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What's in a Game?
by Devin Wilson on 04/11/13 03:58:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Playing the Infinite Game

I didn’t have the opportunity to attend GDC 2013, but the story coming out of it, as Leigh Alexander suggested, was that the good guys are finally winning. I think this is true in a lot of important ways, and it’s indescribably encouraging!

Violent, big-budget games simply aren’t cool anymore. At least, not among the people who I think are cool and not to the extent that they’d been accepted to be cool in the past. The overwhelming success of Cart Life, Journey, and The Walking Dead is hard not to take as a wonderful sign of the changing culture of games. Cart Life explores subject matter that is normally not the focus of our medium, Journey is an incredible achievement of presentation and minimalistic online multiplayer, and The Walking Dead–while certainly a zombie game with its share of gore–is mostly about talking to people and making emotionally difficult commitments.

And these examples only account for the most visible indicators of change. There’s an incredible community of brilliant artists and critics eager to be part of the next generation of games. To be sure, the good guys are winning.

But the good guys haven’t won, and the good guys will never win. And I’m not being pessimistic! This is simply because culture is not something to reign victorious over. Not game culture, not American culture, not Francophone culture, not sewing culture, not any culture. Culture is something that evolves and is formed over time, hopefully for the betterment of all involved... but it’s never static. It never halts to allow for an uncontested champion.

Culture is not a game, at least not in the colloquial sense of the word. If it is a game, it is an infinite game, to refer to James Carse’s fascinating book Finite and Infinite Games. However, the kind of games that we’re all concerned with as we tinker away at our computers and sketchbooks are decidedly finite. Other games are finite, too, and these finite games exist in a wide variety of settings. At some point, almost anything can be called a game. Reading a book can be a game played in effort to understand the text. Eating an apple can be a game played to enjoy its sweetness and nourish one’s body. Political action can be a game played to affect policies and opinions.

But, for better or worse, this isn’t usually what we mean when we use the word “game”. We tend to mean something narrower, though something that’s still quite amorphous. And who’s to say that there’s any true meaning to the word “game” at all? Certainly there’s a wealth of theory suggesting that there is no fixed meaning to anything at all, and I think such a sentiment is very convincing.

That doesn’t mean that the effort to define Games in some formal sense is reprehensible, though. The important thing to consider is why we’re doing it.

Defining Games: The Game 

After all, if we take a broad enough perspective, even the attempt to define Games is a game as well. The rules are: to be self-consistent and to propose something that gives us sufficient and necessary conditions to define the idea. If these rules are broken, the player has failed. The result is a poor definition (and a poor definition is as good as no definition at all).

But if the rules are followed, what is the reward? A sturdy definition, but its quality and usage depends on the players, just as a traditional game can have cheaters, gloaters, and sore losers.

In the case of Raph Koster and many other intelligent folks who attempt to formalize games, I sincerely don’t think it's an attempt to shut anybody down. Of course, intention isn’t all that important if the effects are harmful.

There is a clear difference, however, between someone who is appealing to a formal definition of Games to dismiss a work of art entirely and someone who is simply trying to make useful formulations for further consideration.

The best examples of the latter I’ve seen are humble, pragmatic, and lightweight, able to be used as necessary to intelligently (and intelligibly) navigate this strange medium of ours.

But in the case of the former, this person is effectively saying, “This is not a Game and I am exclusively interested in Games, so I am not interested in this and, as such, it isn’t interesting at all.” Obviously, this would be an extremely unhealthy individual! Hopefully we’re all better-rounded than to only be interested in Games.

What's in a Game? 

So, I’m very confused about the outrage over insisting that certain things count as Games. To be that invested in the label indicates to me a privileging of Games over other media forms. Why? Games are very exciting and very interesting, but they’re not the only legitimate medium. To reject other forms of media in service of desiring the Game label is disrespectful to these other media forms and their communities, and these rejections deny productive conversations about best practices, tactics, and intriguing challenges inherent to any given medium.

What’s wrong with a work being digital art or interactive fiction, without being a Game? Certainly we can call works of interactive fiction “games” to save syllables in casual conversation or characters on Twitter, but in a critical context it’s often useful to have strict parameters for what constitutes a type of thing. There may be no absolute, substantial basis for this definition, but to communicate at all we need to agree upon some rules for communication. There’s no such thing as a wholly private language, and the only way to have a functional language is to establish some functions somehow. These functions require a degree of formalism, loose as these formal definitions may be (and invariably will be). 

I’m similarly concerned with why people are so quick to appeal to narrow definitions, but from a different direction. I think there is an extremely troubling trend in our discourse to ignore games that don’t depend on a video monitor. Too often, when people say “games”, they mean “digital games”, and if we’re going to be careful about our language, we need to make sure we’re not excluding the rich history of non-digital games. 

If we ignore non-digital games, the state of Games seems even more hegemonic and commercial, given that–regrettably–games of the digital era have become more like commodities than communal pastimes. We can’t forget that games are not a decades-old medium, but a millennia-old medium.

As a result, we need a formal lens now more than ever (and we also need to recognize that there were attempts to formalize games long before the rise of digital games). A formal lens can help us discover what is redeemable about this medium we’re all so interested in. Surely there’s nothing inherent to Games that dictates that all we can do with them is ask players to kill everyone who doesn’t look like them. 

But if we don’t try to establish a strong model for what constitutes a Game, we risk unconsciously retreating to other media forms rather than wrestling our own away from those who would use it only for profit and poison. Of course, if we’re too unforgiving with our formalism, we’re bound to miss the forest for the trees more often than not. We can’t reduce our analysis to “Tetris studies”, only discussing the abstract mathematical functionality of any given work. It’s pretty much a given that any game will depend upon other media forms to give it meaning.

Making Games 

Still, Raph Koster was right to wonder if many avant garde games (as well as AAA titles) are showing a tendency towards the (relative) monologue of forms other than Games, and that this may not help us figure out what to do with Games as an expressive medium in and of themselves. I’m guilty of this monologic trend myself, and it’s something I’m trying to overcome as a Game Designer.

I do take some pride in the fact that I can call myself a Game Designer and not feel like a liar. However, I also feel like a number of the “games” I’ve made aren’t Games (or even Puzzles, which can be considered their own form as well). I’m fine with that! To me, it’s not exclusively symptomatic of an unquestionably fascistic game culture. Certainly the popular notion of what constitutes a “game” (or, worse, a “gamer”) is far too restrictive, but that doesn’t mean that an academic examination of the form is irresponsible or abhorrent.

