Reading Notes #1

1. Out of the eight definitions, I connected greatly to both Clark Abt’s and Chris Crawford’s taxonomies. In my opinion, Abt’s definitions provide a slightly more general realm of explanation, in which Crawford explores in a more detailed manner. What I found particular about Abt’s explanation is his confession that his definitions are too narrow and too broad, narrow in the fact that not all games are contests among adversaries, and broad in the fact that real life experiences, such as elections or social situations, can be considered games as well.

Regardless, I believe Abt provides a solid foundation in taxonomy. Games are structured through activity, the participation of players making decisions, goals, and rules. A game cannot be considered a game without the concept of players and individuals working through a set of rules and a process to reach a certain objective.

Crawford delves more into these concepts by defining his qualities: representation, interaction, conflict, and safety. In terms of representation, I agree with Crawford, in that a game creates a subjective or simplified representation of emotional reality. In other words, it is like Abt’s definition of ‘activity’, which symbolizes a process. Both terms allude to the idea of a game representing a certain structure, or a subset of reality. Crawford explores the idea of Abt’s decision makers through defining interaction, stating that games should be a web work of cause and effect, and an opportunity for exploration. However, Crawford introduces the ideas of conflict and safety, defining that conflict creates obstacles for the player to reach his or her goal. Safety discusses the concept of the game acting as a safer, artificial representation of life.

2. A game involves the interaction of an individual or several players working with a set of rules in order to complete a process. Games must provide a certain backstory or general objective for the player(s). While the game can have a concrete objective, this does not mean that the game has a definitive end. Games such as Catch Phrase can be played without end, but the game still has the objective for its players to reach certain goals by defining phrases and words.

Regardless of an ending or an indeterminate ending, games must be defined by a set of rules to dictate the process and also to limit the player(s). This can range from a small set of rules to an incredibly vast set of rules that change due to player’s choices, such as in video games. Games should be engaging enough for the player(s) to interact with the game itself as well as other players, whether as companions or adversaries. Ultimately, a game should push the player towards completing a certain process and reaching towards a certain goal.

3. I’m on the fence of whether I completely agree about Costikyan’s definition and explanation about games. His definition goes to say that a game is, “a form of art in which participants, termed players, make decisions in order to manage resources through game tokens in the pursuit of a goal”. However, not all games utilize game tokens or objects that help visualize the game. Children create their own games with rules and decisions that often are completely visualized through imagination. However, I agree with his statement in that a game is a form of art. Games require creativity, strategy, and imagination, and thus produce a perfect synthesis of these three qualities.

In regards to Costikyan’s comments on puzzles, I disagree with his statement. He provides the example of a crossword puzzle as an antithesis to a game. However, a crossword puzzle fits his game definition. Participants are those who engage in the puzzle, they utilize resources (words hints and blank spaces) in order to pursue the goal of finishing the puzzle. Like a game, a crossword puzzle provides restrictions and limitations that act like rules. All in all, puzzles likewise follow Costikyan’s general rule and definition of what constitutes a game.

The same goes for second life games, such as his example through The Sims. Likewise, it follows his rule. Your second life character becomes your token, there are rules that lie within the game but are also created by the player, and the player chooses the goal of the character. Games like this are incredibly engaging and interactive. The goals do not have to be long term. The player most likely sets the character a group of short term goals to achieve, but this does not mean that these goals are more insignificant than one permanently ending goal. Narrative, like in tabletop or video games, plays a large role in second life games as well.

Costikyan’s comments on color are valid, but can also come off to be extreme. It is true that Monopoly is not a concrete representation of real estate development. However, that does not mean that the game is not at all about real estate. His definition of color can be connected to Crawford’s ideas of representation. A game does not strictly depict the nature of reality or is subsets. Rather, it employs visualizations and color in order to better connect the player(s) to the game. It connects as well to Crawford’s definition of safety. Games like Monopoly act as safe havens when it comes to reality, as the player(s) really never become bankrupt or go to jail. Games offer valuable lessons on life and truth through simulated and colorful sub worlds.