What Do Games Amount To, Really?
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What do the systems of games amount to?
The goal here is not to list what the objective or victory condition is in a game, but to say â€śwhat the game amounts toâ€ť or â€śwhat is actually happeningâ€ť, â€śwhat is the player actually trying to do?â€ť
The biggest problem with this list is whether to include the psychological or just the â€śphysicalâ€ť.Â Poker is about bluffing, about reading the other player, yet what the game amounts to in each hand is a form of pattern-matching plus collection (of money).Â I think Iâ€™ll leave the psychological out of this list, and stick to the systems.
At some point another problem is, what is a game?Â For example, Iâ€™d say most single-player video games are actually interactive puzzles, not games, but we call them games.Â Fortunately, the list below also applies to many if not all puzzles.
â€śAchieve a particular stateâ€ť is the generalized version.Â Victory points are a generalized way of doing several different things at once.Â Sometimes the â€śstateâ€ť is very simple, as in rock-paper-scissors where you want to make a pattern, such as paper to the opponentâ€™s rock.
The list includes the general activity, then some of the common variations.
When we come down to it, most games are about just a few thingsâ€“in no particular order:
1.Â Get to a particular place
Â Â Â Get there fastest (a race) [player interaction may be missing]
Â Â Â Get your any of your pieces there (Axis&Allies enemy capital)
Â Â Â Get a special piece there (football, hockey, many other team sports)
Â Â Â Get to end of the story (console RPGs)
2.Â Collect something (many card games, many video games)(sometimes economic)
Â Â Â Find something (exploration) (Easter egg hunt)
Â Â Â It drops in your lap (draw a card)
Â Â Â Take it from someone else (Monopoly, some card games especially trick-taking)
Â Â Â Donâ€™t collect something (Old Maid, Hearts, etc.)
3.Â Wipe someone or something out (Risk, shooters, checkers, bowling!)
Â Â Â Wipe out one thingâ€”chess
4.Â Achieve patterns in something (getting to a place could be seen as part of this!)
Â Â Â Patterns in piece location (this includes rock-paper-scissors, Tetris, many puzzle games)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Only your pieces (Tic-Tac-Toe), or yours plus opponentâ€™s (rock-paper-scissors)
Â Â Â Patterns in relation to the â€śboardâ€ť (Scrabble, Carcassonne)
Â Â Â Patterns of cards (related to setsâ€“e.g. Canasta)
5.Â Improve your capabilities. This is often subsidiary, a way to achieve something else.Â Common in RPGs, vehicle simulations, construction/management simulation, collectible card games)
6.Â Survive, Especially common in arcade games (which are generally unwinnable).
Iâ€™m not sure about â€śengineâ€ť games, where youâ€™re trying to make the right moves to take full advantage of an often economically-based system.Â In the end, youâ€™re likely doing one of the six things above when you make a â€śright moveâ€ť.
So what have I missed? Iâ€™m sure other people have made such lists, but I need references to such.