If I were to describe my one Twine effort as a “game”, I would do so fairly casually. If someone looked closely at it and said “well, this isn’t really much of a Game, per se”, I probably couldn’t disagree. It’s a piece of hypertext fiction. That form has its own qualities and deserves respect, so my work within that form doesn’t need to count as a Game for me to feel fulfilled as an artist.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to feel fulfilled as a Game Designer, though. In my opinion, formal definitions of Games set up explicit rules for the game of Game Design (and what an interesting game it is!). When I wrote my Twine piece, I wasn’t playing Game Design especially well, if at all (not that one can’t play Game Design using Twine). I was playing another game: Hypertext Fiction Writing. My goal was to have the audience navigate through passages of English words and sentences. Game Design typically has different goals from that, and having a lucid framework for what types of goals we can aim towards to be successful Game Designers is very helpful, in my mind. Otherwise, there’s a lot of unnecessary struggling.

Not being a successful Game Designer is only a problem if you want to be a successful Game Designer and are not that. I want to be a successful (as in, effective) Game Designer, but I can only do so if I know the rules of Game Design. How can one succeed if there are not parameters for both success and failure? The penalty for failure should not be dismissal, but simply–upon strict analysis–recategorization into something more fitting than the title of Game. This is only a problem if we have already assumed that Games are absolutely better than other forms.

Obviously, games are a very influential medium. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t argue so passionately about them! I understand and am subject to the impulse to use the medium to enlighten people rather than perpetuate violent, sexist, and otherwise unhealthy attitudes (like they often do).

So I understand the anxiety over having one’s work being included in the category of Games, because it definitely helps for gaining an audience and–frankly–many of us are very fond of games. Interactive fiction has been pretty niche for a while, and if you don’t want to be relegated to something less popular, that’s understandable. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore which creative game you’re playing as an artist, and it doesn’t make sense to insist upon which game you’re playing without appealing to some sort of formal definition. We can’t play games without learning the rules. This isn’t to say that there’s one correct way to paint or sing; it’s simply to say that you can’t use a paintbrush to sing (unless we’re being metaphorical). The rules may not be completely understood beforehand, but the attempt to identify the implicit rules at play (like trying to discern the fine-tuning of a competitive computer game) is not an unjust endeavor.

Making Non-Games

I think the studio Tale of Tales makes for an important precedent. They clearly investigate the formal qualities of their work and related media, and they’ve explicitly said in the past that they attempt not to make Games, but something else (realtime art, notgames, etc). They’ve been making art that’s peripheral to the medium of “games” for years now, and they’ve received critical acclaim from “games” people for doing so. They’ve definitely had an influence on Games, even if they weren’t making them.

Clearly the boundaries between creative communities are porous, unless we insist that they’re not and guard the borders with machine guns. Some people do that, but I see Raph Koster as unarmed and peaceful. Gripping definitions too tightly leads only to negativity, but we need not take a completely hands-off approach. We both can theorize about our practice and welcome all practitioners to experiment.

We should strive for interdisciplinarity (which is hard not to achieve in Games), but also not utterly dismiss any efforts towards intradisciplinarity. To completely destroy all distinctions just isn’t practical, even if the understanding behind such a gesture may be very wise. Unfortunately, that gesture suggests that there’s no useful knowledge to develop within Games (as there would be no Games category at all), and it tacitly refuses to recognize knowledge from outside of Games (knowledge that might be more applicable to the practice in question!).

We can’t get too carried away with fantasies of utter chaos. At the end of the day, most people find having a separate identity from everyone else pretty useful for everyday activities. The same is true for ideas. We can all be united without living in the same studio apartment, and we can all make incredible art without all being Game Designers. To be a Game Designer means to play the game of Game Design (which, as a game, needs rules), and that still allows for game designers and other artists to make games that are not Games. (The previous sentence makes sense, I swear!)

Respecting and Developing Games

It’s hard to say with absolute certainty what constitutes a game, and we shouldn’t be too anxious to go to war over it. The easiest solution is to take a cue from James Carse and call nearly everything a game. However, the attempts to analyze what makes digital, tabletop, and athletic games tick are often revelatory and productive. That doesn’t mean that a work of interactive art can’t be called a “game”. It just means that it won’t fall under the category of Games when we look at things closely, and that’s fine! It’s not a moral crisis, nor is it cause for alarm if a non-Game gets called a “game”. We can have multiple levels of meaning, a perspective we’re familiar with in games already: a king in chess is just a carved piece of wood that may be manipulated freely or chewed on by pets, but it’s also something that positively may not move more than one square at a time. This isn’t a contradiction; it’s simply two different domains, and as long as we’re not kicking people’s game boards over while they’re in the middle of playing, there should be no problems about what means what.

A work of art need not be a Game to merit attention or admiration, unless we’re assuming that only Games merit attention and admiration (an assumption that can go unchecked in these discussions). What we might call Games can often learn a lot from what falls outside of that classification. As Game Designers, we can and must learn important values from non-Game games. We’ll owe those game designers (writers, painters, filmmakers, etc) a debt of gratitude as we play our creative games (of which Game Design is only one), and the infinite game of culture will be better for it. Otherwise, games and culture both become stagnant, and that’s something that no party in this debate wants.

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Game Designer


Bart Stewart
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The Raph/Leigh Letters (and thoughtful responses like the one above) are maybe the most important thing to happen to game design in many months because they're exposing what kinds of games are being made and why. Once designers see and acknowledge those realities, then they become able to choose to do something different, and maybe better.

I also discovered Carse's book many years ago, and -- while it's pretty poetic -- it emphasizes an important point about game creation: do you want to make something intended to end conversation, or something that promotes conversation?

I thought Raph described very well how many games today seem to be falling into that former category. Either it's a linear AAA game that seizes control constantly because you might miss something, or it's an indie game whose author restricts player agency because you might not get The Message otherwise.

In both cases, the common theme in the structure of today's games seems to be a lack of trust. That concerns me, as I've come to believe that nothing good comes in the long run of allowing gatekeepers to amass power because they just can't trust people to choose for themselves. If, as Raph proposes in _A Theory of Fun for Game Design_, the fun of games is in learning, then what can players learn when they aren't free to choose, when "playing a game" comes to be defined as shutting up and passively experiencing whatever sensations or beliefs the game's creator decides are correct for them to have?

This is where I get puzzled. Why do so many game designers seem willing to accept the binary choice critical model -- game or not-game -- used by some gamers to try to eliminate games that they personally don't enjoy? Why is any serious game critic talking about "game versus not-game" as though that's a meaningful or even functional lens for understanding fun?

