A game is a structured form of play, usually undertaken for enjoyment
and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from
work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art,
which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological
elements. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games
are also considered to be work (such as professional players of
spectator sports or games) or art (such as jigsaw puzzles or games
involving an artistic layout such as Mahjong, solitaire, or some video
Games are sometimes played purely for entertainment, sometimes for
achievement or reward as well. They can be played alone, in teams, or
online; by amateurs or by professionals. The players may have an
audience of non-players, such as when people are entertained by
watching a chess championship. On the other hand, players in a game
may constitute their own audience as they take their turn to play.
Often, part of the entertainment for children playing a game is
deciding who is part of their audience and who is a player.
Key components of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interaction.
Games generally involve mental or physical stimulation, and often
both. Many games help develop practical skills, serve as a form of
exercise, or otherwise perform an educational, simulational, or
Attested as early as 2600 BC, games are a universal part of
human experience and present in all cultures. The Royal
Game of Ur,
Mancala are some of the oldest known games.
1.1 Ludwig Wittgenstein
1.2 Roger Caillois
1.3 Chris Crawford
1.4 Other definitions
Gameplay elements and classification
2.3 Skill, strategy, and chance
2.4 Single-player games
2.5 Multiplayer games
3.2 Tabletop games
3.2.1 Dexterity and coordination games
3.2.2 Board games
3.2.3 Card games
3.2.5 Domino and tile games
3.2.6 Pencil and paper games
3.2.7 Guessing games
3.3 Video games
3.3.1 Online games
3.4 Role-playing games
3.5 Business games
4 See also
6 Further reading
Look up game in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Ludwig Wittgenstein was probably the first academic philosopher to
address the definition of the word game. In his Philosophical
Investigations, Wittgenstein argued that the elements of games,
such as play, rules, and competition, all fail to adequately define
what games are. From this, Wittgenstein concluded that people apply
the term game to a range of disparate human activities that bear to
one another only what one might call family resemblances. As the
following game definitions show, this conclusion was not a final one
and today many philosophers, like Thomas Hurka, think that
Wittgenstein was wrong and that Bernard Suits' definition is a good
answer to the problem.
Children's Games, 1560, Pieter Bruegel the Elder
French sociologist Roger Caillois, in his book Les jeux et les hommes
(Games and Men), defined a game as an activity that must have the
fun: the activity is chosen for its light-hearted character
separate: it is circumscribed in time and place
uncertain: the outcome of the activity is unforeseeable
non-productive: participation does not accomplish anything useful
governed by rules: the activity has rules that are different from
fictitious: it is accompanied by the awareness of a different reality
Computer game designer Chris Crawford, founder of The Journal of
Game Design, has attempted to define the term game using a
series of dichotomies:
Creative expression is art if made for its own beauty, and
entertainment if made for money.
A piece of entertainment is a plaything if it is interactive. Movies
and books are cited as examples of non-interactive entertainment.
If no goals are associated with a plaything, it is a toy. (Crawford
notes that by his definition, (a) a toy can become a game element if
the player makes up rules, and (b)
The Sims and
SimCity are toys, not
games.) If it has goals, a plaything is a challenge.
If a challenge has no "active agent against whom you compete," it is a
puzzle; if there is one, it is a conflict. (Crawford admits that this
is a subjective test.
Video games with noticeably algorithmic
artificial intelligence can be played as puzzles; these include the
patterns used to evade ghosts in Pac-Man.)
Finally, if the player can only outperform the opponent, but not
attack them to interfere with their performance, the conflict is a
competition. (Competitions include racing and figure skating.)
However, if attacks are allowed, then the conflict qualifies as a
Crawford's definition may thus be rendered as[original research?]: an
interactive, goal-oriented activity made for money, with active agents
to play against, in which players (including active agents) can
interfere with each other.
