What Is a Game?

A game is a structured activity that involves a group or individual using tools and rules to engage in entertainment, challenge, or competition. The game may be played with one player or multiple players and may be competitive, cooperative, or a mix of both; it may have an audience of non-players, such as spectators watching a chess championship or a football match. Games can be played in person or over the Internet; they can also be simulated with software or a virtual world such as the Second Life platform.

Traditionally, a game has been defined as an activity requiring a degree of skill and luck. Whether this requires skill or luck is usually determined by the rules of the game, which also determines a time-keeping system, rights and responsibilities of players, scoring techniques, preset boundaries, and other details. Many games also have a set of aims that must be met in order to win the game. These aims could be as simple as first amassing a set quota of tokens (as in Monopoly), or as complex as ensuring that an opponent can no longer make a play (as in chess’ checkmate).

The popularity of video games has raised issues about their influence on the behaviour of children, with some experts concerned that playing these games can lead to social isolation and other negative consequences. In addition, a number of video games contain violent content which some claim has desensitised young people to violence. A growing number of games are designed to teach beneficial lessons to the player; this is often referred to as educational software or edutainment.

Some video games feature real-world themes such as history or science; this is referred to as gamification. Adding elements of game-play to other activities has been known to improve user attentiveness and engagement. For example, some websites and mobile applications use random rewards to encourage repeated interaction; these are sometimes paid for with real money in microtransactions or can be bought and sold on a marketplace and are viewed as gambling by some.

Some games have a story-based structure, similar to a movie or book; these are typically referred to as role-playing or adventure games. Others allow the player to take on the persona of a character from a particular culture or time period. Some modern games incorporate augmented reality, where the gaming experience is enhanced by the projection of elements from the real world on the screen. These are sometimes called mixed reality or hybrid games. A recent study found that people who play collaborative online games such as Farmville and World of Warcraft are more helpful to other gamers than those who play more competitive games. The study challenged the stereotype that gamers are socially isolated. In fact, over 70 percent of gamers play with a friend and millions of users engage in social networking and socializing within virtual worlds such as Second Life. This is more than twice the number who play competitive online games.