"Game" is a spectrum! If "game" is a shorthand for "rules-based computer-mediated interactive entertainment," then "interactive" and "entertainment" are sliders. If you frob the entertainment slider, you can have serious games and funny games and games that are somewhere in between. And if you tweak the interactive slider -- which is mostly what the Raph/Leigh conversation is about, I believe -- you can have games that like today's AAA and indie-message games are closer to books and movies in how they restrict player agency in favor of the author's voice, and games that are like Calvinball in that all the rules are invented on the fly by the players, and games that are somewhere in between.

That's an enormous amount of creative real estate... but it can't even be conceived as open for colonization if game developers let themselves be seduced into talking about design only in terms of "game" and "not-game."

Criticism of AAA rollercoaster games and indie-message games as "not-games" is a finite game -- it's a dead end for discussion. If these are seen as points on an infinite spectrum of player agency, though, then it becomes possible to perceive the vast space between those two levels of trust in players and ask, "Hey, why not explore there?"

Raph Koster
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I like your comment a lot, Bart, but just to play devil's advocate for a moment, I think that the response you would get from Leigh's side (or from the general camp, or whatever we want to call it) as regarding having conversation versus ending conversation would be:

- dialogue when there is a strong power dynamic is a false conversation; one side is disadvantaged to the degree that the dialogue may effectively be a trap

- there is a larger conversational framework that exists above the level of one game, so there's no issue with having a given game be just a statement

Darren Tomlyn
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What you're describing is simply what happens when people try and create a work of art, first, a game/puzzle/competition, (whether understood and recognised or not), second.

The problem is that any art should exist to enable the game/puzzle/competition, not the other way round, unless creating a work of art purely in itself, (such as a video/animation etc.).

Cause and effect.

Bart Stewart
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Raph, I do see the perspectives you describe. I've also listened carefully to the arguments favoring authorial control, and I strongly support the ability of developers to make the kinds of games they want, even games that tightly control the play experience. That's why it was important that you were careful, in your letter to Leigh, to point out that asking for more of one kind of game does not imply silencing other kinds of games.

The only argument I think is wrong in all this discussion is the one claiming that to encourage more of one kind of game to be made is to assert that some other kind of game should not be made. Creation (of games or anything else) isn't a zero-sum game, though.

If I am free to choose to make a game with lots of player agency, and you are free to choose to make a game that asks the player to do or feel a very specific thing, then we all win, not just individually but as a group. Welcoming a diversity of voices -- including ones we don't agree with -- helps to build a healthy, growing creative culture that benefits everyone.

Trying to speak louder by silencing someone else's ideas -- zero-sum, finite-game thinking -- can't do anything but hurt the whole culture. I believe it's right to disagree, courteously but firmly, with that viewpoint.

David Serrano
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Chris Bateman and Richard Boon raised a point in their book 21st Century Game Design which highlighted the problem with how the core and indie development communities have historically defined a game:

"In some cases, it seems that this [Hardcore / Conquerer play style] has been identified as the only style of "legitimate" gameplay – which is a dangerous state of affairs in an industry where development costs are growing exponentially and audience sizes are growing linearly."

Darren Tomlyn
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The problem of not understanding games, is a symptom of an extremely fundamental problem we have with our perception of language itself, and as such is not only impossible to fully understand without recognising that, and can not be dealt with in isolation from it, but it is also having some corresponding fundamental effects.

The worst effect our lack of understanding of the word game, especially in relation to puzzles, competitions, art, work and play, is almost as fundamental as it gets:

It's causing people to get confused between the most fundamental different types of (human) behaviour:

Things people do.
Things that happen to people.

There are very good reasons for why this is happening, but you do need to understand and recognise just how big a problem this is, and why it's having a wide range of tangible affects upon people.

This is all, again, fundamentally, about perceiving, recognising and then describing and teaching, cause as and by its effect, potentially at the most basic, fundamental level of all.

So yes, recognising that just because a program may involve someone interacting with a program on a computer that someone designed for play, doesn't necessarily mean it is a game, is a good start, but that is all it is.

For a full understanding of the problem, however, I'm afraid you're all going to have to wait - I'm now busy writing the basic problem up for a friend (of a friend) who works at Cambridge University... (My current blog gives clues to what I've realised is actually happening, but is no longer fully consistent, and is not the full picture of what is happening and why.) (It's just really hard to write about something when the main symptom is that we don't have a word to represent the information/concept we need in the first place.)

Jason Cuffley
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As a student and aspiring game designer, this article and the Raph/Leigh letters made me visualize a plausible future of a problematic career. I say this because games (in the now days sense) have a fine mixture of both “gamey” and “non-gamey” qualities. I question myself to whether the lines will blur or if one will take over the other? Is there still a formula for creating games or just whatever you consider to be a game? Where does this leave mobile gaming? (This is a story for another day). I raise this question because I had a conversation with someone the past day about how they heard more and more about mobile gaming being the premiere gaming destination. All in all, I am worried for the future of gaming industry the direction it could possibly be taking.

Steven Christian
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Recent Kickstarters seem at odds with this 'future'.
Like the games and non-games mentioned in the article, the future has room for both.

Vitor Menezes
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Kudos on a great post adding to this discussion!

I find the "everything is a game" position a little uncomfortable, basically because I believe it runs the risk of "game" really just being a surrogate for "activity" and therefore rendered meaningless--a sort of "If everything is an X, does that some object is an X really illuminate anything?" scenario.

Still I don't think that detracts from the post. I agree that just because, according to some formal criterion, some "game" is not Formally A Game, that "game" is therefore inferior or a failure. I also agree that the best approach to formalities is an attempt to create a -descriptive- framework for "games", rather than a prescriptive one.
Personally, I'm in the camp that believes that, at least for critical discussion, what's needed are more precise words and categories to describe "games" than, well, "game". It seems much simpler to admit that not every form of "interactive experience" is clearly described as a "game" than to simply ignore the obvious satisfaction artists and audiences derive from alleged "not-games."

Darren Tomlyn
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The problem, is that we're not recognising and using the words that represent suitable information that describes what we have in the first place.

The words game, art, puzzle and competition are all used to represent different activities. Unfortunately, we're not recognising what those activities are IN RELATION to each other, regardless of any medium used, because the anchor between such information and the rest of the language isn't recognised and understood, as part of the basic rules of (English) grammar.

This has meant that what these words are perceived to represent has been pulled all over the place, based on their (subjective) application, objects and media used, any effects they cause, and the general additional context involved in their existence and use within the language itself - literally and directly breaking the rules of such language because of this, because the rules are not fully recognised and understood to then be obeyed consistently.

