READING NOTES #1

Elliot Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith present the most streamline and strong definition of game. They define the key elements of a game as being: an exercise of control systems, voluntary, a contest between powers, and a disequilibrial outcome. They effectively address the key criteria of games without overcomplicating it. In my opinion, the most problematic portion of this definition is the voluntary criterion. This is a criterion also discussed by Suits and Caillois. Caillois says that if a game were obligatory it would “lose its attractive and joyous quality.” This idea of joyousness in games is not a necessary part of the definition in my opinion. I think the Avedon/Sutton-Smith definition also lacks a decision-making aspect. This is important, because without decisions and variability, a game might fit in the puzzle category. I am intrigued by Costikyan’s emphasis on games as art. I think he is absolutely correct in saying that games are a form of art, therefore culture. I have no qualms with this statement, however, I think it is unhelpful and not necessary to be included in a definition. Huizinga’s statement that games are “utterly absorbing but not serious” is a fun way of idealizing games, but is not realistic and too narrow. His emphasis on lack of material gain or reward excludes games like poker.

 

 

In my own words, I would define a game as an activity that involved both a system of play and players. The system of play separates the players from the natural flow of reality, introducing new parameters and circumstances that are created with rules and sometimes physical restraints of the game setup. There is an element of conflict and a goal that is approached either individually or in a cooperative effort. Games to do not include puzzles, or a system that has a definite answer. Games include role-playing games, because while they do not have a definite goal or endpoint, there are numerous goals to be sought after continuously throughout the play.

 

 

Costikyan introduces a very unique definition of games. While he addresses many of the criteria from other definitions such as conflict, goals, and decision making, he also claims that games are a form of art. When he claims that a game is not a puzzle, toy, or story, I think he is over-simplifying the definition of a game. Games often contain puzzles, toys, and stories as components. I do agree that a puzzle on its own is not a game, but think that a puzzle can be a major part of a game. Puzzles are not games because there is one definite goal and one solution (or a set of solutions). While I have never played Second Life, I know that it is a role-playing game in which players interact and build a world for their player. I would definitely classify Second Life as a game because it contains the components of a game over a very long period of time and sometimes in multiple ways. For example, though it does not have a clear “winner” or endpoint, the gameplay allows for many individual and unique goals to be set and achieved in each period of play. Costikyan emphasized narrative and color as important components of a successful game. As a storyteller and designer, I completely agree. Color and story give tangibility to games and can add to the “make-believe” aspect of games. I do agree with his claim that a game can be art. Art and culture are interrelated and games can hold an important place in culture shaping. However, I do not think that calling a game “art” and treating a game as “art” is necessary or even important to consider as a player in most contexts.