Reading Notes 1—Juan Ayala


After reading Salen & Zimmerman’s taxonomy of game definitions. explain which definition(s) for game appeals to you most?


I’m particularly attracted to David Parlett’s definition of game because he does not, as mentioned earlier in the text, try to define what a specific game is moreover he tries to add parameters to what is fundamental in a game: end and means. For the most part I think it’s a pretty accurate description of what entails a game however I think it also has limitations. For example “ends” being qualified as having winner and a loser limits the idea of a game to being a competition whereas A game could be equally strong if the objective is to simply satisfy the objectives. Which is why I would suggest Clark Abt’s definition of a game to be a more refined version of Partlett’s.

I also thought Bernard Suit’s definition of a game was particularly interesting; noting that games is voluntarily overcoming unnecessary obstacles has the same implications of Parlett’s and Abt’s however leaves more flexibility for the meaning of a game. I think the most interesting distinction that Suits makes is that rules make a game (completing an objective) less efficient. Noting that applying rules is less efficient and that games are fully optional is interesting distinction between living, so to speak, and playing.


How would you define a game in your own words?


First and foremost the distinction I would make in defining a game would be that a game is, as mentioned, artificial. IE it is not part of “life” and is created by human thought. This is important distinction because it implies that a game is not something that is not controlled moreover something that has been enacted out of control. The second distinction I would make is that games are a limiting of paths to any given outcome. This again plays on the same idea that games are not part of life, by limiting the possibility of life you are creating an artificial variant of it, or in this definition a game. Third, I would say a game’s player must by aware of the limitations or it is not artificial to the player. Lastly I would say there has to be an “end” of sorts to a game denoting when the construct is over.


What is your opinion of Costikyan’s definition of games, is it too broad, too narrow, which aspects of his definition do agree with and which do you disagree with? Are puzzles games? Is second life a game? What do you make of his ideas about narrative in games? And his notions of color and competition? What about his idea that games should be considered “art”?


Going in order of the questions, I understand Costikyan’s definition of Puzzles and games not being a dichotomy but rather a spectrum however I think to still separate the two seems to ignore the definitons of games we had read earlier. Maybe a ven diagram with “puzzles” inside “games” would be more appropriate. As for Costikyan’s view on second life as a game I would again have to contend that his views do not necessarly align with some of the definitions of a game that we had read about earlier. Regardless if there is an end defined by the game, if the rules are defined by the player then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the end can be defined as well? These games are in a sense a game of making a game. How meta. As for narrative tension I would have to agree, after playing games like Bioshock or Zelda, I see that a strong narrative can only strengthen a game. As for Costikyan’s views on color and design, from a designer’s perspective, I would say that it is obvious that a better looking game gives a better experience. However I don not think it essential. Design is a luxury, a luxury on a continuum at that. a game can still be a game with less design, it will just be a stronger game with better design.