The information these words represent pre-dates any and all languages we use to represent them, today, and the differences between them has also been generally known for a long time - so the fact that we eventually gained words to represent such information, should not be surprising, except that it took so long.

Which is why the problems we have are simply a failure of linguistics - of matching existing information to the words used to represent them - due to the fact that the basic relationships and frameworks within which such information has to be placed, that can then be used to understand and recognise such information in relation to each other and the rest of the language, does not currently consistently exist - because of a far more fundamental problem with our understanding of language itself, (and possibly even communication in general).

Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse, because more and more people are getting involved in making products that both inform and describe such activities and behaviour in an inconsistent manner - which is where all this began.

Just because I call an object (information/program) made out of wood (using a computer), a chair, (game), doesn't mean that's what it is, unless it's recognised function is consistent with such an thing. If I don't know what function a chair (game) is defined to fulfill, then I might be making a table (puzzle) or bed (competition), instead, or not realise that it's still a chair (game) even if I make it out of metal (playing cards). And if all wooden objects (computer programs) thought to be used in such a manner are then called chairs (games) - what would happen to what we think the word furniture (activity) represents? If I then decide to call a chair (game) a medium for art, instead of the material used to create it, (a computer), then I would further confuse individual works of art, such as a single chair (game), for the act of creating it, and even using it, (sitting in a chair (playing a game)).

Michael Joseph
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Darren Tomlyn is of course completely right. But I don't think anyone cares.

One side is adapting a stricter definition of "game" and the other side is using it to mean any "digital entertainment software" (or some such thing). Both sides are correct when using their own meaning of the word.

The umbrella term "game" probably beats all in the war of attrition. It's just easier to slip back into lack of discipline than to maintain it.

This is a semantics debate and is a lot like the what is art debate.

Darren Tomlyn
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Unfortunately, one side isn't really correct, because it's inconsistent, and doesn't allow the language to do it's job properly.

Is a chair not a chair, just because it's made out of metal and therefore a table just because it's made out of wood? That's the equivalent of the problem we have: something is called a 'game' because of the medium it uses - (a computer) - and not the function it has, even though such media have no place in defining such functionality.

We're breaking the rules and reason for the whole existence of language itself - representing consistent pieces (plural!) of information in relation to each other. One piece of information and a single representation (such as a single picture) is not a language.

Game already has a main specific meaning that is completely independent of computers or any other medium. Ignoring such a definition is only ever going to cause problems and inconsistency - which is exactly what we see in the software being created.

Luis Guimaraes
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A game is anything that can be gamed.

Which is the same as saying that a game is a space of possibility in which one can manipulate events to achieve desired outcomes.

Kenneth Blaney
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A fairly math/economic definition of a game (which I, of course, have no problem with) but very many instances of games fall outside of the definition of game then. For instance, neither 'Candyland' nor 'Chutes and Ladders' qualify as games because there is never a choice to be made. Similarly, if the "gameiness" of something is related to the number and importance of those choices, lots of games are not very "gamey" (like 'Monopoly' or 'Trouble'). If we maybe also want to remove Hobson's Choices then even fewer "games" are games (like 'TicTacToe' or 'Uno').

So even just defining games like that doesn't end the discussion outright.

Darren Tomlyn
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@Kenneth & Luis

Figuring out what the word game represents is a matter of linguistics.

Which involves:

A) Studying how and why the word is used to label the activities it is and has been at present in this particular language - what the word is being used to represent directly, to see what similarities such uses have.

B) Understanding how the information the word represents is related to the rest of the language, to understand the basic concept it belongs to, so we can determine what it is we need to be studying in A, and also understand how it is then related to other, similar, pieces of information, whether represented by the same or different words, (such as puzzle, competition, art, work and play).

B is currently not understood, so A is completely inconsistent at present, and will remain so, until B is recognised. Unfortunately, the failure to understand B is a symptom of a far deeper problem with how we currently perceive language (and maybe communication) itself, in general, and without fixing that problem first, nothing will ever be fully consistent, and will therefore just cause more problems - which is what we have.

Note: the information that causes the word game to be used as a verb, (a thing that happens), is often unrelated to that which causes it to be used as a noun (as an activity or thing/collection of things used to enable such an activity). Such a use is more often related to the act of gambling, rather than playing a game. Since the activity we call a game is no UNRELATED to gambling, viewing what the word game represents in such a manner is inconsistent and inaccurate.

Unfortunately, there is still a large industry out there (the 'gaming' industry) that thrives on causing confusion between such different activities and behaviour. Anyone and everyone who wants to make A game, should understand that it is in their interests for the differences to be recognised and understood - anyone who doesn't probably isn't making a game in the first place, (usually a competition instead), and is therefore trying to mislead people alongside such propaganda provided by the 'gaming' industry.

If you want to make a competition (since they tend to make more money!) and/or involve gambling, then fine - but BE HONEST about it. Of course, that means people need to recognise and understand the differences between a game and a competition in the first place, which is currently a big problem.

What we need to talk about is how to describe what truly matters for understanding what the word game represents, both in isolation, and in relation to other, similar, things - the player's behaviour (of those taking part) - in a fully consistent manner.

What you've described Luis is nothing specific to the word game itself - almost everything a person DOES can be described as such. We have suitable words to represent the information we need - we just need to recognise and understand what they are. (P.s. the word activity would be a start!)

Unfortunately, a simple definition of purely what A game is, is not enough - we need a method of describing such a thing that also allows us to understand other, related, information and things to it, aswell - such as puzzles, competitions and even art - (and maybe also work and play) - since there is too much confusion between all of these things that need to be separated consistently, based on the use of the language itself (independently of computers, because that's part of the problem).

Games, puzzles, competitions and simple works of art all exist separately and independently of each other independently of computers. Since they don't even require any additional medium beyond the people taking part, trying to define any such activity, or only perceiving them as such, as and by any particular medium is only every going to be inconsistent and cause problems. Study what they represent for what matters (the behaviour of those taking part in the activity - (which is the act of creation for art, not perception!)) - and you might be able to recognise and understand the differences, and so recognise just how inconsistent the understanding of such information these words represent is at present, even though it shouldn't be.

Once you've done that, you might be in a position to fully understand and appreciate the fundamental reason why we managed to wind up in such an inconsistent state in the first place.

Luis Guimaraes
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Snakes & Ladders for sure isn't a game. But it's enough for the general public to just call it as such. We professionals should be more acknowledged in our own field.

