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What constitutes a game?

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Juzek's picture
Joined: 06/19/2017

In your opinion, what is the base requirements to be thought of a game?

I feel like it needs to be a model of something else. AKA, the washing the dishes game is just washing the dishes. Trying to beat your previous fastest time doesn't not make it a chore in my mind.

I'm asking because I am brainstorming a game that can't be played all at once, and requires people to be doing other things, and live normal life in between. It may be a good background thing for a weekend, but is it a game?

I propose this definition of a game: something where players act within defined rules and restrictions for fun.

Jay103's picture
Joined: 01/23/2018
Well, everything is a model

Well, everything is a model of something else, so I tend to agree with you on that point. I mean, playing "tag" is a model of running for your life. It just has to be a model that's fun to some people. Even washing the dishes could be, if the "game" you make it into is something the person WANTS to do because it's a competition or whatever. Many people find competition fun in itself, regardless of what they're competing in.

So I think your definition is pretty good. It would cover the dishes game.. you add some sort of "rule" to turn the chore into a game.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Activity vs. Game

Allow me to muddy the waters. :)

Is there anything in life that doesn't meet your definition? It must be something that's at least one of the following:

  • it's not fun/enjoyable
  • it doesn't have rules
  • it doesn't have "players"

Based on this metric, I would consider a large portion of the game industry as "not a game." If it's not enjoyable to me, then it's not a game. There are lots of "games" out there that I can't ever imagine being fun.

Of course, I just have an opinion about what is fun, I'm not the authority. So does a game need to be fun for just -someone- out there?

Another curious observation. For a time, I worked for a video game studio. I had my start there as a game tester. It was certainly enjoyable at times, but could have been considered "just a job" at others. I wasn't always playing games for fun. I was playing games to earn my paycheck. Does that mean it ceased to be a game? Or might this mean that it's not a game until it's finished/released?

I think you're on to something important, but I don't think describing it as being done "for fun" is entirely it. For what it's worth, I strongly agree on your two other points: needing rules, and needing players. A game ain't gonna play itself, I reckon.

If I were going to add something to this criteria, it would have something to do with an end-point. As in, "The game is over when..."

Recognizing that there's a competition of some sort going on must be part of it, somehow. I'm just not sure how, exactly. Further, I don't know if there can be a competition without a winner or loser. Even in solo games, the player can compete against their personal best (which is, in a way, a competition with their past or future self... That's pretty interesting to consider).

Tim Edwards
Tim Edwards's picture
Joined: 07/30/2015
Your definition looks

Your definition looks fine.

Maybe you don't need to worry about whether what you're creating is a "game" (however defined.) Just make it fun and let future generations argue about whether it's really a game. :)

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