"A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict,
defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome." (Katie
Salen and Eric Zimmerman)
"A game is a form of art in which participants, termed players, make
decisions in order to manage resources through game tokens in the
pursuit of a goal." (Greg Costikyan) According to this definition,
some "games" that do not involve choices, such as Chutes and Ladders,
Candy Land, and
War are not technically games any more than a slot
"A game is an activity among two or more independent decision-makers
seeking to achieve their objectives in some limiting context." (Clark
"At its most elementary level then we can define game as an exercise
of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between
forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a
disequilibrial outcome." (Elliot Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith)
"A game is a form of play with goals and structure." (Kevin J.
"to play a game is to engage in activity directed toward bringing
about a specific state of affairs, using only means permitted by
specific rules, where the means permitted by the rules are more
limited in scope than they would be in the absence of the rules, and
where the sole reason for accepting such limitation is to make
possible such activity." (Bernard Suits)
"When you strip away the genre differences and the technological
complexities, all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a
feedback system, and voluntary participation." (Jane McGonigal)
Gameplay elements and classification
Games can be characterized by "what the player does." This is often
referred to as gameplay. Major key elements identified in this context
are tools and rules that define the overall context of game.
A selection of pieces from different games. From top:
marbles, Monopoly tokens, dominoes, Monopoly hotels, jacks and
Games are often classified by the components required to play them
(e.g. miniatures, a ball, cards, a board and pieces, or a computer).
In places where the use of leather is well established, the ball has
been a popular game piece throughout recorded history, resulting in a
worldwide popularity of ball games such as rugby, basketball,
football, cricket, tennis, and volleyball. Other tools are more
idiosyncratic to a certain region. Many countries in Europe, for
instance, have unique standard decks of playing cards. Other games
such as chess may be traced primarily through the development and
evolution of its game pieces.
Many game tools are tokens, meant to represent other things. A token
may be a pawn on a board, play money, or an intangible item such as a
Games such as hide-and-seek or tag do not use any obvious tool;
rather, their interactivity is defined by the environment. Games with
the same or similar rules may have different gameplay if the
environment is altered. For example, hide-and-seek in a school
building differs from the same game in a park; an auto race can be
radically different depending on the track or street course, even with
the same cars.
Whereas games are often characterized by their tools, they are often
defined by their rules. While rules are subject to variations and
changes, enough change in the rules usually results in a "new" game.
For instance, baseball can be played with "real" baseballs or with
wiffleballs. However, if the players decide to play with only three
bases, they are arguably playing a different game. There are
exceptions to this in that some games deliberately involve the
changing of their own rules, but even then there are often immutable
Rules generally determine the time-keeping system, the rights and
responsibilities of the players, and each player’s goals. Player
rights may include when they may spend resources or move tokens.
Common win conditions are being first to amass a certain quota of
points or tokens (as in Settlers of Catan), having the greatest number
of tokens at the end of the game (as in Monopoly), or some
relationship of one’s game tokens to those of one’s opponent (as
in chess's checkmate).
Skill, strategy, and chance
A game’s tools and rules will result in its requiring skill,
strategy, luck, or a combination thereof, and are classified
Games of skill
Games of skill include games of physical skill, such as wrestling, tug
of war, hopscotch, target shooting, and stake, and games of mental
skill such as checkers and chess.
Games of strategy
Games of strategy include checkers,
chess, go, arimaa, and tic-tac-toe, and often require special
equipment to play them.
Games of chance include gambling games
(blackjack, mah-jongg, roulette, etc.), as well as snakes and ladders
and rock, paper, scissors; most require equipment such as cards or
dice. However, most games contain two or all three of these elements.
American football and baseball involve both physical
skill and strategy while tiddlywinks, poker, and Monopoly combine
strategy and chance. Many card and board games combine all three; most
trick-taking games involve mental skill, strategy, and an element of
chance, as do many strategic board games such as Risk, Settlers of
Catan, and Carcassonne.
