Defining Games and Play
For me, the oncept of games embraces those activities we know mostly clearly to be games—football, cat's cradle, gin rummy, peek-a-boo. These are clearly games.... I consider a game to be something that provides us with a common goal, the achievement of which has no bearing on anything that is outside the game. (De Koven xxiii)
Many definitions of "role-play" and "role-playing games" have been suggested, but there is no rboad consensus. People disagree because they often have an unclear idea of what kind of phenomena they are talking about, and therefore, what kind of definition is appropriate.... Hence, if we ask for a definition of "role-playing games", we can only refere to either how particular groups at particular points in tiem empirically use the word and organize actions and the material world around it or how we, as a scientific observer, choose to use the word to foreground and understand a particular perspective... (Zagal & Deterding 47)
Do We Play RPGs?
Are RPGs Games?
System of Parts/Tokens and Resources
A game is a closed formal system that subjectively represents a subset of reality... By closed I mean that the game is complete and self-sufficient as a structure. The model world created by the game is internally complete; no reference need be made to agents outside of the game... By formal I mean only that the game has explicit rules... a game is a collection of part which interact with each other, often in complex ways. It is a system. (Crawford 4)
- The "primary framework," that is, the real world. Physical, actual reality, with all of its normal social rules and expectations. Players are themselves.
- The "game framework" formed from the rules and mechanics. Here, players are thinking in ludic game-mode: they make optimal, tactical decisions from within the context of the game and the rules.
- The "fictional framework," that is, the world of the game. Players are characters, fully inhabiting their fictional personas.
Creates special social groups
Artificial/Safe/Outside ordinary life
Play is the enactment of anything that is not for real. Play is intended to be without consequence. We can play fight, and nobody gets hurt. We can play, in fact, with anything—ideas, emotions, challenges, principles. We can play with fear, getting as close as possible to sheer terror, without ever being really afraid. We can play with being other than we are—being famous, being mean, being a role, being a world. When we are playing, we are only playing. We do not mean anything else by it. (De Koven xxiv)
Never associated with material gain
Not serious and absorbing
Activity, process, or event
Conflict or contest
Task resolution is succeed/fail. Conflict resolution is win/lose. You can succeed but lose, fail but win.In conventional rpgs, success=winning and failure=losing only provided the GM constantly maintains that relationship - by (eg) making the safe contain the relevant piece of information after you've cracked it. It's possible and common for a GM to break the relationship instead, turning a string of successes into a loss, or a failure at a key moment into a win anyway....whether you succeed or fail, the GM's the one who actually resolves the conflict. The dice don't, the rules don't; you're depending on the GM's mood and your relationship and all those unreliable social things the rules are supposed to even out.Task resolution, in short, puts the GM in a position of priviledged authorship. Task resolution will undermine your collaboration. (Baker "Conflict Resolution vs. Task Resolution")
Proceeds according to rules that limit players
Making a simulation is a process of abstracting -- of selecting which entities and which properties from a complex real phenomena to use in the simulation program. For example, to simulate a bouncing ball, the ball's position is important but its melting point probably isn't. Any model has limitations, and is not a complete representation of reality. (Robinett, Chapter 5, "Getting Ideas")
- Proceeds according to rules that limit players: Yes, but not the rules found in the text.
- Conflict or contest: No.
- Goal-oriented/outcome-oriented: No.
- Activity, process, or event: Yes.
- Involves decision-making: Yes.
- Not serious or absorbing: No, but this is hard to define.
- Never associated with material gain: Yes.
- Artificial/Safe/Outside ordinary life: Yes, but no.
- Creates special social groups: Yes.
- Voluntary: Yes.
- Uncertain: Yes.
- Make-believe/Representational: Yes.
- Inefficient: Yes, but no.
- System of parts/Resources and tokens: No.
- A form of art: Yes!