What Is Game?


In the German language a game is any activity which is executed only for pleasure and without conscious purpose. In this definition every activity that brings pleasure is a game. For example, people dance, play musical instruments, act in plays, and play with dolls and model trains.

This definition people use today comes from the works of Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens, 1938) and Friedrich Georg J√ľnger (Die Spiele, 1959). But there are more ways to define games. Manfred Eigen’s and Ruthild Winkler’s definition for game goes beyond the definition used by Huizinga. They see a game as a natural phenomenon: half necessity and half coincidence (Das Spiel, 1975). Their definition of games comes closer to Adornos’ definition, who set himself apart from Huizinga by identifying games as an art form.

But in our sense these definitions are too wide, we define game more succinctly. Thus, I am writing about games which belong to the class that includes Chess, 9 Man’s Morris, Checkers, Halma, Go, Parchisi, Monopoly, Scrabble, Skat, Rummy, Bridge, Memory, Jack Straws, Dominoes, and so on. Unfortunately, our language does not have a good term to call these games. Terms like table games, society games, tournament games are too narrow. In my opinion, the best term would be “rulegames” = “games with rules”.

I will now try to find the criteria for defining “game with rules”. Kevin Maroney defined game in his Games Journal article, My Entire Waking Life. Scott Kim defined puzzle in his Games Cafe article “What Is a Puzzle?” as separate from a game. Kate Jones writes about less aggressive games in her Games Journal article Non Predatory Games. My definition is a further attempt to explore the nature of games.


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