READING NOTE #1

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

In my perspective, the most appealing explanation is Caillois’ and Crawford’s definition for the term, ‘game.’ Caillois develops traditional denotations further by introducing that engaging in game is deliberate, ambiguous in outcome, dictated by systematic rules, and completely ‘make-believe.’ Intuitively, Caillois makes valid points that resonated most with what is perceived to be the true definition of game. However, there are many holes that do not make this concept completely foolproof. Examples include the fact that (1) not all situations engages one voluntarily in game, (2) results of games, after a certain level of proficiency in play, can be predicted after a certain quantity of moves, or (3) some games do not even include the ‘make-believe’ aspect (such as polemical games). This broad understanding is narrowed through Crawford’s description of game, where the game is ‘represented as a model world (subset of reality)’ that has rules and parts that interlock systematically (page 77). It also details artificial obstacles that the player has pursue in order to reach their goal (which is generally winning the game). I feel that Crawford considers the specifics that Caillois seems to lack in his definition of game. Because, in the end, there is no true definition that can completely determine game, I find the dynamic of these two definitions appealing.

 2. How would you define a game in your own words?

Game is a productive or non-productive and goal-oriented activity with systematic rules in which participant(s) engage in innoxious obstacles.

3. 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”?

In my opinion, Costikyan’s definition of games is subjective and that some facets of his definition are misleading. Although I agree with most of his assertions, there are a few points that were contradicting. One example would be how Costikyan describes the whole objective of games to be the successful completion of puzzles. It constitutes the idea of puzzles existing as a subset of games, and if the game is not a puzzle in all it’s totality, it is a puzzle to a certain degree. However, it requires strategy and decision-making to complete the puzzles (and therefore, the game). From the deductions made, how can we conclude that puzzles are static and games are interactive? I think it’s a very bold statement to make because puzzles can be dynamic in the sense that the thought processes and methods of attaining a goal in itself is a dynamic scheme. In this sense, puzzles can also be a game. Costikyan is oddly non-specific and his definition could be easily misunderstood.

As far as narrative, I agree with the notion that RPG’s and LARP’s can obstruct the player’s freedom moreso than other types of games such as FPS. It creates limitations for the participant and forces them to complete a single objective by completing a series of predetermined steps. One example of this would be in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege Story Mode, where the player(s) are given a mission to retrieve a hostage and return them to safety. The UI usually consists of a map/sensor that indicates which direction you must go to complete the mission, and any deviations results in an automatic/eventual failure of the game. It constricts the player’s freedom for exploration, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it completely omits the player’s freedom to think critically and strategically.

In my perspective, ‘linear’ narrative games (RPG, LARP) are game types that are under the umbrella term, “Games.” I do not believe that games cannot have a linear structure and if so, cannot be considered a game. Costikyan is creating generalizations of what seems to be a specific experience with a narrative game, to all narrative games. Again, games can be designed to have different characteristics to certain degrees. This tends to establish a sense of ‘genre’ for the game. The ways in which designers combine different degrees of character to a game is considered “art.” In addition, the mechanics where “participants, termed players, make decisions in order to manage resources through game tokens in the pursuit of a goal” is also an art in itself.