The Definition of the word Game - PAX Australia

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Rym DeCoster

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Shared August 3, 2013

Definitions of the word "Game" are varied, vague, and often useless in any serious discussion of, well, games. But, simultaneously, most people who try to strictly define the word do so primarily to denigrate games or other activities which for whatever reason they do not respect.

"That's not a game; you're not a gamer."

Definitions are important if we want to have real discussions. They provide boundaries and parameters for debate. Role playing games are distinct from competitive games in very profound ways, and it is useful to be able to discuss them separately when appropriate.

At GeekNights, we use three core definitions of game:

1. A competitive test of skills.
2. A series of interesting decisions.
3. An interactive (consensual) amusement.

George Skaff Elias, Richard Garfield, K. and Robert Gutschera, in 'Characteristics of Games,' defined the term "orthogame" in order to largely address the first of these.

Orthogame: A competition between two or more players using an agreed-upon set of rules and a method of ranking.

We use the term "idiogame" to largely cover the second.

Idiogame: A series of interesting decisions that produce a personal outcome.

Role Playing Games are in a sense idiogames, but they are further distinct from other games covered by this definition. Thus:

Role Playing Game: A method of conflict resolutionfor collaborative storytelling.

Scott and I flew to Melbourne, Victoria to lecture at PAX Australia 2013 (the first one)! This is an excerpt from our lecture there: Beyond Dungeons & Dragons.