Most games require multiple players. However, single-player games are
unique in respect to the type of challenges a player faces. Unlike a
game with multiple players competing with or against each other to
reach the game's goal, a one-player game is a battle solely against an
element of the environment (an artificial opponent), against one's own
skills, against time, or against chance. Playing with a yo-yo or
playing tennis against a wall is not generally recognized as playing a
game due to the lack of any formidable opposition. Many games
described as "single-player" may be termed actually puzzles or
The Card Players
The Card Players by
Lucas van Leyden
Lucas van Leyden (1520) depicting a multiplayer
A multiplayer game is a game of several players, who may be
independent opponents or teams. Games with many independent players
are difficult to analyze formally using game theory as the players may
form and switch coalitions. The term "game" in this context may
mean either a true game played for entertainment, or a competitive
activity describable in principle by mathematical game theory.
John Nash proved that games with several players have a stable
solution provided that coalitions between players are disallowed. Nash
Nobel prize for economics for this important result which
extended von Neumann's theory of zero-sum games. Nash's stable
solution is known as the Nash equilibrium.
If cooperation between players is allowed, then the game becomes more
complex; many concepts have been developed to analyze such games.
While these have had some partial success in the fields of economics,
politics and conflict, no good general theory has yet been
In quantum game theory, it has been found that the introduction of
quantum information into multiplayer games allows a new type of
equilibrium strategy not found in traditional games. The entanglement
of players's choices can have the effect of a contract by preventing
players from profiting from what is known as betrayal.
See also: List of types of games
Games can take a variety of forms, from competitive sports to board
games and video games.
Main article: Sport
Association football is a popular sport worldwide.
Many sports require special equipment and dedicated playing fields,
leading to the involvement of a community much larger than the group
of players. A city or town may set aside such resources for the
organization of sports leagues.
Popular sports may have spectators who are entertained just by
watching games. A community will often align itself with a local
sports team that supposedly represents it (even if the team or most of
its players only recently moved in); they often align themselves
against their opponents or have traditional rivalries. The concept of
fandom began with sports fans.
Stanley Fish cited the balls and strikes of baseball
as a clear example of social construction, the operation of rules on
the game's tools. While the strike zone target is governed by the
rules of the game, it epitomizes the category of things that exist
only because people have agreed to treat them as real. No pitch is a
ball or a strike until it has been labeled as such by an appropriate
authority, the plate umpire, whose judgment on this matter cannot be
challenged within the current game.
Certain competitive sports, such as racing and gymnastics, are not
games by definitions such as Crawford's (see above) – despite the
inclusion of many in the
Olympic Games – because competitors do not
interact with their opponents; they simply challenge each other in
Lawn games are outdoor games that can be played on a lawn; an area of
mowed grass (or alternately, on graded soil) generally smaller than a
"field" or pitch. Variations of many games that are traditionally
played on a pitch are marketed as "lawn games" for home use in a front
or back yard. Common lawn games include horseshoes, sholf, croquet,
bocce, lawn bowls, and stake.
Main article: Tabletop game
A tabletop game generally refers to any game where the elements of
play are confined to a small area and that require little physical
exertion, usually simply placing, picking up and moving game pieces.
Most of these games are, thus, played at a table around which the
players are seated and on which the game's elements are located. A
variety of major game types generally fall under the heading of
tabletop games. It is worth noting that many games falling into this
category, particularly party games, are more free-form in their play
and can involve physical activity such as mime, however the basic
premise is still that the game does not require a large area in which
to play it, large amounts of strength or stamina, or specialized
equipment other than what comes in the box (games sometimes require
additional materials like pencil and paper that are easy to procure).
