Chapter 4: Game?

The reason why digital game is the only interactive digital medium is complicated. It has something to do with the rise of computers, the popularity of early games, the way games are sold, the games industry clamouring for recognition, and just how darn fast it all happened. Yet all of this speculation is besides the point. There is a simple way to fix this situation and remove all the negatives mentioned in the last chapter.

If someone said “I’m going to play a game” over a hundred years ago back in, say, 1900, what could have they meant?

Here’s the short list:

That’s it, more or less. So to solve this issue:

Interactive digital media2

All we need to do is to redefine game as it used to be in the past.

One way to define something is to look at multiple examples and find the minimum amount of shared aspects in all of them. What are the shared aspects of Football, Chess and Hearts? Think about that for a moment.

Thought enough?

Right, here they are:

  • Players
  • Rules
  • Actions
  • Winning
  • Losing

Putting all this together results in a fitting definition:
A game is a system of rules the players interact with by choosing actions in order to win and not to lose.

This definition has a few implications:

  • Choosing actions to improve your chances of winning can be referred to as decision making
  • Actions irreversibly change the state of the system defined by the rules. If actions were completely reversible then the system can get into a loop where no-one wins or loses as players are simply reversing their actions.
  • The actions available to each player rely on the state of the game. As such actions taken in the past can (and usually do) affect which actions can be chosen in the present and the future.
  • Winning and losing are both needed. An activity with nothing to achieve or strive for is pointless, you’ll only lose time. An activity where you always succeed is trivial and also pointless, if everyone wins then in reality no-one does.

Now that we have reversed time and redefined game as it used to be our categorisation looks like this.

Interactive digital media2

Games are in their right place, but what about all the projects which don’t fit the game category? They should have their own mediums of course! That is next.

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