READING NOTES #1

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

The definition that appeals to me the most is Chris Crawford’s. I find this one interesting because it contains most of the characteristics of what a game should be. Instead of defining the meaning of game directly, Crawford sums up the four qualities of games, which are: Representation, Interaction, Conflict, and Safety. To be more specific, the point I find most interesting is how he emphasizes that a game is a representation of reality (this is the first quality on the list). The next three qualities, to me, are pretty much subsets of the first one. Since games equal to reality, interaction between players allows them to make decision, play, explore and observe. Crawford loosely talks about how players are actively pursuing some goals while conflicts occur to prevent them from achieving those goals so easily just like how it is in real life. The last quality, Safety, which Crawford describes as a safer way to experience danger, is the one I find least relevant as a definition of a game itself but more about the experience of playing games.

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

After reading 8 different definitions, according to my own experience of playing games (which isn’t much, there aren’t that many games I’ve played) I would define a game as:

A social activity that can either be a representation of reality or something out of ordinary. It involves decision-making and players can use and manage limited resources and play within the rules to achieve some kind of goal. Each decision made can result in both predictable and unpredictable outcomes; these outcomes can either benefit the players or become obstacles and prevent them from achieving their goal to win the game.

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”?

I think Costikyan’s definition of games is a bit complex. The basic characteristics of a game are covered (that game involves decision making, has a goal, offers conflicts and oppositions, gives players resources to manage, and lastly it has game tokens). I agree with most of his concepts, while there are a few points I did not fully agree with. For example, at the beginning of the passage, where he states that game is not a puzzle, not a toy, nor a story, I feel like game has overlapping quality with these three things. Puzzle can be a part of games (I think solving puzzles as they become the obstacle in a game can be challenging and fun) and games can also carry some kind of story to it. One of the games I have played that contain story and I think is not half bad is Diner Dash (plus it is quite fun and addictive). In this game, players are presented with Flo’s (main character, the token of the game) backstory. It is quite fun to help this character overcoming the conflicts and achieving the goals to pass each level. I have never played Second Life personally but from what I understand it is a 3D virtual reality online world building game. I call it game because I personally think of Sim City as a game because when I play the game, I always come up with some goals myself, and that is what makes Sims City a game, rather than a toy.

Costikyan, further emphasizes the other elements that would help strengthen games such as color and competition. I agree with his point about color, I think color adds more appeal to a game. I mentioned earlier that a game should contain some kind of story to make it more interesting and I do agree with Costikyan’s point about narrative tension. I think when I play a game and the tension of the story keeps rising, it would keep me focused and be more addicted to the game.

I do agree that game should be considered a form of art. I think the whole process of designing a game is to create a piece of art that would last for a long time. Though a game is different from fine arts like paintings, it is still an art that gives viewers or audience (in this case, players) a wonderful experience and excitement.