Dexterity and coordination games
This class of games includes any game in which the skill element
involved relates to manual dexterity or hand-eye coordination, but
excludes the class of video games (see below). Games such as jacks,
paper football, and
Jenga require only very portable or improvised
equipment and can be played on any flat level surface, while other
examples, such as pinball, billiards, air hockey, foosball, and table
hockey require specialized tables or other self-contained modules on
which the game is played. The advent of home video game systems
largely replaced some of these, such as table hockey, however air
hockey, billiards, pinball and foosball remain popular fixtures in
private and public game rooms. These games and others, as they require
reflexes and coordination, are generally performed more poorly by
intoxicated persons but are unlikely to result in injury because of
this; as such the games are popular as drinking games. In addition,
dedicated drinking games such as quarters and beer pong also involve
physical coordination and are popular for similar reasons.
Main article: Board game
Parcheesi is an American adaptation of a board game originating in
Board games use as a central tool a board on which the players'
status, resources, and progress are tracked using physical tokens.
Many also involve dice or cards. Most games that simulate war are
board games (though a large number of video games have been created to
simulate strategic combat), and the board may be a map on which the
players' tokens move. Virtually all board games involve "turn-based"
play; one player contemplates and then makes a move, then the next
player does the same, and a player can only act on their turn. This is
opposed to "real-time" play as is found in some card games, most
sports and most video games.
Some games, such as chess and Go, are entirely deterministic, relying
only on the strategy element for their interest. Such games are
usually described as having "perfect information"; the only unknown is
the exact thought processes of one's opponent, not the outcome of any
unknown event inherent in the game (such as a card draw or die roll).
Children's games, on the other hand, tend to be very luck-based, with
games such as
Candy Land and
Chutes and Ladders
Chutes and Ladders having virtually no
decisions to be made. By some definitions, such as that by Greg
Costikyan, they are not games since there are no decisions to make
which affect the outcome. Many other games involving a high degree
of luck do not allow direct attacks between opponents; the random
event simply determines a gain or loss in the standing of the current
player within the game, which is independent of any other player; the
"game" then is actually a "race" by definitions such as Crawford's.
Most other board games combine strategy and luck factors; the game of
backgammon requires players to decide the best strategic move based on
the roll of two dice.
Trivia games have a great deal of randomness
based on the questions a person gets. German-style board games are
notable for often having rather less of a luck factor than many board
Board game groups include race games, roll-and-move games, abstract
strategy games, word games, and wargames, as well as trivia and other
elements. Some board games fall into multiple groups or incorporate
elements of other genres: Cranium is one popular example, where
players must succeed in each of four skills: artistry, live
performance, trivia, and language.
Main article: Card game
Further information: Collectible card game
Playing Cards, by Theodoor Rombouts, 17th century
Card games use a deck of cards as their central tool. These cards may
be a standard Anglo-American (52-card) deck of playing cards (such as
for bridge, poker, Rummy, etc.), a regional deck using 32, 36 or 40
cards and different suit signs (such as for the popular German game
skat), a tarot deck of 78 cards (used in Europe to play a variety of
trick-taking games collectively known as Tarot, Tarock or Tarocchi
games), or a deck specific to the individual game (such as Set or 1000
Blank White Cards). Uno and Rook are examples of games that were
originally played with a standard deck and have since been
commercialized with customized decks. Some collectible card games such
as Magic: The Gathering are played with a small selection of cards
that have been collected or purchased individually from large
Some board games include a deck of cards as a gameplay element,
normally for randomization or to keep track of game progress.
Conversely, some card games such as
Cribbage use a board with movers,
normally to keep score. The differentiation between the two genres in
such cases depends on which element of the game is foremost in its
play; a board game using cards for random actions can usually use some
other method of randomization, while
Cribbage can just as easily be
scored on paper. These elements as used are simply the traditional and
easiest methods to achieve their purpose.
Laos use dice to improve numeracy skills. They roll three
dice, then use basic math operations to combine those into a new
number which they cover on the board. The goal is to cover four
squares in the row.
