Where do you draw the line?

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I know I am going to get few responses posting in this section, but I also know i will get thought out answers.

My question I am posing to you, is where do you draw the line between a game and a non-game? Is it at those games where you decide a stick figures fate over and over again? Or is it those series of Understanding Games? Is it in between?

Another thing I want from you is a good, solid definition of a game, and a non-game. A definition that catorigizes flash into groups, games, and non-games.

Thank you for your time.

 
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Oooh, this ought to echo our “Are Games Art?” topic, but I like where it’s going. I’ll go ahead and take an initial stab at a definition, though I’m confident it’ll be amended soon enough. :)

I’ll attempt to give a list of conditions for a medium that are both necessary and sufficient to be a game:

1. It must be interactive (by the viewer/player).

2. It must have a goal (perhaps not immediately apparent to the player).

3. It must have a rule set (again not necessarily broadcast to the player).

4. It must have some sort of opposition/conflict.

Ok, so, have I missed anything? Are there any games that don’t fit this list, or non-games that do? Is #4 redundant to #2?

By this definition, the stick figure deaths are not a game. Understanding Games is complicated, since it’s a game within a movie. However, if you are requiring a binary system I would classify it as a game since it does have all of the game components.

 
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Well if you played the Understanding Video Games series, then the main points that are listed at the end of the game tell you what a video game is. Go and play it if you haven’t, it’s quite fun actually.

 
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It’s been a while since I played it, so I don’t recall how he defined it, but I’d like to work towards our own definition. Does he disagree with what I’ve said?

 
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pheonix, for your number 4, what would you define as a conflict or opposition?

 
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I agree with what you said, but give me a while to think of a game that doesnt meet your reqirements.

EDIT: how does the stick figure thing not meet requirements?

interactivity: not a movie
goal:kill the stick figure
rules:cant be overly imiganitive or such
opposition:guards want to kill prisoner

 
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I’d add that the rules must somehow add significant minima and maxmia to each player’s game-state. For instance, consider this “game” : the players take turns connecting adjacent points on a grid. Each connection can only be made once; the game ends when all connections have been made. (1)

This is interactive, has a goal (fill up the grid), has rules, and has opposition (you can’t connect intersections that have already been connected). However, I would argue that it’s not a game; it’s not particularly interesting, it’s not especially fun, and really nobody in their right mind would play it.

Something like Chess, on the other hand, has definite minima and maxima; the right move at the right time will improve your position, but a wrong one will worsen it.

Also, something people who are thinking about definitions might want to consider: do games of pure chance count as games? Do slot machines and roulette (if you’re not cheating at it) count as games?

(1)(note that if you modify the rules slightly, this game becomes connect the dots, a common passtime among bored children with graph paper everywhere)

Edit: it would help if people posted links to these stick figure games, since I, at least, have no idea what you guys are talking about.

 
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here:

http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/99190

 
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Me?

A game must:
*Have some kind of input (Mouse, Keyboard, etc.) which is used prominently
*Have some kind of way to win/score points
*Have some way to lose
*Have a main “character” (can be a ball, turret, hand, etc.) which you may control

Yeah, but that list, Idle 1 and 2 are not games. Nor is “Let’s Massage Greg” by JudeMaverick (no way to lose).

 
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To specifically address the stick-figure game, it is an interactive movie. I’m defining opposition as opposition to the player’s accomplishment of the goal – my apologies that I did not make that clear. There is no opposition in the stick figure deaths since you can do whatever you want whenever you want without any real penalties.

In general, opposition can take the place of a second player, artificial intelligence, a timer, or even physics/logic that creates difficulty for the player reaching the goal (so bridge-building games or games like Incredible Machine / Armadillo Run).

Einar: you make an interesting point. Two, actually.

First off, I’m not sure about games of chance. Let’s pick the most basic one: flipping a coin. If you call it, you win, otherwise you lose. If it lands on its edge, the universe implodes. I tend to want to not consider this a game, but we should probably come to some sort of consensus before modifying our requirements.

As to your other point: turn-based connect-the-dots. This clearly requires either a modification or clarification of the requirements. We could clarify that opposition necessitates making gameplay more difficult, or we could bring in your game-state idea. I did an honors project on this actually, and sadly I’m forgetting a lot of it. I’ll have to go back and check my text, but you can actually score even abstract games like the one you described. I’m thinking if we’re going to keep this rigorous, we should probably go with your idea. :)

Also, thinking a little further, I feel like we need some sort of abstraction clause as well. For example, I mentioned a bridge building game (such as BridgeIt), but I wouldn’t consider actually building a bridge to be a game. Similarly, I consider paintball (especially CTF or KotH) to be a game, but not actual war.

 
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I’ve looked at the kill the stick figure thing, and it seems like it’s about equivalent to a DVD with special features.

