Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) is an interdisciplinary centre for research/ creation in game studies and design, digital culture and interactive art


  back to blog

Game-y Enough For You? : Why defining game elements matters

Posted by Adam

The “what is a game?” discussion has to some extent pitted the philosophical desire to conceptualise and define against the sociological desire to observe and qualify. A short answer to “what is a game?” is answered by “whatever a group accepts as a game”.

Why do I want to define games? I am actually happy with the sociological definition, but with the caveat that we should then ask what elements create a ludic experience.

One quality is that the game move is present. That is to say, you do not play a game in the past or future, but with your attention focused now. Certainly FPS games require an immediate attention that ignores the couch beneath you in favour of the digital space before you. An objection can be made that playing long distance Chess, where the moves are transmitted from one player to another by mail is not present. I argue that in that case, when the letter is opened and the player responds to the move, then they are in the game. A game becomes a series of mini games where each move is considered in the moment.

In other words, ecstatic temporality is sublimely present, when a person enjoys playing a game. As in my example above, a game must be present, in the sense that yogic breathing is present. So let us consider that as one element to ludicity( game-y ness?). What elements, in what combination constitute a state of play? What other elements seem to be found in the minds of game players?

My reasons for asking these questions are perhaps quixotic. I would like to try designing some games that are educational, in the sense that a university course is educational. As a research question, which of these elements that present themselves can then be used to make more compelling games? What parallels with educational ‘mechanics’ can we draw?

I can hear the groans, now, but even failing at this task should produce some useful data. Both for the possibility of making compelling educational games and for testing game design concepts- probably to destruction.