Thank You, But It's Still Not a Game

Albino Boo

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Every time you write McGonigal, I think of William McGonagall. He is widely regarded as one of the worst Poets ever. I wonder if they are related. It would explain a few things
 

shiajun

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Jun 12, 2008
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I agree wholeheartedly. Games have always had this type of skinner-box compulsion elements, but right now we are flooded by apps that are nothing but compulsion-driven money suckers. They're not games, they're elaborate slot machines. Either that or things like this thank you button.

I would disagree on one point though, and that is that the experience crafted by the game must be enjoyable and delightful. I'm not too sure horror games fit particularly well with either of those adjectives, yet Amnesia or Silent Hill are definately games. I'd look for another adjective, perhaps engaging. However, I'd also add the game must exist in and of itself as an engaging activity before adding on social networks or point incentives. If it is designed the other way around, it's a fancy-shmancy interface for an activity that wasn't gaming in the first place.
 

itezel2

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Mar 17, 2011
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I liked this post, thank you jeremy, i'll try and remember that definition you gave. ;)
 

itsthesheppy

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Mar 28, 2012
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I'm sorry, but this isn't an article.

Here, I'll provide a review:

I read a guy whine about a thing he didn't think was a thing that other people think is a thing. 2/10
 

Bostur

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I think the definition of games should be this: A game is a session of play with rules and goals that is designed to entertain and delight a perspective player or players.
I would add "With criteria for success or failure". It doesn't have to be win/loss conditions, but some kind of distinction between doing well or not doing so well.

When I was a kid games was kind of an exclusive thing. Most people didn't play games. Some people might have found it boring to try to learn the rules, others had an upbringing that considered games to be a bad thing. Games in general sometimes had a bad reputation because they were compared to games played for money.

I think some new gamers, what the industry sometimes classify as 'casual' gamers lack the tradition of games. Some people never played Chess, Checkers, Monopoly or card games. I think MMOs attracted some of these people due to the less gamey nature. MMOs are often more like toys. But since they are generally classified as games, people get the impression that anything done without a clear purpose can be a game.

Today games don't have the negative connotations they used to have. It's ok to play a game even for adults or religious people. I think this development is great. But it also means that all these new people have a different approach to gaming which causes the meaning of the term to change.

There's some positive and negative aspects to this development. On the positive side broadening gaming can be a good thing, since it can open our minds to new developments. On the negative side consumers are less critical about what makes a game, and what can be expected. This sometimes results in bad 'games' like click a button or buy virtual cows.
 

Kian2

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Oct 20, 2010
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I actually think "Games are unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle" is an amazing definition for a game. The operative word being "volunteer". If work makes you play a stupid 'game', it's not a game. It's a chore. If you choose to participate in the same activity, it becomes a game.

Why you would want to participate in a game you don't find entertaining is perhaps something you should study about yourself. Trying to show to people that a game they enjoy is stupid and boring shows very poor time management skills. Wouldn't you prefer to play a game you enjoy to trying to prove to others they're not having fun?
 

Kian2

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Bostur said:
I think the definition of games should be this: A game is a session of play with rules and goals that is designed to entertain and delight a perspective player or players.
I would add "With criteria for success or failure". It doesn't have to be win/loss conditions, but some kind of distinction between doing well or not doing so well.
"Games are unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle" already includes all those additions. "Obstacles" are rules and goals. Surpassing those obstacles implies success, failing to do it implies failure. If you are volunteering to tackle these rules and goals, you must find something worthwhile in doing them, thus covering any possible genre, from horror games to more traditionally 'fun' experiences.
 

hentropy

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I personally don't think anyone should be able to tell anyone else what a game is. If someone creates a game where all you do is push a button on a site, why can't that be a game? Whether it's an enjoyable game or one you'd want to play, that's up to the player. And that's the magic. "Sports" also has this dilemma, and the people who complain that bowling or cheerleading aren't sports are usually the people who play "real" sports that require a lot more athleticism. They feel threatened by the idea that a cheerleader or bowler or golfer might be considered an "athlete" along with them.

The good thing about a game is that it has no walls. Thing about the word in general, away from video games, and anyone with a small child could tell you that literally anything can be a game. Even things that aren't games to adults, like clean-up or cooking. So what's a video game? Anything like that that you interact with in some kind of video format.

So I disagree with both McGonigal (I hope she doesn't transfigure me into a toad) and the author of this article, there is no definition of a "game" and that's how it should be. The individual can decide whether it's a game or not for themselves. But the exercise of trying to define it for everyone is not only misguided and ultimately meaningless, but also a somewhat elitist and egotist approach, that only games that you personally deem games by some arbitrary definition are actually games.
 

Jeremy Monken

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DVS BSTrD said:
I'm sorry, but I simply cannot trust the opinion of a man that would turn down free pizza.
Last time I had Pizza Hut, I ended up tossing out the pizza and eating the cardboard box, at least the box tastes better.

So I don't blame a guy for not wanting free that!
 

Dastardly

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Apr 19, 2010
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Jeremy Monken said:
I have an issue with this philosophy. It says nothing about the obstacles being enjoyable. It implies that simulating a hardship you choose to engage in makes something a game. By that definition, not getting my oil changed so I can deal with car repairs in the future is a game. Maybe that is a game, but it certainly doesn't sound very enjoyable.
Ehhhh... By that logic, I don't have to recognize any video game I personally don't enjoy as "a game." There are many things I enjoy that other people might not understand as "enjoyable."