You said it doesn't end the discussion, but the sole point of an objective definition is simply to end the semantics part of the discussion, which is completely useless and unfruitful. Something being or not a game doesn't carry any objective measures of value or quality. It's just a binary variable between many others.

It would be a lot more useful to simply accept what games are or aren't, and keep making whatever it is that you make, playing whatever it is that you play, without the irrational need of putting it under some specific combination of phonemes that were created to represent something else.

The video-games industry is full of inferiority complexes ("Are games 'Art'"?, "Are movies better than games?", "Does calling something a game makes it better?"). This has to end, period. Words are just a bunch of noises, shouldn't be made into abstract ideals.

Val Reznitskaya
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Even though the industry has roots in more traditional games, I think the word "game" as we use it here has become a kind of shorthand for "interactive experience" (for better or worse). It's used differently enough to merit a different definition - one that is shifting as the medium evolves.

Unfortunately, we're kind of stuck with the word itself. This is the "games" industry, and we are "game" developers who participate in the Independent "Games" Festival and attend the "Game" Developers Conference. That's why to many, this is more than a semantics problem. It's a question of what common perception thinks we should be allowed to make without being kicked out of the club.

Friar Zero
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I think if you want to understand what makes something a game you have to look at games and that means looking at what makes tabletop games (from ancient egyptian Senet to Ticket to Ride) games. Call of Duty has more in common with Chess than it does Proteus, to give a silly example. This I think is the fundamental problem, so many of those seeking to stretch or nullify the definition of a game know so little about gaming as play, and instead start from the presumption of interactive media.

I don't think we are bound by that word, game. I see no reason, outside of popular marketing, that non-gaming interactive media shouldn't call itself by another more fitting name. That for me, is the entire controversy. If these interactive art pieces called themselves something else then we could all move on and discuss them as they are and not as something they clearly are not. For example, what's the point in discussing the difficulty of Dys4ia or the narrative of Team Fortress 2? The critical and analytical concepts best used for each are different. Even then splitting them makes discussing the two infinitely easier and more precise, we could discuss overlap and edge cases instead of more-game and less-game.

And just for the sake of it, here's my definition of a game: An abstract representation of a challenge that must be overcome using the provided system in order to achieve a reward*. I don't like that last word but it fits, when the challenge is overcome a game rewards you with victory, points, a cutscene, etc. This definition encompasses everything from chess to Mass Effect while excluding games like Dear Esther,for example, which has no challenges and no rewards; just a serious of experiences.

Under that definition even chutes and ladders is a game. It has a board, it gives you the challenge of getting from point a to point b, you must accomplish this using the provided system of die rolling and moving, and finally you are rewarded with victory against your opponent.

Darren Tomlyn
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If Snakes and Ladders is not a game, then games do not exist - it's as simple as that, because Snakes and Ladders represents a very basic application of a very basic game - (a race).

If Snakes and Ladders is not a game, than no other activity involving a race can be a game, either. Since, as I said, a race is one the basic games, such inconsistent thinking is how we got into this mess in the first place. Go and study every single game you can think of or find, (you can ignore computer games if you like, though it doesn't matter quite so much for this), and see how many are a race - the answer is probably far more than you realise.

Snakes and Ladders has always been considered to be a board game, just like chess, draughts, monopoly, scrabble etc.. That Snakes and Ladders is a different type of game from these, regardless of the medium used, does not mean it's not a game in the first place.

Your problem, is similar to many others - you're trying to define something as and by it's subjective application, without understanding that what it's an application of is what matters - confusing cause for effect.

There are 'three' (it depends how specific you want to get) basic games, of which a race is one. The task I'm giving you now, is to find out what the other two are. (Hint: chess/draughts/scrabble etc. are all examples of one of these, but the other you'll have to figure out for yourself.)

Once you know and understand what the basic games are - what the most basic applications of what the word game represents happen to be, only then will you be able to reverse engineer its/a (consistent) definition.

Like I said - linguistics.

Of course - once you've done that for the word game, you might be able to do the same thing for puzzle and competition(s), and therefore have an understanding of how and why they differ, and why the differences matter, which is why we have and use such different words to represent such information in the first place.

Val Reznitskaya
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@Friar Zero

I'm not sure I agree that we have anything to gain from separating the medium into "games" and "everything else." It seems like an artificial place to draw the line. In my opinion, it's a spectrum. Most interactive media create an experience, be it the joy of winning, the guilt in watching an NPC die as a result of a decision, or the thrill of discovering something new. Only some of those media have challenges and reward systems as the center point of their experiences. Some of them do not have them at all, but even then, there is little stopping people from making their own constraints if they so wish.

It used to be that consumers were more interested in gameplay-centered interactive media, but judging by the popularity of titles like The Walking Dead and Journey, that is starting to change. Drawing a strict line may be a step backwards in that regard - we already see lots of "Proteus isn't a game so stop covering it on game sites" and the like as it is. Do we really want to add fuel to that fire?

Also, what's wrong with talking about Dys4ia and TF2 together? To the right designer, that could be the formula for something new and brilliant. Why would we want to discourage these conversations?

Darren Tomlyn
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"I'm not sure I agree that we have anything to gain from separating the medium into "games" and "everything else.""

The problem is that people do not recognise and understand what is important about the information such words represent. The fact is, is that the English language (at least) already has words representing all the information that we need to describe, recognise and understand all the differences and relationships that matter.

But the rules that govern all that are not recognised and understood, and so we have problems.

The directly applicable words we need are:

Game, art, puzzle, competition, work, play, activity(/action)<-event(/state).

If we understand what these words mean in relation to each other (and the rest of the language) then we'll be in a far better position to understand all the different things involved in how they are applied, and why.

These words are not fundamentally about things, or properties, and so any description involving those is already inconsistent/inaccurate.

What we're dealing with, is things that happen, (usually in relation to people - i.e. the specific behaviour of people involved in such things).

The main, direct reason we have problems with such words, (though it is a symptom of a deeper problem, as I said earlier), is that they do not represent basic things that happen in themselves, (and so are not used as verbs), but are instead abstracted from that, as a further application of such a concept, yet is not recognised and described/taught as such. (E.g. flight/fly, competition/compete etc..)

So, as I said - things that happen, or the behaviour of those taking part is what these words represent. Any objects and media used are subjective, and have no place in their definition, as is any properties or effects such things that happen, cause.

And when we're talking about such fundamental behaviour as things people do and things that happen to them, not recognising and understanding such differences betrays the very reason for the existence of language in the first place.

