A game is basically a structured kind of interactive play, sometimes used for fun or entertainment, and at other times used as an educational tool. Games are quite different from work, which typically are carried out for profit, and from literature, that are more generally an expression of specific artistic or philosophical views. A game has to be played and understood not only in the context of its creator’s individual intent to create something fun and worthwhile, but also in the wider context of what people actually do in those games. The rules of a game have to take into account the whole array of motivations that people will have to use a game, and also the general character of those motives. So for example, there may be war games, but they will also have financial, diplomatic, religious and political context to them.
A game results if someone playing chooses to cooperate, follow a rule or take advantage of some emergent property of the game to achieve some result. The object of the game is to achieve a goal jointly determined by the set of game rules and whoever is responsible for taking part in that goal. In a simple game of bingo, for example, the person with the most cards at the end wins, irrespective of whether they rolled the bingo or not.
But what about playing games that involve more than two people? How do we make the leap from playing simple solitary games into the world of the game? The answer is to distinguish between the two main varieties of solitary or ‘solitary’ games, the common experience game, where people take part in a common experience without any need for interactive communication or information transfer, and the social game, where people take part in a common activity or project with a group of people, often coordinating their actions and passing through a number of stages in the process. The common experience and social games are very closely related, yet they are different from the solitaire game, in many ways.
In the case of the common experience game, the players all have accesses to the same underlying resources, and so the rules apply to all. The objective of the game, however, is directed toward a common experience, rather than toward any particular goal. In the case of electronic games, the common experience is dictated by the mechanics of the game: the electronic games themselves, the colors on the screen, the sounds, the programming, etc. The shared experience occurs when players cooperate to achieve some common goal, such as clearing the levels of the virtual environment, unlocking new games, acquiring rare objects, winning mini-games, etc.
In the case of the social game, on the other hand, the goal is not to clear the virtual environment, but to share a common experience. The game results are therefore directed toward a common goal, such as winning friends and influencing the course of the game world. The player’s personal experience can therefore influence the game results, just as the personal experience of the sitter can influence the game outcomes. The social interaction of real people enhances the experience of the game players.
Video games consoles have become the objects of desire for millions of people around the world. Some people like to play only one type of game, while others like to play many. This is why video game consoles are quite expensive: to play video games is to participate in a highly interactive social activity. And social video game participation is no doubt a very big business. The future of gaming looks very bright indeed.