Introduction to Game Design: What is a Game?

A fellow game developer, and friend of mine, Charles Humphrey, recently asked on Facebook:

What do you consider a game to be?

Video Games

His purpose, I believe in asking this, was to start a conversation around game design. What is fun? What is a game?

Game Design

I’ve been working on a talk I’ll be February 11th around Game Design.

Because of this, I’ve been re-reading two great books on game design:

The Art of Game Design – A Book of Lenses

Art of Game Design

Introduction to Game Design, Prototyping and Development

Introduction to Game Design, Prototyping, and Development

A lot of smart people have tried to define game.

“[A game is] an interactive structure of endogenous meaning that requires players to struggle toward a goal.”  – Greg Costikyan

Endogenous basically means, things that have value in the game, only have value in the game.

Another, more scientific, definition is

“Games are an exercise of voluntary control systems, in which there is a contest between powers, confined by rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome.” – Elliot Advedon and Brian Sutton-Smith


Here is a summarized statement about what a game is from the Art of Game Design:

Games are entered willfully, have goals, have conflicts, have rules, can be won or lost, are interactive, have challenge, can create their own internal value, engage players, are closed, formal systems, and are a problem-solving activity.

I think, this is why many developers like playing games. In general, we like solving problems.

Do you like playing games? If so, why do you like playing games?

Let me know in the comments below!

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