Game definition revisited

One of the things I hate about writing on a blog is that I’m always confronted with my earlier thoughts. The previous post has been up here for over 3 months, but my opinion changed 2 and a half months ago.

My new standpoint is that the word game actually has two commonly accepted meanings. There’s the meaning based on Wittgenstein’s analysis which states that a game cannot be strictly defined (and thus nearly everything can be a game). The other meaning is used in a ludologist context. Most game design research is done in the context of rulesets. When looking at games from that ludology angle, it is sensible to define “game” more strictly. All games which do not consist of rulesets are not interesting from that point of view, because the ludologist’s methods of analysis do not apply.

So the next time someone tries to exclude something from the realm of games, I can rationalize their opinion by accepting them as part of the ludology school of thought.

My game should not be a game

What I didn’t realize before is that the label “game” is not always positive. Many of the non-gamers in this world do not like the focus on challenge which is present in most games (especially casual games). This can be because they do not like to lose, but also because they are just not interested in artificial challenge. This group will not play a game for the sole reason that it is called a game.

The games which have their label disputed are often not challenge focused. These would be perfect for the non-gamers discussed above, but giving the games the predicate “game” actually deters this audience!

What would be a better name, then?
“Notgame” is sometimes used. That name is based on the notgames initiative (led by Tale of Tales). This name is not familiar with non-gamers unfortunately, but it could be a start. However, I feel this name is not applicable to my games. From what I’ve seen notgames are generally focused on atmosphere/narrative/deeper meaning, while my games are primarily oriented on play (without the focus on challenge). (The terms used in the previous sentence are very vague, so they might not describe exactly what I mean.)

The main question is still open: what would be an appropriate label for my “games”?
Ideally, I’m looking for a term without “game”, while still being reasonably specific (e.g. not “experience”).

One thought on “Game definition revisited

  1. The best I can come up with now is “challengeless game”, but this is typically such a statement that will be quickly outdated.

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