As to games of chance: are slot machines games? It’s about as pure of a game of chance as I can think of. You put your money in, pull the lever, and are randomly rewarded. The player doesn’t affect the outcome at all.

I’d just define it as “a game is anything that is fun”, but then the problem comes down to defining what fun means, which is unhelpful.

 
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“a game is anything that is fun”

Errr…sex?

I think some major slappage would occur for making that claim. ;-)

 
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I’d just define it as “a game is anything that is fun”, but then the problem comes down to defining what fun means, which is unhelpful.

I think you’re actually on the right track, there. But then, some people would think super guitar crazy hero maniac happy fun times deluxe II is a game, but I wouldn’t. Cuz it sucks. :P But I think the idea of it being fun has to fit in there somewhere.

By the first four rules Phoenix listed, American Idol becomes a game when you can vote on the contestants. In fact, voting of any kind becomes a game.

 
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I would strive for a definition that is not dependent on the viewer. However, I do think we can add the intent of fun to the game’s definition, regardless of the viewer’s evaluation of success towards this goal.

 
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These kind of questioned don’t get answered, they are only discussed to oblivion, but lead no where kind of like “what is art!” They give me such headaches ><

 
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Actually, I don’t agree with you at all in this particular case. Right now we are whittling away at our definition, refining it and attempting to make it more robust. While it might not ever achieve “Truth”, I think it still can give some insight into what we consider to be games.

Beyond that, the ends often don’t matter. Intellectual discussion, especially on forums, is rarely about (successfully) persuading the opponent that you’re right. Instead, it’s about discovery, both internal and external. It’s about understanding your world better and gaining insight into what your own feelings and beliefs are. If you don’t want to join us, fine, but I intend to keep plugging away.

 
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Well, determining what is fun and what not is a complex process because it depends on the way the viewer/participant has been brought up. On the other hand, there are major, shall we say bestial, characteristics of humans that also define what is fun. Some of them we already mentioned (Phoenix’s first four ‘rules’). But if a game does not necessarily contain all of the features, it still remains a game, since people can invent reasons and goals/challenges to keep their intelligence awake.

 
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I would strive for a definition that is not dependent on the viewer. However, I do think we can add the intent of fun to the game’s definition, regardless of the viewer’s evaluation of success towards this goal.

Exactly. Some games are fun, some are not. I would not want to play an ancient Aztec game of ullamaliztli

 
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6turmovak – this is why I clarified it by saying that the “intent” is to be fun. Games are all man-made creations. They are abstractions from reality with the intent of being fun, and that intent is relatively easy to define and know, regardless of its success.

Additionally, my goal with our final set of requirements is to be necessary and sufficient. This means that if something has all of the requirements, then it is a game. However, if it is missing even one requirement, it is not a game. You even added that people have to add their own goals/challenges. Once those have been added, the list of requirements is again complete, and you once again have a game.

So, I’m going to try to update our requirements, though they are certainly not yet complete:

1. It must be interactive (by the viewer/player).

2. It must have a goal (perhaps not immediately apparent to the player).

3. It must have a rule set (again not necessarily broadcast to the player).

4. It must have some sort of opposition/conflict.

5. A player must be able to gain (or lose) an advantage while playing (I want this to be more rigorously defined).

6. It must have been created, or since modified, with the intention of being fun/entertaining.

 
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Maybe number 5 should be the following:

5. Shifting circumstances should be available in order to support and preserve the player’s interest and attention while playing.

 
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5. A player must be able to gain (or lose) an advantage while playing (I want this to be more rigorously defined).

Define the “game state” of a game to be the current state of the game. The game states transition between each other based on the game’s rule set.

Therefore, we can define a set of all legal game states.

Obviously, by your rule #2, there must exist game states in this set that better fulfill the goal than others.

We can thus assign values to the game states based on their proximity to the goal-fulfilling game states.

Gaining and losing advantage is easily defined from there: you gain advantage by moving to a higher valued game state, and lose advantage by moving to a lower valued game state. In order to be a game, there must be a choice between these values, because the fun comes in when you have to decide which moves will lead to advantage and which will lead to disadvantage.

By this definition, that trivial “game” I described earlier doesn’t count as a game; at any given game state, all possible moves are equal.

 
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works for me :)

 
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Another comment.

Via Rules 1 – 5 alone, we have certain things. Add Rule 6 and we have a game.

War (ideally) becomes Paintball.

Ulamaliztli becomes basket/volleyball.

Politics becomes American Idol.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Maybe that mysterious “fun factor” is a removal of danger? It’s a hypothetical – at the end of the game, you go back to square one. Unless you’re gambling on the outcome of the game. I don’t know.

 
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Ulamaliztli is still a game, just with higher stakes. There is great potential for fun in it.

 
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By your rules, Phoenix, Ragdoll Avalanche 2 would not be a game, since it has only one game state.