Which is why we have serious, fundamental problems.

Val Reznitskaya
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In my opinion, we'll never find a perfect formal definition of "game" that everyone can agree on. The medium is constantly evolving, so it's only natural for accepted definitions to evolve as well. I don't think this is a bad thing - often the discussions around them are more valuable than the definitions themselves. But when people close their minds and stubbornly assume that their own definitions are the end-all, that's when we start to have problems.

We're playing the game of Game Design without knowing all of the rules. We can work with what we have, and we can seek out new rules. But more importantly, I think we need to be aware of the fact that we might never know all of the rules.

Kenneth Blaney
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"we'll never find a perfect formal definition of "game" that everyone can agree on."

Just like the age old "is cheerleading a sport" question?

Darren Tomlyn
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The problem is that although humanity in general has had a good idea of what a game is and is not, along with art, etc. - PEOPLE haven't. And, unfortunately, some of those that don't have wound up in a position of influence over everyone else, and therefore spread the inconsistency around.

The problem is not with game design - that's merely a symptom, which is why discussing the matter in such terms leads nowhere except going round in circles.

The problem is with the study and teaching of language itself - linguistics - since those that do so are causing the inconsistency in the first place.

There rules that matter here, and are therefore part of the problem, (though are actually, in themselves a further symptom of an even deeper problem), are those of (English) grammar.

Val Reznitskaya
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I think that, even if we did have a better grammar with which to discuss this topic formally, we STILL wouldn't have a universal definition. And I don't think that's a problem. Right now, there are many works that lie at the edge of just about any definition of game we can think of, but those works can still be worth discussing and learning from in terms of game design.

Inconsistency isn't a bad thing as long as we're capable of reconciling misunderstandings. We can learn a lot from other perspectives. On the other hand, some people are really closed-minded and try to force their own perspectives on everyone else. In my opinion, that's the real problem here.

Darren Tomlyn
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Unfortunately your general lack of understanding as far as the specifics of this problem and its symptoms are concerned are not helping you understand why it's such a massive problem.

Read my first reply to the OP above.

The inconsistencies involved are FAR too great to just 'muddle through' without the true help and structure language itself is supposed to provide, but currently isn't.

Don't tell me that not recognising the difference between something I do, and something that happens to me doesn't matter - because it matters a great deal, and that's the problem.

All that is happening at the minute is that people are focused upon symptoms of a very big problem, but are confusing such symptoms for the problem itself, and are therefore making things worse, and is also why we're just going round in circles without any end in sight - (for millennia in the case of art).

The problems with games, puzzles, competitions and even work and play, are SYMPTOMS of a bigger, deeper, problem, not a cause - let alone computer games etc.. Until that is recognised and understood, they will always remain, and get increasingly worse, as is happening now.

Breaking the basic rules of a language is a very serious problem - because without such rules, the language as a whole does not exist. Again, we're muddling through, but the symptoms are getting worse.

[User Banned]
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Ryan Watterson
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A digital game is both media and activity. Sometimes one more than the other, but all games contain both and exist on a spectrum between the two, as all games are created by displaying media, even the fully activity based ones, and all games are navigated interactively, even the extremely authored ones.

Over the last several years we've scene people pick sides and try to make 'their camp' the victor of 'how all games should be'. That's not what we should try to do. That's a stupid impulse. Makes quality games all along the entire spectrum.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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This discussion can not take place as long as people aren't listening to what is being said.

Eric Schwarz
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A game is an activity in which a person or persons agree to a set of rules and operate within them towards a goal.

Darren Tomlyn
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Not precise enough. Such a description makes no distinction between games, puzzles and competitions, let alone what people would consider work - (since most jobs would fit such a description).

Games do not exist in isolation. Trying to describe them as such is therefore impossible. Without understanding the 'big picture' of how game is related to everything else (as and by the rest of the language itself), they can never be fully recognised and understood in order to be described consistently.

Dave Hoskins
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IMHO, gambling is called a game to soften up the view of it. Sounds so much friendlier doesn't it?

Darren Tomlyn
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Actually - gambling is consistent with what the word game used to represent a few centuries ago, (originally), but it's main use and associated definition has changed, since - except for one particular industry that wants people to think otherwise, and/or just be confused. The use of the word as a thing that happens (used as a verb) is still consistent with, and a remnant of such a main definition, but no longer derived from the current main definition itself (as an activity).

(Gambling became a word used instead, derived from the word game that had then changed it's meaning.)

Related to this, however, is that we now have another word that is consistent with the basic type of activity most use for people to bet on the outcome, (which is what gambling is about) - a competition - on behalf of the gambler.

There are two types of competition:

1) A lottery. This is an activity in which a person competes to be told they have won or lost based on a random draw or selection. Raffles, bingo, roulette etc., are all basic forms of lottery, (and so are competitions, and not games). Examples of slightly more developed activities based around such behaviour, (often with a little more interactivity, but still based upon being told a result by a random draw), would be blackjack and slot machines.

2) There is no single label for a basic archetype of this type of competition - but it's an activity in which people compete to be told they have won or lost, (regardless of any other behaviour involved), by other people, based on their opinion, (who we call judges). Most gymnastic events and talent competitions fall under this definition. Boxing, for which a judges opinion has to been as the default behaviour, also has to be recognised as a competition in general, even if it is possible for such an opinion to not be involved (and therefore become a game, instead, at that time).


I feel like introducing you to something that isn't really seen very much, but is related to the last example (boxing) - (poker and solitaire have this, which is why defining them isn't as easy as it seems):

It is possible for an activity to vary its definition based on the behaviour that happens during, and have it therefore be reliant on its subjective application, though any default behaviour must still be used to define it in general. A random draw is often used to enable such variety.

Solitaire, for example, can be seen as either a puzzle or a competition, depending on whether or not a solution is possible, and exists. (If a solution is not possible, then it cannot be a puzzle, and must instead be a competition, in which you have competed (by interacting with the random draw of the cards) to be told you have lost (by said random draw.))

Poker cannot be a game of chance if you have no power and influence over the randomness itself. You do in draw based poker, but not in hold'em or stud. Likewise, poker cannot be a game of skill if your own behaviour has not determined the outcome - i.e. it's only based on the random draw of the cards, though is a game if that is what has happened. Since all three outcomes are possible in poker, it, again, has to be defined as and by its default behaviour, which is a competition for hold'em and stud, and although I'm not sure of the ratios for draw based poker, (i.e. hands winning without cards being drawn), it probably gets away with being a game of chance.

