Reading Notes 1 – Charlotte Hayden

DMA 157 – Game Design, Reading Notes #1

  1. Salen and Zimmerman’s taxonomy of game definitions offered many interesting points that did make me think more in depth about what I personally thought a game was, as well as ideas about what a game could become.  However, I think many of the definitions offered in the article are rather silly, bordering on extreme specificity and even going on tangents.  I agree most with David Parlett’s definition of a game because it is simple and fits any kind of game.  All things considered “games” consist of a contest with a goal, and a set of rules by which to achieve the goal (the ends and means).  The following definitions grew more and more specific, but many of the qualities brought up in the alternate definitions were specific to only certain kinds of games and therefore were rendered invalid for games overall.  Abt’s explanation brings players into the picture, which I agree is an essential part of any game (if no one plays, then there is no game), but he also identifies them as decision-makers, which I disagree with because not all games involve decisions (for example, games that rely on dice are based on randomness, not one’s ability to make a decision).  It was little points like these that made me disagree with the alternate definitions and therefore turn to and agree with the more straightforward and broad one offered by David Parlett.
  2. After reading Salen and Zimmerman’s article, I would have to say that my definition of a game would be most similar to Parlett’s. When I think of a game, I think of an activity with a structure that can be carried out by at least one person in order to achieve some sort of victory or goal.
  3. I believe that Costikyan’s definition of a game is a bit too convoluted.  He does bring up interesting comparisons and points, such as the difference between a puzzle and a game (puzzles are described as static, while a game is interactive).  I disagree that they are entirely different things, because in my mind a puzzle is a kind of a game.  Following the definition set forth in question two, a puzzle is indeed an activity with rules and an end goal that can be carried out by a single person.  I also have problems with the way Ccrostikyan has described puzzles as not being interactive, for they do indeed require attention (also, without human interaction, puzzles wouldn’t be solved).  The description of a toy as being separate from a game is also interesting, but I again disagree that games and toys are mutual because the purpose of a toy is to be played with, and (as discussed in Salen and Zimmerman) games and playing are very deeply connected.  When it came to stories, I agree with the statement that the point of a game is not to tell a story, but especially when it comes to the world of roleplaying, stories are an integral part of the game.  Games with plots and strong stories are those that allow people with an escape from their everyday lives, and I firmly believe that a great story can make a fantastic and wonderfully engaging game.  The example provided in the reading, in which Crostikyan presents the scenario of a person saying, “I don’t want you players to do that, because it will ruin the story” is not a proper representation of a story being used as an integral part of the game, but merely an example of a player with a poor attitude, which can occur in any kind of game.  I do, however, agree that a game is interactive.  Once again, if no one were to engage in the game, it wouldn’t be played and therefore would be rendered useless.  A game is made special and important through the player’s active participation and imagination.  I do not think that a game in and of itself should be considered art, for that is not its function.  True, a game’s design can be considered artistic and beautiful, but I personally do not think of games as art in the traditional sense.