READING NOTES #1

1. Of all the definitions, Salen and Zimmerman’s definition appeals to me the most. However, this isn’t to say that I agree with every one of their criteria. For example, I question why they chose to include “artificial” in their definition since “rules” already encapsulates the idea of artificiality. When something has a unique set of rules, it’s inherently separated from the laws of the real world (i.e. it’s artificial). Thus, including “artificial” is redundant. Then there’s the problem of a “quantifiable outcome”. To more accurately reflect my own definition, I would change this to simply “outcome”. I believe there are many games whose mechanics can’t be quantified. Salen and Zimmerman give the example of an RPG, for instance, with each enemy encounter acting as a quantifiable outcome, however this still doesn’t explain games like Portal which don’t rely on number-crunching to determine outcomes.

 

2. I’d define a game as a contest with rules, objectives, and consequences. I kept my definition purposely broad because I think games can encompass many different fields—not just areas relating to leisure. For example, I think a political debate between candidates could be considered a game because it’s a contest with set rules (allotted speaking times), objectives (voter approval, spreading awareness, etc.), and consequences (polls, voter loss/gain, etc.).

 

3. For the most part I agree with Costikyan’s definition of a game. Although I disagree with his notion of an “objective”. I don’t believe an objective needs to be explicit for it to be an objective. He gives the example of SimCity not having explicit objectives (which it doesn’t), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have objectives. The player is given tools, and they are expected to understand an implicit objective, which is to build. There are also many RPGs that don’t have explicit objectives. For example an RPG may have explicit quests (go do such and such, collect 5 boar heads, etc.), but it may also have implicit, hidden objectives that reward the player for doing something even when they’re not asked to.

Regarding puzzles, I believe they can be considered games, according to my own definition. Albeit, I don’t think crossword is a very good game because it fails to utilize the interaction of these characteristics (rules, objectives, consequences) in an interesting way. I would argue the same for Second Life. A good simulation, but not a very good game.

I agree completely with Costikyan’s points about narrative. Narrative and games don’t mesh well due to the nature of each. Combining linear and nonlinear approaches are very difficult and rarely succeed. Games should stick to what they excel at and what makes them so great: their nonlinearity. I also agree with Costikyan that, while color is not essential to a good game (e.g. Chess), it can set the mood and make the game more fun to play. When there’s a fully realized setting/atmosphere it’s much easier to imagine oneself in the game world (i.e. promote one’s own suspension of disbelief). I don’t necessarily agree with Costikyan’s ideas about competition though. I believe there is just as much struggle in cooperating to achieve a goal as fighting against another player to achieve one. In fact, I would argue that, on a whole, it takes many more skill-sets (and is more rewarding) to overcome a challenge as a group than by oneself. I also don’t necessarily agree with Costikyan’s definition of games as art. If we are to accept that all games are art, then would Tic-Tac-Toe be considered art? Who is the artist of Tic-Tac-Toe and what is their intent? These are all questions I don’t have answers to, and ultimately boil down to how one defines “art” (something I also don’t have the answer to). With that being said, I can say for certain that there are many video games that I would consider art given the emotional responses they have gotten out of me.