The funny thing about poker, is if you play it at the highest level, the whole point about being able to win is by turning it into competition in the first place, by using what all other players tell you for your own gain, (almost!) irrespective of your own behaviour - i.e. competing to be told you've won.


The biggest problem with competitions, however, is that they are completely incompatible with games - either an activity is a game, or a competition, but never both, and so the fact that the difference isn't recognised is causing many, tangible, problems.

Either you compete, (as a process itself), as and by your own behaviour, (power, ability or influence), or you compete to be told, (by a random draw/selection or another's opinion), whether you have won or lost, and so it was never in your full power or consistent influence.

(Influence only matters for games of chance, not skill.)

It's either something you do, or it's something that happens to you, that matters - never both.

The fact that so many so-called 'games' (not gaming) companies are turning their products into competitions these days, is extremely problematic. (Random loot drops/rewards etc. turn a game into a competition if that's what determines whether you have won or lost.)

Thomas Bedenk
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After reading all of your post and actually agreeing to a lot of what you say, mostly part of the discussion really being a semantic or linguistic problem, I have the feeling that you seem to think of (or wish for) language as a well defined structure with clear meanings. But language has always been living, changing and NOT well defined. Furthermore words can always have different meaning that depend on the context. Who is talking? When and to whom is he talking? What are other words used along the word in question? There is a messenger behind every message and everything that comes out of the messenger is going through many filters and layers of interpretation. Communication goes beyond what is being said and makes a general definition of a word very hard. You complain about the lack of consistency when communication is always inconsistent.

That being said I still agreed the trying to be more precise and trying to come up with definitions especially in a field of research is required for efficient discussions.

Darren Tomlyn
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What you are talking about is not the problem we have - the problem we have that is causing all the symptoms we have problems with, (which is what you're talking about) - is far more fundamental that that:

The very basic understanding and recognition of language itself, is upside down/back-to-front.

If communication was always that inconsistent, then many things, including language, couldn't exist - it's that simple.

The first thing people, (including you, probably), need to do is fully recognise and understand the difference between a language, and communication (or even a means of communication) in general, since the lack of such recognition is helping to cause a lot of these problems in the first place.

Thomas Bedenk
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While I appreciate your efforts to explain certain aspects of language and communication in your comments, I think it is a little disrespectful that you seem to assume more often than not, that you fully recognize and understand language and communications while suggesting that people (including me and other commenters) don't understand it. At the same time you are mystifying your answers by referring to a greater problem without explaining it further.
It certainly is helpful to know your share of psychology, linguistics and communication science when wanting to take part in a discussion like this, but it is just as unhelpful to claim own points of view as the only valid in a discussion.

Darren Tomlyn
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Unfortunately this is certainly not the place, (nor the time, currently), to fully describe what I've realised is happening, at least to the English language, and potentially (though I'm fairly certain it's the case, based on everything I've been seeing and reading), language in general, if not communication itself. Obviously if it's the latter, (and I doubt any individual person can say for certain), it's one of the biggest problems humanity has, though I personally doubt it's quite that bad, even if it would no longer surprise me, based on the symptoms I see. I'm assuming it's affecting our understanding of language, (in general), and art, anyway, until shown otherwise.

I certainly won't be posting anything to my blog without showing it to my friend (Neil Mercer) at Cambridge University, first - (who didn't argue about it, and told me to write it up for him, which I'm in the process of trying to do - (I'm essentially writing it up as I would for my blog and sending it to him, first) - but it's really hard to write about language, when the central symptom is not having the consistency in representing the basic information and concepts we need to be able to consistently understand and recognise what language actually is, in the first place).

There are a couple of things to note about the problem itself.

The first is that it is so simple, basic and fundamental, and therefore should be completely obvious to anyone who truly understands language.

Given that every single textbook, dictionary, encyclopedia and language course almost certainly displays (similar) symptoms of such a problem, however, betrays humanity's method and level of understanding of this subject, and is responsible for its continuation to exist (until it's fixed/I've fixed it).

I'm not being disrepectful when I tell you you do not understand language - you simply CAN'T understand it, without fully recognising the problem as I do. And if you did - you'd understand how and why everything truly fits together, and why we have problems with the word game etc. due to the basic inconsistency between how the language actually functions, and how its perceived, described and taught.

(That there is a problem does seem to be recognised by some, but, unfortunately, the proposed 'solutions' betray the same lack of understanding that caused the problem in the first place, and are just as inconsistent and problematic.)

The blog post I'm working on, (that I'll send to Neil, first), is all about one thing:

The 'big picture'.

(I've titled it 'On the functionality and identity of language'.)


I'm not posting here to deal with the basic problem - I'm posting to show:

a) that not recognising and understanding what information words represent in the (English) language is naturally a matter of linguistics - (and it's a failure of linguistics that has got us into this mess in the first place).

b) that as a matter of linguistics, there are certain elements and methods that need to be used to answer the questions we have, and so solve, or at least understand, the problems.

As such, what I'm hoping for is to give people the right perspective in which to both view the problems we have, and then be able to discuss them and think about them etc. for themselves, in a consistent manner, while I work on the foundations to underpin a truly consistent answer to such problems and questions they ask.

How we use language to describe itself, is where the most basic symptoms of the problem we have are demonstrated - and the word game is merely part of this.

As I've told people above, however, trying to only view games in isolation is a large part of the problem, too, and it needs to be recognised why that's the case - which SHOULD be a simple matter in regards to how the language functions...

Thomas Bedenk
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I like this article as an attempt to bring everyone together and a lot of what is being said I agree to. I am not sure if it helps to call everything a game, but you are raising this question yourself in you article.

Simon Brislin
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I don't understand why people are so interested in the definition of "game". Surely any definition of "game" that includes ultimate frisbee, crosswords, "Bioshock" and "Dys4ia" surely must be so broad as to be useless.

As soon as you say "game" (with any meaning that encompasses all these things) you have to qualify it - rendering it useless. Wouldn't firming up our definitions of team sports, puzzles, FPSs and [some unloaded term tbd] be far more productive?

Darren Tomlyn
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Because the word game, when understood in relation to competition(s), art, puzzles (and even work and play) represents something very particular, as do all those other words, and are so common and fundamental that what they represent has existed for millennia (upon millennia), without really changing until recently, because people who don't understand what they represent, are now in a position of influence over everyone else.

Unfortunately, there are very good reasons for such problems, relating to our understanding of language itself...

One of most obvious reasons that should demonstrate such problems, is when activities that are considered NOT to be games outside of computers, still get called that even though nothing has changed in how the activity itself functions - (such as the crossword puzzles you mentioned in your list).

