The Generative Definition of a Game


A game is an activity that involves some form of competition or rivalry. It is an activity in which players use a variety of tools to establish a situation that requires skill, strategy, or luck (or any combination thereof). A game is an integral part of human life. It can be played by both adults and children, in the context of recreation, education, or entertainment. Games can be as simple as throwing sticks or as complex as chess.

Despite their huge popularity and commercial success, video games have become an increasingly controversial subject. Some studies have linked their use to negative behavioural outcomes, such as a lack of social interactions, stress and maladaptive coping, and reduced academic performance. However, these studies have largely been cross-sectional and have focused on problematic video gaming, rather than the general phenomenon.

Other studies have linked video game use to positive behavioural outcomes, such as increased levels of well-being, enjoyment and connectedness. In particular, autonomy, competence and relatedness were found to predict subjective well-being, whereas extrinsic motivations were negatively associated with it. However, these studies have mainly used self-reports of objective play time and, as such, do not take into account the many contextual influences on a player’s experience of a game.

One of the problems with this literature is that, in a number of cases, it has been based on the classic game model, which is a list of six features that are considered to be necessary and sufficient for something to be a game. This definition is not only flawed, but also ahistorical and prescriptive.

A more accurate and flexible approach is needed. This is why we have developed the concept of a ‘generative definition’, which aims to be both more descriptive and more dynamic. It provides an ecology of game media that support gaming, while showing how these mediums can evolve beyond the classical definition.

The generative definition also allows for the inclusion of video games, as well as other forms of interactive entertainment, such as movies and books. It is based on an understanding of what makes an activity a game, which is the opposition between forces confined by procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome. This is an idea that is akin to the way in which art and music are described – they have a ‘generative’ quality. In addition, the generative definition shows that it is possible to generate new kinds of games from existing ones. This can be done by adding additional goals, rules, and challenge. For example, a role-playing game might add an additional character to interact with, or a new rule that requires players to use a different type of equipment to win. These generative changes can be considered to be ‘game design’, and the process of designing a game is referred to as gamification. This concept has been incorporated into the design of a range of video games, including the massively multiplayer online role-playing game League Of Legends.