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August 27, 2004


Bill Seitz

Perhaps many games don't really qualify as "play", depending on your framing.

Then again, maybe James Carse needs to lighten up a bit...



I like it a lot... Not 100% certain these are the definitive criteria, but it's a whole lot more useful than the usual laundry list of features.

Graham Dean

FWIW, I remember reading a book, I believe called "Play, Games & Sport," that gave useful definitions for these terms.
Play is activity without rules, goals, winners, etc., but is done for its own sake.
Games are activities where participants know the rules, there is an identifiable end, a winner, etc.
Sport was where one participant knew the rules & another did not, which points to the word's use as a term implying mockery.
People concerned with inequities of power (winners/losers) will naturally prefer the innocence of play (win/win).
Is there a reflection of this in our nation's political parties? Democrats, perhaps, prefer the play model...


Hey Alice - without wanting to play too much of a Devil's Advocate here, surely it's because almost all games *are* a waste of time, consisting as they do of abstract challenges that the player has to overcome by learning the rules, behaviours and reflex actions required of the specific game universe?

Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily make you much better at anything other than playing that game or similar ones of its type - the process *feels* intellectually stimulating because it's tapping into the same problem-solving reward mechanisms that occur in real-life, albeit in a completely contrived and artificial context.

Providing this enjoyable (if largely pointless) experience might also account for the guilt factor - similar challenge-solving activities (eg, filling in crosswords) appear marginally more socially acceptable because players can claim "it's improving my language skills" but at the end of the day, I reckon the only skill they're really improving is their ability at filling in crosswords...

Paddy O.

I am an expert in Caribbean geography, and a little history, even though I've never been there. The old classic Pirates! seared, seared the map into my mind.

Then, last night I was passing through the history channel and found them using shots from Rome: Total War in describing ancient military history rather than doing something new.

Wondeful. Heck, even the military uses 'video games' to provide essential training for its pilots and soldiers. There's no doubt there are benefits, it is only when they take over a real life that troubles arise.


Dave Green, you heretic :)
The thing is - and the beeb is the epitome of this - the British seem to value information and education above entertainment. Probably rightly so, right, fits it with this protestant work ethic bla di bla. But I find it curious that entertainment is seen as something *almost* distasteful. Many entertaining things are actually doing you great good (books, games, crosswords, films..), but the taint of being 'entertainment' negates their value somewhat.

Lots of reading improves your reading speed, and vocabulary size - just as lots of gameplay will improve various bits and pieces of both knowledge and motor skills. Plus, if they're social games, all the better. So the challenge now must be to get games understood as being Not All Frivolous And Really Often Rather Valuable - for the game makers, the game sellers but also the game players, because they can feed then like a hungry farmer instead of a guilty bulimic.

I'm sure it'll all eventually emerge, and we'll have art-house genres, and styles of 'interactive entertainment', and there'll be the game equivalents of holiday-reading vs Tolstoy. James Patterson is probably the Soldier of Fortune series (?). Robert Jordan = RPGs. Agatha Christie = Lara Croft. Damnit, now I'm tempted to do my whole bookshelf and see what's missing. Someone take over!


"Video games" are used in all phases of life! As adults, we just use the name "simulation!"

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