Dice games use a number of dice as their central element. Board games
often use dice for a randomization element, and thus each roll of the
dice has a profound impact on the outcome of the game, however dice
games are differentiated in that the dice do not determine the success
or failure of some other element of the game; they instead are the
central indicator of the person's standing in the game. Popular dice
games include Yahtzee, Farkle, Bunco, Liar's dice/Perudo, and Poker
dice. As dice are, by their very nature, designed to produce
apparently random numbers, these games usually involve a high degree
of luck, which can be directed to some extent by the player through
more strategic elements of play and through tenets of probability
theory. Such games are thus popular as gambling games; the game of
Craps is perhaps the most famous example, though
Liar's dice and Poker
dice were originally conceived of as gambling games.
Domino and tile games
Tile-based game and Dominoes
Domino games are similar in many respects to card games, but the
generic device is instead a set of tiles called dominoes, which
traditionally each have two ends, each with a given number of dots, or
"pips", and each combination of two possible end values as it appears
on a tile is unique in the set. The games played with dominoes largely
center around playing a domino from the player's "hand" onto the
matching end of another domino, and the overall object could be to
always be able to make a play, to make all open endpoints sum to a
given number or multiple, or simply to play all dominoes from one's
hand onto the board. Sets vary in the number of possible dots on one
end, and thus of the number of combinations and pieces; the most
common set historically is double-six, though in more recent times
"extended" sets such as double-nine have been introduced to increase
the number of dominoes available, which allows larger hands and more
players in a game. Muggins, Mexican Train, and Chicken Foot are very
popular domino games.
Texas 42 is a domino game more similar in its
play to a "trick-taking" card game.
Variations of traditional dominoes abound:
Triominoes are similar in
theory but are triangular and thus have three values per tile.
Similarly, a game known as
Quad-Ominos uses four-sided tiles.
Some other games use tiles in place of cards;
Rummikub is a variant of
Rummy card game family that uses tiles numbered in ascending rank
among four colours, very similar in makeup to a 2-deck "pack" of
Anglo-American playing cards.
Mah-Jongg is another game very similar
Rummy that uses a set of tiles with card-like values and art.
Lastly, some games use graphical tiles to form a board layout, on
which other elements of the game are played.
Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan and
Carcassonne are examples. In each, the "board" is made up of a series
of tiles; in
Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan the starting layout is random but
static, while in Carcassonne the game is played by "building" the
board tile-by-tile. Hive, an abstract strategy game using tiles as
moving pieces, has mechanical and strategic elements similar to chess,
although it has no board; the pieces themselves both form the layout
and can move within it.
Pencil and paper games
Pencil and paper games require little or no specialized equipment
other than writing materials, though some such games have been
commercialized as board games (Scrabble, for instance, is based on the
idea of a crossword puzzle, and tic-tac-toe sets with a boxed grid and
pieces are available commercially). These games vary widely, from
games centering on a design being drawn such as
"connect-the-dots" games like sprouts, to letter and word games such
Boggle and Scattergories, to solitaire and logic puzzle games such
Sudoku and crossword puzzles.
Main article: Guessing game
A guessing game has as its core a piece of information that one player
knows, and the object is to coerce others into guessing that piece of
information without actually divulging it in text or spoken word.
Charades is probably the most well-known game of this type, and has
spawned numerous commercial variants that involve differing rules on
the type of communication to be given, such as Catch Phrase, Taboo,
Pictionary, and similar. The genre also includes many game shows such
as Win, Lose or Draw, Password and $25,000 Pyramid.
Main article: Video game
See also: Electronic game
Video games are computer- or microprocessor-controlled games.
Computers can create virtual spaces for a wide variety of game types.
Some video games simulate conventional game objects like cards or
dice, while others can simulate environs either grounded in reality or
fantastical in design, each with its own set of rules or goals.
A computer or video game uses one or more input devices, typically a
button/joystick combination (on arcade games); a keyboard, mouse or
trackball (computer games); or a controller or a motion sensitive
tool. (console games). More esoteric devices such as paddle
controllers have also been used for input.
