Arthouse Games
by jcr13Thursday, December 14, 2006 [10:26 am]

The first time I played flOw, quite a long time ago, I recall that I went as deep as I could go. As I recall, there were something like ten depth levels.

Anyway, "I've been to the bottom," and here's my report: there ain't nothin' down there. Once I got to the bottom, I didn't feel like I "won." The only place to go from there was back up.

When we ask, "Is it a game?", we need to keep some sort of definition of game in mind. For example, in the book Chris Crawford on Game Design, Crawford's definition is something like this (paraphrased):

Creative expression intended to make money (i.e., entertainment, not art) that is interactive, goal-oriented, competative, and allows attacks between competitors. Interactive playthings without goals are toys. Challenges without competitors are puzzels, and conflicts that forbid attacks between opponents are competitions. Games are "conflicts in which the players directly interact in such a way as to foil each other's goals."

Of course, if we stick to Crawford's definition, the whole notion of arthouse games goes right out the window. Still, you see how the goal is important.

Here are some other definitions pulled from that book (italics are used again for paraphrases, as I no longer have the book in front of me):

Kevin Maroney: "A form of play with goals and structure."

Greg Costikyan: A game is a form of art in which participants make decisions in order to manage resources in the pursuit of a goal.

Eric Zimmerman: "An activity with some rules engaged in for an outcome."

Goal, goal, goal, and goal (er... outcome). You see a common thread running here. So what about The Sims? Many people, and maybe even Will Wright himself, would call that kind of software a toy, not a game, and perhaps we should also look at flOw as a toy. There's nothing wrong with toys, of course.

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