Simon Brislin
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Hi Darren,

I'm not convinced I buy your argument that all things need to be defined in relation to all other things. That seems like a big ask. You also clearly have your own embryonic definition which is distinct from competitions, puzzles, work etc. I look forward to hearing it.

I remain skeptical that gaining consensus will be possible and any definition will be specific enough to be useful in communication.

Apologies meant to reply in thread.

Darren Tomlyn
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It's not as hard as you think - you just need to understand the nature of what we're trying to describe in the first place (applications of things that happen).

How are things that happen related to each other?

As, to and by the subject such things that happen are related to.

One of the reasons such a concept is therefore causing problems, is that they're abstracted from such a thing (used as nouns), unlike basic things that happen (used as verbs) which are used in combination with such a concept (e.g. SVO).

Because the subject and object of such things that happen are therefore not consistently required to be used in combination with such words, the only way to understand and recognise such things that happen in relation to such a thing - (person/entity) - is by describing them in such a manner instead.

Unfortunately, the nature of the English language itself, doesn't help here, in that a lot of representations used to represent such entities are based on subjective relationships with the user etc. - (me/you/us/them etc.) - so leaving any of the out also causes problems, too.

So what we need is an objective representation of such a person/entity that the things that happen such words represent can be described in relation to, consistently.

The English language actually has the representation of the information/concept we need to do so, only, again, unfortunately, it is not being recognised, because the basic rules of the language are not being obeyed. (Describing a thing as and by its application, even though they are (and always have been) separate words used in combination (as a noun and verb)).

But I'll have to leave it there for now, since I really need to go...

Simon Brislin
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Fair enough but I think you have an idealised notion of language. Having a well-defined definition of a word comprised of only words that themselves are well-defined and having the whole thing accepted by people as a whole is simply not realistic IMHO.

If it was, of course, communication of ideas would be a lot simpler.

Darren Tomlyn
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To say that how we use language to describe itself is unimportant is a very big mistake. Not being able to do so, consistently, is one of the main symptoms of the main problem we have of not perceiving, recognising and understanding language in a fully consistent manner to begin with.

If you do not understand how and why the basic functionality of language helps it to define itself, then you don't understand language at all - which brings us back to the main problem.

The problem is that the central element language has that fulfils such a function, is the one element we do not truly have:

The basic (functional) taxonomic hierarchy.

Without understanding such a hierarchy, the one element that defines (or should define) language for what it is (as opposed to a simple means of communication) - the basic rules of grammar - can never be fully recognised and understood, which is the problem we have.

I'm NOT saying that being able to describe everything that matters within such a hierarchy will be easy, no, nor am I saying that I know how best to describe every main element at its root, but I at least recognise what it is we need to describe, which is a start, and have a good idea of how best to describe the specific elements in relation to game, art, puzzle etc..

Given how we describe language at this time, however - the taxonomic hierarchy almost might aswell not exist - and we wonder why we're having problems.

As I said, it's all about understanding how everything relates to everything else, though such a hierarchy, as I said, is still not the root of the problems we have, and at this time, is still a symptom of a deeper problem.

(I'd go into more detail, but it'd give too much away ;) )

How language is taught and described, based on our perception and understanding of it, is causing all these problems in the first place. Yes, it'll be hard to fix them completely, (if possible), but not doing so will cause far bigger problems that'll be even harder to fix in the long run.

All we need is consistency, where, at this time, none or little exists. Without such consistency language, again, cannot really function and exist at all. Yes, perfection isn't possible, but being consistent enough is what matters, and that is where we're failing at this time.

Either way, everything starts (the problems and their solutions) at the academic level.

Simon Brislin
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Well I wish you luck. From a personal perspective though this is not for me. I make things that I consider games. Whether there is consensus whether they are competitions, puzzles, games or art is not a concern.

Darren Tomlyn
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And the that's the problem we have, because there's too much subjectivity involved in what a game is at present, especially in relation to computers, that simply should not exist, that means what people 'think' a game is or is not, is not consistent enough to allow the word/language to do it's job properly.

You can make what you think is a chair all you like, but if, based on the evidence of how the word chair and other related words are used (table, bed etc.), you are not making chairs at all, but beds, then at some point we're going to have problems - not just with what you are making, but what people perceive of things others are making too...

There's just so many ingredients that are completely inconsistent, atm., with the perception of games and similar things - (objects, media, properties and effects etc.) - that all anyone can do is try and make what they think is a game, so I don't blame you for that - but if you ignore any consistent information you are given, then that's entirely your own fault, and you will then be part of the problem, yourself.

The biggest problem, at this time, is when companies so obviously make something that would not be considered a game at all, independently of a computer, yet call it a game, anyway, just because it is using a computer.

All the other problems, themselves, can only truly be fixed when the underlying problems with the language, itself, have been worked out - which will take time. But it's still all about information - making sure people know and understand what is is they want to do, will do, and need to do, for whatever it is they want to create, especially games.

The main thing that matters in the short term, is for people creating games to understand the differences in definitions and relationships between games, puzzles and competitions - because puzzles can, and competitions do, only exist at the expense of games themselves.

What this should be about - (and hopefully will, once my blog is finished with the foundations necessary to understand everything that can be built on top of it) - is understanding HOW to make the best GAMES possible - and I put it to you, that that can ONLY happen once they are recognised to exist independently of both puzzles and competitions.

If you think we've already seen everything that's possible for the basics and fundamentals of computer games - THINK AGAIN...

Without solid foundations, you can only ever build so high... (Especially if you mistake width and breadth for height.)

I have so much I want to talk about and describe for what computers can do for games - but it's pointless at the minute, because competitions and puzzles compromise their potential so much.

There are a lot of people asking questions (even on this very site) of how best to do certain things, that should have completely obvious answers, (especially when using computers), based solely upon what the consistent definition of game should be, but can't see them or fully and consistently understand them, because of the effects puzzles and competitions are having upon their perception and understanding of such a definition in the first place.

Do you understand how frustrating it is for me, wanting to post simple replies to such people discussing such matters, describing a basic/fundamental way of accomplishing what they want, but can't, because my answer simply won't fit with their current understanding of what a game is, and so will not be applied in a consistent manner, as it should, to accomplish what they need.

I already know this will happen based on the discussion I had with people years ago, when I first started to get involved in all this, and wondered why they couldn't understand what I was talking about... All the problems I've discovered since, is because of my wish to understand WHY that was the case... I never expected the problems to be quite so fundamental, though, which is a very big problem in itself.