Reading notes 1

I’m not sure that it’s the best definition of the word game, but Bernard Suits simplified definition was the most interesting to me.  He defines playing a game as voluntarily overcoming unnecessary obstacles for a goal.  I like this definition because it suggests that the only difference between playing a game and participating in any normal human activity (politics, arguments, conversations), is the understanding that the obstacles are not necessary.  I like the malleability of this definition and I think that it encourages a wider view of what games can be.

I think that digital gaming has brought with it ever increasing emphasis on interactivity and simulation in games.  I like this trend because games with clear rules and simple goals are not especially interesting to me.  Maybe this is why I like Bernard Suits’ definition best.  I would probably define games similarly to him, leaving as much room for interpretation as possible.  Games are limited systems where participants accept their limitations for the sake of engaging with the system.  I guess I’m not convinced goals are essential for a game nowadays.

Costikyan’s definition of games is thoroughly explored and very convincing.  Personally, I think it is too restrictive, but only because I would like the term game to be broader than perhaps he would.  For his purposes I can’t think of a better definition.     I guess I think the word game has been stretched in the popular imagination.  In the way that arguing about what constitutes art is a dubious endeavor, perhaps the word game is reaching a similar place.  I’m not convinced that puzzles, or the sims, shouldn’t just be lumped in with other games.  At least colloquially.

Costikyan’s discussion of color and simulation stood out to me.  I think he should have emphasized simulation over color.  To me, a colorful skin is not very meaningful.  The best games should strive for harmony between their skin and their mechanics.  I think that the way he describes simulation is great, but I believe that a very good simulation would include color.  At that point it becomes hard to distinguish between color and rules/mechanics.

I’m taking a screenwriting class and was happy to see so many parallels in this article.  Characters have desires and struggling against the obstacles in their way creates narrative tension.  I was happy to read Costikyan’s argument for the importance of narrative tension in games.  It seems to me that gameplay (or decision making in games) often derives its meaning from a very similar place as narrative: the struggle against obstacles in order to achieve a goal/satisfy a desire.

Art is a big house.  It’s tiresome when creative people constantly fight to get in, and its tiresome when intellectuals constantly fight to keep the door shut.  It’s just a word, we all have different ideas about what it means.  It’s hard enough to pin down a definition for games, it’s not possible to define art and be done with it.