Reading Notes #1

  1. How would you define a game in your own words?
  • A game is an activity designed to engage one or more people in a process that usually involves competition (either against players or a designed system that plays against you)
  • outcome should be decided by the player’s skill, strength or luck or a combination of more than one
  • should have a variety of outcomes based on the decisions made by players
  • can involve narrative, but narrative must not be the focus, narrative should only exist to supplement the decisions made by the players
  • different from puzzles, more than a simple problem solving exercise
  1. 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”?
  • Although Costikyan’s definition of games are very broad and don’t seem to give a precise definition, his guideline of what a game is based on principles such as puzzles, narrative and color are principles I generally agree with when describing the mechanics of a game. He starts by highlighting the difference between puzzles and what he considers to be games- as puzzles have a static outcome and do not rely on the interaction of the player to push the game forward, I can see why he considers them to be more of a toy than a game. This also ties in with his idea of opposition as a fundamental element of games. When solving a puzzle the only opposition present is the act of piecing the bigger picture together, where there are no obstacles that come from either player strategy or the mechanics of the game.This doesn’t seem to fall in line with Costikyan’s definition of a game where goals, strategy and the struggle of overcoming either a player or situational factors are key catalysts for progress.
  • Costikyan’s theory of how color plays a part in determining the success of a game is similar to our discussion in class on how the skin of a game can immediately appeal to the market of a specific franchise by incorporating elements of its narrative into game-play through the physical elements of its game design. Star Wars Stratego for example takes the traditional mechanics of stratego and utilizes characters from the films as pieces in the game. This extends the market of the game beyond those who are interested in purely playing it, but also to those who are interested in Star Wars memorabilia and merchandise.
  • I personally don’t believe that games such as Sims or Second Life can be considered games after reading Costikyan’s theory of static vs. interactive. He explains that in a game without any real objective, decision-making and managing resources (both primary aspects of what he considers to be gaming) serve very little purpose than to explore the bounds of the world that has already been provided. This form of exploration through simulation makes these games seem much more like toys.