One of the things that I struggle with in my own projects is defining what a “game” means. To get a more official word on what a “game” is I decided to check out what Merriam-Webster had to say on the definition of a game. The relevant portion was short and sweet: “activity engaged in for diversion or amusement”. This description gives a broad range in what being a game means. I will break down what this definition means for me and for this site on what a “game” means.
The key word differentiating a game from other forms of entertainment is the activity portion. The following is a break down of the definition of activity:
- the quality or state of being active
- vigorous or energetic action : liveliness
- natural or normal function: as a: a process (as digestion) that an organism carries on or participates in by virtue of being alive b: a similar process actually or potentially involving mental function ; specifically : an educational procedure designed to stimulate learning by firsthand experience
- an active force
- a: a pursuit in which a person is active b: a form of organized, supervised, often extracurricular recreation
- an organizational unit for performing a specific function ; also : its function or duties
I don’t find the other definitions of activity map well to gaming. So the boundaries that we have defined so far is that you have to have frequent interaction with the game (strategy or email games like Laser Squad Nemesis would push the boundary of this). I’m not interested in the specific input to the game for activity as a game should stand on its own merits. And finally I am not interested in simply making a simulation of a known activity but I do believe that games can be educational.
After all that analysis, more has been eliminated than defined for what a game is. Rather than basing game on the broad English definition, next time I write on game design I will go with game definition through some of the history and evolution of video games.