What Is a Game?
Games are often thought of as fun, but they can also be a medium for learning. Studies show that students who learn in game-based activities are more receptive to the information they’re being taught. This is a result of games shaping how our brains process information, and because they can be re-worked as learning tools to create an engaging educational experience.
The democratization of game creation has given rise to an ever-growing variety of games. While some are designed to be purely entertainment (such as spectator sports or arcade games), many others are intended to serve an educational, social, or therapeutic purpose. Regardless of their purpose, the common features of a game include an objective, rules, challenge, and interaction.
In popular “casual” games such as Candy Crush, Bejeweled, and Tetris, players must find patterns in chaos or create them from randomly arranged elements. These types of games are highly absorbing and have been found to help reduce stress levels and depression. More importantly, they can be used to treat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). In fact, one study found that playing these games cut the number of flashbacks people with PTSD experienced in half!
While many games require a certain level of skill and strategy to succeed, some are simply luck-based. For example, children’s games such as Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land have no decisions to be made, so by some definitions (including that of Greg Costikyan), they are not considered to be games at all.
When it comes to video games, the debate over what constitutes a game continues to be an ongoing discussion. Some academics, including those involved in the field of gaming studies, bring in concepts from other fields such as literary and film theory to define a game. This approach is controversial and often seen as reductive and unhelpful, since the tools already exist to understand games on their own terms.
For example, it is possible to discuss the social and ethical aspects of a game without needing to understand its mechanics or rules. This is similar to a film critic who can critique a movie without needing to know how it was shot or edited.
For the most part, the discussion of a game should focus on the player’s experience, and the player’s reaction to it. Taking this approach allows writers to avoid the pitfalls of making a scholarly or philosophical argument, and simply focus on explaining how the game works and why it is enjoyable. This allows for more flexibility in article writing, and gives writers the opportunity to write about the unique facets of games culture that they may not be able to cover otherwise. These topics could include discussing the history of a particular game, interviewing studios or personalities who have worked on games, and mining interesting and quirky topics that make a game stand out from the crowd. This approach can lead to engaging, informative articles that are enjoyable for both readers and authors alike.