Reading Notes #1

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


The one definition that appeals to me most is Greg Costikyans which states that “a game is a form of art in which … players … make decisions in order to manage resources through game tokens in the pursuit of a goal.”. It is the only definition that refers to games as an art form.  Because I do a lot of illustration work, whenever I play any sort of game the visual aesthetics are the first things that stand out to me.  When playing a roleplaying videogame like Skyrim, the first thing I think about is how hard the concept and texture artists must have worked to make this game look incredibly realistic.  Game designers deserve to be called artists, because they are not only creating a complex system of rules, probability, and limitations, but they are creating a piece of art.  Even if the game is visually simple and basic, such as Checkers (just a black and red board and black and red round pieces), I still consider it a form of art because someone had to be creative and skilled enough to come up with the unique concept of Checkers.  Players can become emotionally invested in playing the game.  Art requires a creative mind.  Art is a form of expression, and it can evoke emotions.  Games, even simple ones like Checkers, are all of those things.

One aspect of Costikyan’s definition that I don’t completely agree with is that  all games must have resources are managed through game tokens.  A game can still be a game without game “tokens”, or some form of currency that is exchanged to overcome obstacles or limitations.  For example, the game Flower is a simple game with no hit points, no time limits, and no real purpose other than to create beautiful visuals as you explore and manipulate the environment.  Its more of an interactive art piece and visually emotive experience than a game with complex rules, limitations, and obstacles.

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


A game is an activity outside of reality that involves one or more players voluntarily following specific rules in order to reach one or more goals.  The rules of the game will typically make it more difficult for players to achieve this goal.  Goals can be explicitly stated in the game rules or left up to the player to decide.  In sandbox games , such as Sim City or Minecraft, players may come up with multiple goals to shape the game around their own interests and increase playtime.  Players of the game are emotionally invested into achieving these goals, whether it be for the sheer satisfaction of winning, the competitiveness of other players, similarity of in-game goals to player’s personal goals in real life, or because the story behind the characters or the world of the game is interesting to the player.  One of the most important defining characteristics of a game is that it takes place in a space outside of reality.  The fact that games are make-believe or representations of real life are what make them enjoyable.  Games are an escape from reality, and the aspect of fun comes from the fact that players can make choices and take chances that they would not take in the real world.

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”?


Because I chose Costikyan’s definition of games as my answer for the first one, some of my answers to this question may feel a bit redundant.  Although I like Costikyan’s definition of games because he was the only definition to refer to games as a form of art, I do not totally agree with the idea that players in a game make decisions to manage resources through game tokens.  That section of the definition I feel is too specific.  I prefer a more broad definition of games, simply because modern games are so complex.    A game can still be fun and enjoyable without resources or game tokens.  Costikyan mentions the game “Just Grandma and Me”, which is an interactive storybook game that I played for hours as a kid.  This may not be considered a game under Costikyan’s rules, since it does not have any obstacles or resource management, however, I consider it a game because the choices I made as a player created different outcomes and different experiences every time I played.  As a 5 year old kid using a computer for the first time, this was awesome.

Costikyan states that “a puzzle is static… a game is interactive.”  I have to disagree.  Puzzles are just as interactive as games, therefore, I personally consider puzzles to be games.  A jigsaw puzzle, in which a player has to find pieces that fit together in order to create an image, is an interactive game.  There is a goal based on rules that create obstacles.  The goal is to create the image, and the rules and obstacles are that you cannot cut or manipulate the pieces in order to force them to fit, and you cannot win if your final image does not match the image specified on the box.  I consider Second Life to be a game because you create your own objectives and you are playing in a space outside of reality.  You have goals and you have obstacles you have to overcome in order to achieve those goals (such as an in-game currency).

I completely disagree with Costikyan’s statement that says “Gaming is NOT about telling stories”.  Storytelling is one of my favorite aspects about the videogames I play.  Yeah, sure, I agree with his statement saying that too much storyline can take away from the fun of the gameplay, however, modern games such as Heavy Rain,  The Last of US, and Until Dawn are highly successful because of their strong storyline.  Costikyan says stories are linear, but many of the stories in modern videogames are semi non-linear.  The choices the players make can change the outcome of the game.  As for color and competition, I must agree with Costikyan when he says that these qualities improve a game and make it more enjoyable.  Games with color definitely add emotional appeal and make a simple game more relatable.  Competition definitely makes winning more satisfying, because it increases the challenge of the game.  However, I don’t believe competition or color are required to make a game perfect.  There are plenty of good games out there without competition or color.

I strongly agree with Costikyan when he states that games are a form of art.  Games are a result of a skilled and creative mind.   Games are a form of expression outside of reality.  Games can be representative of real life or have some sort of deeper meaning.  They can be used to make a statement about particular issues.  The amount of thought and hard work put into designing a game makes it a form of art.