with David Parlett’s, which emphasized mainly that a game is based on ends and means. I thought it was simply put, that there is in fact an “endpoint” reached in every game and that it must consist of a set of “equipment” and rules. I also agreed with his distinction between game and play, referring to the puppy situation as play rather than a formal game. Then I started thinking, and I reminisced to one of my favorite childhood computer games, The Sims.

The Sims is undoubtedly considered a game, but I came to the conclusion that there really is no endpoint you’re trying to obtain, so this definition was no longer fully appealing to me. In looking at the rest of the definitions, the other that struck a cord with me was Bernard Suits’. I appreciated his more simplistic version, in which he concisely states that “playing a game is the voluntary effort to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”

As people who play games, we are actively and voluntarily subjecting ourselves to “obstacles” that are essentially useless towards any sort of real-life progression or advancement. Although this definition at first glance feels like it’s assimilating games with some type of chore, we obviously play because we’re anticipating having fun.

2. I think the quintessential characteristic of games is that there must be some sort of rules involved. There needs to be some sort of constraint in a way, otherwise there would be no difficulty. Another way to phrase it is limitations, which can range from basic to extremely complex. In a game of kickball, for example, a basic restriction is that you are only allowed to move the ball with your foot when you’re up to the plate. In a more complex video game, there are innumerable rules and components that limit your abilities.

While I don’t think there necessarily has to be a distinct endpoint that a game needs to have, I do think there need to be distinct goals that a player aims for. For instance, the word goal could be used as an umbrella term to also encompass winning, in addition to other accomplishments you might have in a game. Relating back to The Sims example, there isn’t really any way to “win,” therefore I would categorize the game as having goals that each individual tries to accomplish.

In summary, I would define a game as something that inflicts some sort of restraint or rules on players as they try to work towards a goal or multiple goals.

3. I agree with parts of Costikyans’ game definition, but at times I found it too narrow. I believe a game like Sim City should be considered a game, because like he states, you develop goals. While he states that the software doesn’t have the capacity to fulfill all of your wildest dreams and goals, I think every game has limits and that his expulsion of the game as a game is unnecessary. I agree that there needs to be decision-making, and that that is a general category that encompasses all games. I believe managing resources gets a little cloudy, as I don’t really think it would quite apply to a sports game, a game of soccer for instance.

I’m a little on the fence about puzzles, because I think they represent a game in the sense that you have to develop a goal (finishing) and require decision making. While Costikyan is evidently very under the impression that they do not fall under the “game” category, I think I would probably include them in that characterization. Second life is another difficult entity to categorize, but in an indexical sense, I would say it is because you’re developing goals and making decisions. Unlike a puzzle there is no “end” or “win” but I still think as an alternate reality it can be considered a game.

I definitely agree that color adds to a game, and his break down of Monopoly is a perfect example of that. I think as users/players we are definitely more drawn to games that have intriguing color, because its often humorous, allows us to “escape” reality in a sense, and keeps us engaged longer. When it comes to both narration and competition, it’s always more fun to have a game that is filled with tension and allows that tension to fluctuate among players.

As I think about it more, I would categorize games as art, however I think Costikyan holds extremely high standards for what he considers a good game let alone a piece of art. Although a piece might be too commercial, simple, etc. in his eyes, I hold respect for the designer and their creative process.