Week 2.1 (due before class on Jan 16)

What do you make of the various definitions in the textbook? What is your favorite one? What do you think is a game?


  1. Instead of choosing a definition that I found particularly interesting, I focused on one paragraph that captivated me and really spoke to me on a personal level. The textbook states “it has never been easier to make a game and get it out, but the chances of making a dent in the universe has, relatively speaking, maybe never been lower” (19). As someone who released a small-scale indie game last February, this sentence is painfully accurate.

    As a small game developer, you hold the dream of making the next, latest, greatest video game to sweep the industry. But you don’t realize just how many other video game developers are also out there with the same dream, and with more resources than you. You’re lucky to get maybe a few hundred people to play the game, and unless you have a ground-breaking game concept like in Undertale (as I discussed last semester), you likely aren’t going to be recognized and discovered by anyone. The textbook sums this up perfectly by saying that “even if the game market grows, this is not to the benefit of all developers, but primarily to the benefit of market leaders” (19-20). There are more games to choose from, and they’re easier to develop, yes, but with the advent of so many games being created, many are simply lost to the void of the internet and will never be found.

    As a developer, I am curious as to how this trend of easier video game development will evolve in the future. Will it turn into a case where everyone will be making video games? Or will it die off, and return to the “AAA developers” and a small handful of indie game makers clinging onto the industry?


  2. There was many definitions in the textbook of what a game is. The one that stood out the most to me was the one first presented in the text. “A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules that result in a quantifiable outcome” (31). I found this one cite to be the most compelling but as the text explains there are many flaws in having a single definition for such a sophisticated and ever-changing medium (44-5). I cannot think of a way I would explain a game without having it exclude other type’s games. Generally speaking I can agree that all games have rules of some kinds but an outcome isn’t necessary the goal of a game. The text used the example of the game World of Warcraft (WOW). WOW has objectives within it but a player is not forced to do any of them. The game can simply be explored without any reason or objective which puts a flaw in the definition of on page 31.
    Open world games like WOW differ from other games like Mario Cart or Halo because of its o non-goal orientated open concept. In comparison Mario Cart is a confined game where players race on a track in an attempt to get first place. These two games cannot be put into the same category or definition which raises issues in explaining what a game is. If I was to make a broad definition of what a game is, I would go as far as explaining it as a form of interactive entertainment that can be used to escape reality. Though in that specific example, television would fall into that definition, which would be an inaccurate representation of what a game is. This reading has raised many questions about this topic and I hope to find some answers.
    As I stated above this first reading in the text has raised some good questions. Can there ever be a definition of what a game is? Are games too complicated to explain in a single definition? Can humans live a healthy happy life without games? Can games tell things about different cultures and values? I hope I find these answers within this course.


  3. The textbook provided many different definitions and insights into what constitutes a game. After reading the chapter I can understand why it is so difficult to create an inclusive and accurate definition for the word game. Games can be vastly different from each other making it hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint a singular commonality between everything we consider a game. I think each of the definitions provided in the chapter had merit and provided a clearer understanding, but I did not feel that any one of the definitions were complete. However there were two definitions that resonated with me.
    The first was proposed by Sid Meier, who said “a game is a series of interesting choices.” Although I feel this definition is overly simplistic, and not all encompassing, I had a hard time thinking of any games I enjoy playing that do not require me to make choices. However, as the text suggests this definition is better suited to strategy games, which is mostly what I play. Although the text suggests that action games such as Super Mario do not provide the opportunity to make many choices within the game, players are still faced with some choices. For example, which character to be, which level to play, and if you are going to play for speed or items, and all of these choices affect the outcome. So I think this definition still applies, but where this definition falls short is that it could be used to describe anything that involves a series of choices, such as our lives, which we don’t consider games.
    The second definition I identified with was that of theorist Jesper Jule who said, “A game is a rule-based formal system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable.” What I liked about this definition was its inclusion of the idea that the player feels attached to the outcome. I think this is a fundamental part of what makes us play games. Players often become emotionally attached to the outcome, feeling joy when winning, and disappointment or even anger when losing. I think the emotional component is a crucial part of defining a game.
    I think if I had to define what a game is, my definition would encompass many of the ideas present in those from the text, As such I would propose that games are events that take place in a fictional space, that allow players to make a series of interesting choices based on an agreed upon rule-based structure in order to produce a variable outcome that players become attached to. However, I feel my definition is still not complete, and would propose that consideration and inclusion of Hunickem, LeBlanc, and Zubeck’s list of elements that attract us to games would make for a more wholesome and inclusive explanation of what games are.


