What Is a Game?


A game is a leisure activity played for fun, achievement or reward, often by individuals against one another, but occasionally by groups and teams. Games can be purely physical, or psychologically challenging and stimulating, or even educational. Some serve as an exercise in strategic thinking or as a simulation of real-life situations. Some are considered art, and the philosophies of game studies have examined whether they can constitute artistic work. Others are purely entertainment, with an audience of non-players: children’s games such as hide-and-seek or tag. In a more technical sense, a game is an abstract system of rules governing play, such as chess or Go.

Many games involve some degree of chance, and a player’s success depends on luck and skill in equal measure. The element of chance, however, may be controlled by the rules of the game, for example in a dice roll or card draw. If a game is entirely deterministic, without any chance elements at all, it is not a true game by some definitions, and is best described as being a form of entertainment or exercise rather than a game.

The development of video and computer games has created new forms of play, often involving multiplayer interaction between players online. These virtual worlds have become a form of social community, with many gamers developing close friendships with others they have never met. This has challenged the stereotype of the solitary, antisocial gamer; a recent study found that more than 70 percent of gamers play with a friend.

Games can also be a form of social activism, and many people have used them to raise awareness for causes they believe in. Political games have been played in countries around the world to expose corrupt political systems, and social games have been used to help build character.

There are many tools available to a player of a game, but the most important are the rules and the tokens (objects representing other objects) that are used in the game. Depending on the game, tokens can be as simple as chess pawns or Monopoly pieces, or as complex as a computer or console. The way a player uses these tools to play the game will determine how the game is played.

Game theory is a field of study that examines how the strategies of competing participants can affect the outcome of a situation. It is relevant to many areas of life, including war, biology, and business. A key concept in game theory is the Nash equilibrium, which is a point at which no player can increase their payoff by changing their decisions unilaterally.

Most games are designed to be played in a particular environment, and the gameplay can vary significantly between different environments. Even games with the same set of rules can be radically different, as in the case of hide-and-seek or a car race. In the digital world, this can be caused by a wide range of factors, from the hardware and software to the layout of the gaming environment.