A game is a structured form of play, undertaken for entertainment or fun. Games can be competitive (as in spectator sports or a video game) or cooperative (as in board games or jigsaw puzzles). Some games are educational, as in learning math through a chess board or playing dice to develop numeracy skills. The word game also has many other meanings: it can refer to wild animals that are hunted for sport or eaten; it can be a way of gambling or betting money, such as in horse racing, poker and roulette; or it can be a means of manipulation to one’s advantage, such as in politics or business.
Games are usually characterized by the tools that are used to play them and by the rules that determine how they work. For example, baseball can be played with either “real” baseballs or wiffleballs; however, the game will be substantially different if the latter are used. Likewise, the rules of a game determine how much skill is required to win and whether the game requires luck or strategy, among other things. Rules also shape the play of a game by setting boundaries, creating rules for scoring techniques and providing preset goals for players to pursue.
Some games are very complex and may require a great deal of skill or practice to learn, while others are less challenging and can be learned relatively quickly. The nature of a game’s difficulty also determines the level of enjoyment experienced by the participants. For instance, a child who successfully completes a challenging jigsaw puzzle might find it very enjoyable; on the other hand, an adult who struggles with a difficult crossword puzzle might feel that it is a waste of time and effort.
A large part of a game’s appeal comes from the social aspect. While some people prefer to play alone, most enjoy participating in a group game with friends or family. Some games can also be considered works of art or entertainment media, particularly if they are designed to be aesthetically pleasing and have a storyline that draws on the participant’s imagination.
A game can be played on any device that is capable of running a computer program. Video games are most popular, but they can be found on consoles and computers as well as mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Most video games are rated for content, with the E (Everyone 10+) rating for general content suitable for all ages; the T (Teen) rating, which includes cartoon or fantasy content as well as mild language and suggestive themes; the M (Mature) rating, which contains prolonged graphic violence and/or intense sexual content; and the AO (Adults Only) rating, which is intended for use by adults only. These ratings are determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). In addition, some independent developers create games that are not rated. These games are often referred to as indie games.