Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Internal Structure of a Game

I want to take a cut at the internal structure of a game to provide some vocabulary for discussing aspects of a game and to provide some distinctions between a game of some of the related phenomena.

First, a game must have a deciding factor. The deciding factor determines who, if anyone, has won the game. For example, in Chess, the deciding factor is having a King in Check. In football, it is the team with the most points. In golf, it is the person with the least points. There may or may not be constraints on the deciding factor. In football, for example, there is a time limit whereas in many games there is not.

Second, if the deciding factor is numeric, the game must have goals which are both complete units of activity and ways to accumulate points. So, scoring in football, getting a ball in a hole in golf, or exposing your winning hand in poker would be examples of goals.

On the way to achieving a goal there may be objectives the satisfaction of which helps you to achieve the goal but for which you do not get points. You may get credit for objectives in game statistics. But, the satisfaction of the objective does not contribute to the deciding factor.
Depending on the complexity of the game there may be subobjectives which are smaller problems that must be solved in order to achieve an objective.

There may be contratints on how goals or objectives are achieved.

And, to borrow a term from Suits, there is a 'lusory attitude'. The point of playing the game is the inherent satisfaction one achieves through playing a game. That is, the point of the game is the game itself. So, if one is playing professional poker to earn their livelihood, it would no longer be a game under this defintion. There is an element of practicing for real life that makes a game a game. As soon as it is no longer practice but actually is real life, it is no longer game.

Those are my thoughts for now. I may change some of this as I figure out more about it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Status Granting Social Environment

Games, due to their very nature, are fun to play. This was discussed earlier at some length. However, the inherent satisfaction that one derives from playing a game does not account fully for the energy and fervor with which some games are pursued. Different games are more or less popular in different time periods. Other games are more or less popular in different locations. One of the reasons (but not the only one) for this variation is that a game is embedded in a social environment which grants status to players. This status further amplifies the significance of the game goal and this, in turn, amplifies the game experience.

The social environment of a game includes the value placed on excelling at the game; competition between players and other motivators not immediately part of the game itself. For example, there is chess, there are chess tournaments, and there are world class matches. Winning a single game is one thing. Beating a Grand Master in a World Class Championship is quite another. Similarly, winning a football game in the field behind your house is one thing. Winning a professional game or even the Super Bowl is quite another. In both of these examples, the same game is being played. But the significance of the play is much larger in the later cases.

The Status Granting Social Environment for games is, presumably, not unlike other status granting social environments. That is, things other than games have status granting social environments. There are endless examples. In some social niches, there is status associated with money and power even though the acquisition of money and power could not be considered a game other than metaphorically. The community of wine lovers grants status for people with good taste in wine or people who find great vintages. The community of coin collectors grants status to those who find unusually rare coins. And so on.

The point here is the the Status Granting Social Environment of a Game must be separated from the game itself. The Superbowl, from the perspective of the game of football, is just another game. However, from the perspective of the Status Granting Social Environment, it is a huge deal.