There are many genres of video game; the first commercial video game,
Pong, was a simple simulation of table tennis. As processing power
increased, new genres such as adventure and action games were
developed that involved a player guiding a character from a third
person perspective through a series of obstacles. This "real-time"
element cannot be easily reproduced by a board game, which is
generally limited to "turn-based" strategy; this advantage allows
video games to simulate situations such as combat more realistically.
Additionally, the playing of a video game does not require the same
physical skill, strength or danger as a real-world representation of
the game, and can provide either very realistic, exaggerated or
impossible physics, allowing for elements of a fantastical nature,
games involving physical violence, or simulations of sports. Lastly, a
computer can, with varying degrees of success, simulate one or more
human opponents in traditional table games such as chess, leading to
simulations of such games that can be played by a single player.
In more open-ended computer simulations, also known as sandbox-style
games, the game provides a virtual environment in which the player may
be free to do whatever they like within the confines of this universe.
Sometimes, there is a lack of goals or opposition, which has stirred
some debate on whether these should be considered "games" or "toys".
(Crawford specifically mentions Will Wright's
SimCity as an example of
Main article: Online game
Online games have been part of culture from the very earliest days of
networked and time-shared computers. Early commercial systems such as
Plato were at least as widely famous for their games as for their
strictly educational value. In 1958,
Tennis for Two dominated
Visitor's Day and drew attention to the oscilloscope at the Brookhaven
National Laboratory; during the 1980s,
Xerox PARC was known mainly for
Maze War, which was offered as a hands-on demo to visitors.
Modern online games are played using an Internet connection; some have
dedicated client programs, while others require only a web browser.
Some simpler browser games appeal to demographic groups (notably women
and the middle-aged) that otherwise play very few video
Main article: Role-playing game
Role-playing games, often abbreviated as RPGs, are a type of game in
which the participants (usually) assume the roles of characters acting
in a fictional setting. The original role playing games—or at least
those explicitly marketed as such—are played with a handful of
participants, usually face-to-face, and keep track of the developing
fiction with pen and paper. Together, the players may collaborate on a
story involving those characters; create, develop, and "explore" the
setting; or vicariously experience an adventure outside the bounds of
everyday life. Pen-and-paper role-playing games include, for example,
Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS.
The term role-playing game has also been appropriated by the video
game industry to describe a genre of video games. These may be
single-player games where one player experiences a programmed
environment and story, or they may allow players to interact through
the internet. The experience is usually quite different from
traditional role-playing games. Single-player games include Final
Fantasy, Fable, The Elder Scrolls, and Mass Effect. Online
multi-player games, often referred to as Massively Multiplayer Online
role playing games, or MMORPGs, include RuneScape, EverQuest 2, Guild
Wars, MapleStory, Anarchy Online, and Dofus. As of 2009[update], the
most successful MMORPG has been World of Warcraft, which controls the
vast majority of the market.
Business games can take a variety of forms, from interactive board
games to interactive games involving different props (balls, ropes,
hoops, etc.) and different kinds of activities. The purpose of these
games is to link to some aspect of organizational performance and to
generate discussions about business improvement. Many business games
focus on organizational behaviors. Some of these are computer
simulations while others are simple designs for play and debriefing.
Team building is a common focus of such activities.
The term "game" can include simulation or re-enactment of
various activities or use in "real life" for various purposes: e.g.,
training, analysis, prediction. Well-known examples are war games and
roleplaying. The root of this meaning may originate in the human
prehistory of games deduced by anthropology from observing primitive
cultures, in which children's games mimic the activities of adults to
a significant degree: hunting, warring, nursing, etc. These kinds of
games are preserved in modern times.[original research?]
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Game.
Main article: Outline of games
Girls' games and toys
History of games
Learning through play
List of games
Personal computer game
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Types of games
List of types of games