Over the last few years, gamification initiatives have been calling anything and everything a game. Rudimentary economies in the form of tickets, challenges and achievements that earn you additional points ... systems like these have been put in place in schools and businesses all over the world to make something boring seem fun
"Gamification" is extremely problematic, and I hate it more than most, but the problem isn't how they're using the word "game." They are games. The tack on reward structures to existing obstacles in order to distract us from the usual tedium of these common tasks. Distraction. Diversion (which in many languages is the word for "entertainment").

It's just that they are bad games. Not because of their simple mechanics, but because they are openly manipulative in how they use those mechanics. They reduce the audience to rats in a maze, caring only for the cheese and not the satisfaction of besting the maze.

(Similarly, The Notebook is a movie. It's just a bad movie. Not because it's ineffective -- I cried like a baby -- but because of how it achieves its effect. It runs down a shopping list of emotional triggers and checks each one off to produce teary eyes.)

_____

It might just be that I feel you're too protective over the word "game," like those people who try to say that That's My Boy "isn't a movie," because of how awful a movie it is. Or it might just be that I'm not sure about how you're drawing this distinction.

The Avengers is a great, fun, entertaining movie. The Notebook is a transparent, manipulative crap-fest of a movie. But both are movies. They're intended to grab my attention for a couple hours and draw some emotional reaction from me. A movie's goal is to get me to enjoy itself.

Now, you know what isn't a movie? A commercial. It uses the same audiovisual medium, but its entire purpose is to get me to want something (and eventually buy it). A commercial's goal is to get me to enjoy something other than itself.

And then there are grey areas. How about educational movies (like Planet Earth), designed to "sell" something immaterial and free (knowledge, enjoyment of nature, environmental awareness)? Or movies that have a clear political message underneath the plot? Or how most 80's kids cartoons were really just a commercial for the toys, but fleshed out into a show -- which is it: good commercial, or bad show?

That grey area is where I see most "gamified" experiences. There is clearly an ulterior motive -- to get you to enjoy work, or to enjoy cleaning, or to enjoy surgery or something -- but people can also enjoy the reward structure itself. To me, they are games being used badly.

As for this one: Push button, receive warm fuzzies. Boring, crappy game trying to manipulate people into feigning gratitude at each other? The case could be made. Most games are based on a "push button, receive widget" structure. Or we could argue that, because it's only goal is to promote something outside itself, it is "using game mechanics to manipulate people," and as such is not a game. (I'm more in the latter camp, myself. It uses the parts from a game, but it doesn't use them as a game.)

But when we say "It's not a game," it's not because of how it's played or how it looks. It's because of how it's used.
 

Clearing the Eye

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Jun 6, 2012
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Well that entire read was unnecessary. Not sure if I'm more angry for wasting my own time or just bewildered that this exists here. The whole thing was just an arrogant opinion piece on the use and definition of a word. The author goes so far as to tell you, the reader, what you can and cannot find personally entertaining. On top of it all, it was also written and formatted rather poorly.

Okay, so you don't like small tasks being called a game and suggest the definition of game be changed--as if somehow you get to decide what entertainment is. What has been achieved? Pretend no one on Earth from now on will refer to small tasks as games. Instead of saying "game," they will say "activity." Got it in your mind? Okay. Now, what's next? What's the grand result of the word game no longer being used in that context? Suddenly the heavens part and the world over regards the electronic products you refer to as video games as some form of legitimately important element in human history?

This article may well be the best example of rhetoric I've come across. Never in all my time has someone argued so incorrectly for a word over its subject.
 

Formica Archonis

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Nov 13, 2009
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"Games are unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle."

Well, start from an incorrect premise, reach an incorrect conclusion. Because that definition includes "Helping someone move."

Eh, the button sounds like lazy feel-good slacktivism with even less activism than normal.

I remember working at Pizza Hut in high school. They had this "C.H.A.M.P.S." thing where you earned points that you could use to get hats and free pizzas for doing your job well. I thought, "Isn't my reward for doing my job the money you pay me? How 'bout you give me some more of that?"

I stopped playing when they were less than responsive to my suggestion.

Heh, reminds me of a Reddit thread last week about lousy contest prizes [http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/wbqld/i_got_an_extended_lunch_with_your_manager_as_my/].

McGonigal told the crowd, "I want games to be a force for good in the world."
Because they weren't before? This is like watching a Christan metal band.

I think the definition of games should be this: A game is a session of play with rules and goals that is designed to entertain and delight a perspective player or players.

"Prospective", perhaps?

Eh, if hers was too broad, that is too specific. Not to descend into the games-are-art pits AGAIN, but if you said that a movie was a series of images designed to entertain and delight an audience, someone would whack you over the head with Schindler's List or something of similar gravity. From what I've seen, reviews of Spec Ops: The Line are similarly sparse on words like "entertaining" and "delightful" while still recommending it and certainly not questioning its status as a game.
 

Major_Tom

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Jun 29, 2008
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I have a better game, let's count Oprah's photos on that page you linked. I counted 7. Even Chairman Mao wouldn't have had that many.
 

Jeremy Monken

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Jul 7, 2008
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DVS BSTrD said:
I'm sorry, but I simply cannot trust the opinion of a man that would turn down free pizza.
Hey, I never said I turned down the free pizza. I just would have preferred the cash value of the pizza.

...To purchase pizza from Papa John's.
 

LTK_70

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Aug 28, 2009
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Interesting article. It's really hard to create a precise definition of a game, and I think the spectrum of games is narrower than Oprah thinks, but wider than you think, Jeremy. That's about all that I feel I can confidently say.
 

Jeremy Monken

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Jeremy Monken said:
DVS BSTrD said:
I'm sorry, but I simply cannot trust the opinion of a man that would turn down free pizza.
Hey, I never said I turned down the free pizza. I just would have preferred the cash value of the pizza.

...To purchase pizza from Papa John's.
Now THERE's a man a can work with.