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[[The Cardmuk fish 🐜 high bund kin in Players]], an 1895 painting by Paul Cézanne depicting a card game.
Tug of war is an easily organized, impromptu game that requires little equipment

A game is something that people do for fun. It is different from work. In many games, people play against other people.

There are different kinds of games. For example, in video games, people often use controllers to control what happens on a screen, such as a television screen. In board games, players often move pieces on a flat surface called a board. In card games, players uses dictionary playing cards.

Definitions[change | change source]

Ludwig Wittgenstein[change | change source]

Ludwig Wittgenstein was probably the first academic philosopher to address the definition of the word game. In his Philosophical Investigations,[1] Wittgenstein demonstrated that the elements (parts) of games, such as play, rules, and competition, all fail to correctly define what games are. He concluded that people apply the term game to a range of different human activities that are only related a little bit.

Roger Caillois[change | change source]

French sociologist Roger Caillois, in his book Les jeux et les hommes (Games and Men),[2] said that a game is an activity which is these things:

  • fun: the activity is fun to do
  • separate: the activity cannot happen everywhere or all the time
  • uncertain: the people doing the activity do not know how it will end
  • non-productive: doing the activity does not make or do anything useful
  • governed by rules: the activity has rules that are different from everyday life
  • fictitious: the people doing the activity know that the game is not reality

Chris Crawford[change | change source]

Computer game designer Chris Crawford tried to define the word game[3] using a series of comparisons:

  1. Something creative is art if it was made because it is beautiful, and entertainment if it was made for money. (This is the least rigid of his definitions. Crawford acknowledges that he often chooses a creative path over conventional business wisdom, which is why only one of his 13 games is a sequel.)
  2. Something that is entertainment is a plaything if it is interactive. Movies and books are entertainment, but not interactive.
  3. If a plaything does not have any goals to complete, it is a toy. (Crawford notes that by his definition, (a) a toy can become a game element if the player makes up rules, and (b) The Sims and SimCity are toys, not games.) If a plaything has goals, it is a challenge.
  4. If a challenge does not have an enemy, it is a puzzle. If it has an enemy or enemies, it is a conflict. (Crawford admits that this is a subjective test. Video games with noticeably algorithmic artificial intelligence can be played as puzzles; these include the patterns used to evade ghosts in Pac-Man.)
  5. If the player can only do better at something than an enemy, and cannot hurt the enemy or slow him down, the conflict is a competition. (Racing and figure skating are competitions.) However, if attacks are allowed, then the conflict qualifies as a game.

Crawford's definition of a game is: an interactive, goal-oriented activity, with enemies to play against, and where players and enemies can interfere with each other.

Homo Ludens[change | change source]

Homo Ludens (Playing Man) is a book written in 1938 by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga.[4] It discusses the importance of the play element in culture and society. Huizinga suggests that play is a condition for the generation of culture.

Other definitions[change | change source]

  • "A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome". (Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman)[5]
  • "A game is a form of art in which participants, termed players, make decisions in order to manage resources through game tokens in the pursuit of a goal". (Greg Costikyan)[6]
  • "A game is an activity among two or more independent decision-makers seeking to achieve their objectives in some limiting context". (Clark C. Abt)[7]
  • "At its most elementary level then we can define game as an exercise of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome". (Elliot Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith)[8]
  • "A game is a form of play with goals and structure". (Kevin Maroney)[9]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Wittgenstein, Ludwig 1953/2002.. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-23127-7.
  2. Caillois, Roger 1957.. Les jeux et les hommes. Gallimard.
  3. Crawford, Chris 2003.. Chris Crawford on game design. New Riders. ISBN 0-88134-117-7.
  4. Huizinga, Johan 1955. Homo ludens; a study of the play-element in culture. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0807046814
  5. Salen, Katie & Zimmerman, Eric 2003., Rules of Play: game design fundamentals, MIT Press, p. 80, ISBN 0-262-24045-9
  6. Costikyan, Greg 1994., I have no words & I must design,, retrieved 2008-08-17
  7. Abt, Clark C. 1970., Serious Games, Viking Press, p. 6, ISBN 0670634905
  8. Avedon, Elliot & Sutton-Smith, Brian 1971., The study of games, J. Wiley, p. 405, ISBN 0471038393
  9. Maroney, Kevin 2001., My entire waking life, The Games Journal,, retrieved 2008-08-17