  4. Philosophy is far from my strong suit, and a chapter so dense with it was initially daunting. Indeed, I at first questioned that a definition for games is necessary at all. Reading the chapter was an interesting experience – I’d begin reading about each game model openly, accept it near fully by the end of its section, and then have my faith in it completely destroyed by the issues with each one the textbook raised.

    Overall, I think trying to pin down one short description that includes all games and excludes all things that are not games is a hopeless task. I agree with the pragmatic approach to defining games – that a definition is most useful to be used as a tool. The MDA model seems especially useful to me, since it was developed around video games and can be applied in their making. Similarly, I found less useful those definitions not centered specifically on video games or conceptualized before video games existed. There are some elements of video games that they failed to encompass.

    I think it is best not to exhaust ourselves trying to decide on an exact definition of what a game is, and rather look at things calling themselves video games on a case to case basis and make an informed decision from there. Whether or not something is a game can be determined less from its mechanics and internal workings and more from how the player interacts with it.


  5. Throughout the process of defining what a game is, the textbook makes it pretty clear that it’s quite difficult to really get an actual idea of what a “game” is. In other words, it’s very hard to come up with a definition that encompasses all games. And the textbook is right in that regard, it’s almost nearly impossible to pinpoint what exactly we as people define what a “game” is. That being said, there’s one concept that jumped out at me that aligned with that thought, that also gave a very barebones definition of games that I believe can encompass what we think of games being. It’s from Brian Sutton Smith, where he was quoted with saying, “a game is what we decide it should be; that our definition will have an arbitrary character depending on our purpose” (41). Brian also states, in essence, that the more complex a society becomes, in terms of politics, culture, and society itself, the more complex the societies games will get. The book goes on to say that “Sutton-Smith sees a game as finite, fixed, and goal orientated. He defines games as ‘an exercise of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome.’” (41-42). This is what I believe to be the bare bones definition of a game, an activity partaken by one or more parties, bound by a set of rules, that ultimately result in a winner, or some sort of end result. Video games are then just a branch off of the proverbial game tree, in which players partake in any type of competition, whether it be against a computer in a strategy based game, other players in a mass multiplayer online game, first person shooter, or against the players own skills in a simulation. All of this competition is encompassed in the definition given by Brian Sutton-Smith, in which players come together with a certain set of rules to come to a final outcome. Video games are just advanced forms of games, because as discussed before, our society has evolved to a point that allow and warrant their existence.


  6. Despite considering myself a gamer and being actively playing video games for more than 20 years, I must admit that I have never given the time and thought to think about games theoretically.

    After reading many definitions about what a game is and what aspects make one, I find it very hard to pick one as a favorite. As I kept reading the chapter, I would agree and relate to each one in different ways until the textbook managed to show me it’s flaws and how broad they could be.

    The one that caught my attention the most is the definition who sees games as cultural reflections of a society. Not precisely in the way that Marshall McLuhan describes, but in the way that the society, its history, events, and its many aspects provide “ammunition” (as content) for game developers to create games, complex experiences, and characters that can sometimes mirror our lives in many ways, either in realistic or fictional virtual environments. Relatable characters and experiences are the most powerful ones for me as a gamer.

    I honestly can’t define what a game is, specially a good one. But in my opinion, a combination of a good visual design, controller responsiveness, animation, mechanics, and storytelling are the main points to be considered. Although all of those are highly subjective and depend on the player, if put together well, they can be responsible for a powerful gaming experience.


  7. The author has collected extensive definitions of the game from philosophers, a scholar, a media theorist, an anthropologist, an educationist, a social psychologist etc in this chapter. It is not surprising that there is no single definition absolutely compatible with the modern interactive video games or fits well with any multiple games. In other words, the concepts of games borrowed from various disciplines apparently only serve well from its own original domain and supposed to follow the context from their own field. The author mentioned, “there is no objective way to measure the differences between two things”(52), which provides a perspective for me to overview these definitions from the textbook.

    Among all the definitions of games, I am in favor of a soundly general concept from the social psychologist George Herbert Mead who considered “play to be an important ingredient in what he called the process of the genesis of the self” (42) in his book. According to his definition from his work, “the player has to take the attitude of everyone else involved in that game, and that these different roles must have a definite relationship to each other” (42). This can be seemed that George Herbert Mead has focused on the interest of understanding an individual action is in relation to the attitude and the interaction with others to assist their personal development. In light of this, all the games may fall into this concept as it is more considered about the internal process in personality.

    From my perspective of the definition of games, I prefer an explanation that is observed from the biological phenomenon when people play games, as I consider this can be applied to all kinds of games. A quote from the game designer Jane McGonigal described “a game is an opportunity to focus our energy with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at or getting better at and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.” This is because a game provides a clear objective, a challenge, and feedback that encourage game players to strive for the goal through personal concentration.


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