Thursday, 8 March 2007

What are Games?

Games and gaming is a rather ambiguous term. The reason for this is because of the incredible diversity of games and gaming. There are no two games that are the same and each time we play a game the way we play and the outcomes of the play are different. Hence, the vagueness of the term games. Wittgenstein uses a rather suitable metaphor for this problematic definition. He describes the definition of games as a rope with many individual little fibres representing games. Many games often overlap one another however, with such a broad variation of games there are many completely different games, like two threads from opposing sides of the rope. Within the context of videogames, games can be defined more precisely because, in a metaphorical sense, the rope is far thinner. Chris Crawford, a computer game designer, describes games as “a closed formal system that subjectively represents a subset of reality. By “closed” I mean that the game is complete and self sufficient as a structure. The model world created by the game is internally complete; no reference need be made to agents outside of the game.” (Cited from Rules of Play: 2004 pg 77). This definition does not accurately define gaming yet describes the game as a program that is its own system.

Investigating further into video gaming we can also use another of Wittgenstein’s metaphors. His description of gaming as a family where, like family members, games often have similarities yet are not the same. To explain this further we can investigate two video games that are similar or, in a metaphorical sense, siblings. The games Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA are both games that represent the sport of football. Each game has very similar rules and objectives however, the game play and interaction with the player is far different. In PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) we see the designers have focused more on the games reflection of the sport. Its accurate representation of player movement, passing and goal scoring capabilities, I believe make the game more playable. However, FIFA designers have focused more on the graphics as well as the player’s ability and flare. The reflection of the game of football is not so accurate and instead the game represents a kind of fantasy football, full of flare and beauty. Although both games reflect the game of football the games are inherently different.

Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E. (2004) The Game Design Reader, A Rules of Play Anthology. Cambridge: MIT Press.

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