What is a game?
Playing and playing is not necessarily the same thing.
Imagine a boy playing with a ball. He kicks the ball against a wall, and the ball comes back to him. He stops the ball and kicks again. By engaging in this type of play, the boy learns to associate certain movements of his body with the movements of the ball in space. We could call this associative play.
Now imagine that the boy is waiting for a friend. The friend appears and the two boys start walking along the sidewalk together, kicking the ball back and forth as they go. Now the game has gained a social dimension; a boy's actions suggest an answer and vice versa.
You can think of this form of play as a kind of improvised conversation, in which the two boys get involved using the ball as a means. This type of game has no clear beginning or end; on the contrary, it flows perfectly from one state to another. We could call this streaming playback.
Now imagine that the boys go to a small park and get bored by simply kicking the ball back and forth. One boy says to the other: “Let's take turns trying to hit the tree. You have to kick the ball behind that line ”. The boy draws a line by dragging his heels on the ground. “We will take turns kicking the ball. Each time you hit the tree, you get one point. ”The other boy agrees and they start playing. Now the game has become a game; a fundamentally different type of game.
We can divide this very simple game into some basic components that separate it from other types of games.
To enter a game is to enter another type of space in which the rules of everyday life are temporarily suspended and replaced by the rules of the game.
In effect, a game creates an alternative world, a model world. To enter a game space, players must agree to abide by the rules of that space and must be willing to enter.
It is not a game if people are forced to play. This agreement between players to temporarily suspend reality creates a safe place where players can engage in behaviors that can be risky, uncomfortable or even rude in their normal lives.
By agreeing to a set of rules (staying behind the line, taking turns to kick the ball, etc.), the two boys enter a shared world. Without this agreement, the game would not be possible.
A game has limits in time and space. There is a time when a game starts - when players enter the game space - and a time when they leave the game space, ending the game.
The game space can be paused or activated by agreement of the players. We can imagine that the players agree to pause the game for lunch, or for one of them to go to the bathroom.
The game will generally have a spatial limit, outside of which the rules do not apply. Imagine, for example, that spectators get together to watch a competition to kick the ball in a tree. It is easy to see that they could not insert themselves between a player and the tree or distract the players, without spoiling or at least changing the game.
Rules for interaction:
Within the game space, players agree to abide by the rules that define the way the game world operates. The rules of the game define the space restrictions of the game, just as physical laws, such as gravity, restrict the real world.
According to the rules of the game world, a boy could no longer kick the ball on the wrong side of the line than he could make a ball fall. Of course, he could do that, but not without violating the game space - something we call cheating.
Most games employ physical artifacts; objects that contain information about the game, intrinsically or by virtue of its position. The ball and the tree in our game are these objects. When the ball hits the tree, a point is scored. This is information. Artifacts can be used to track progress and maintain an image of the current state of the game.
We can easily imagine, for example, that as each point is scored, boys put a stone on the ground or make hash marks on the ground to help them track the score - another type of information artifact. Players are also artifacts in the sense that their position can contain information about the state of a game. Compare the position of the players on a sports field with the pieces on a chessboard.
Players must have a way of knowing when the game is over; a final state that they are all trying to achieve, which is understood and agreed upon by all players. Sometimes a game can be timed, as in many sports, like football. In our case, an objective is reached every time a player hits the tree with the ball and the game ends when the first player reaches five points.