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The Philosophy of Game, Part 1: Basic Definition of Game

There’s a lot of examination of the mechanics of game design and much of it is quite excellent. At the same time there are essays, lectures and discussions on the semantics and philosophical definition of gaming. I’ve never been entirely happy with any of them, eventually it has occurred to me that as a published game designer and qualified philosopher (if that term has any meaning, MA in modern continental and analytic philosophy) then if not me, who?

This series of essays will take on quite close readings of existing positions and will go into some discursive depth on a range of issues, as such they will tend to be quite long and detailed. I will attempt to avoid too much philosophical jargon but when I do use it I will try to take the time to explain concepts in layman’s terms. This may make such breaks tiresome to those familiar with philosophical terms, but that is a risk we’ll have to take.

In this first essay I will attempt to define “game”, beginning by running through some popular existing definitions and picking out some failings before advancing my own version. Chief among those existing definitions is that of Jesper Juul who has suggested that to be defined as a game something must be: 1) Rule based, 2) Have variable, quantifiable outcomes, 3) Have a value attached to the outcomes (some outcomes are better than others), 4) Involve player effort, 5) Have an attachment of players to the outcome (winners ‘feel good’ and losers ‘feel bad’), 6) Have negotiable consequences (the game can be played with or without real life consequences). This definition has a couple of interesting p