Sunday, January 07, 2007

Apple Games vs Orange Games

What do you think of when you hear the word "game"?

This subject pops up at the end of the year when I am bombarded with top ten lists of various sorts, among which are several "top ten games of 2006". What they mean by "game" is usually to be inferred from the context.

On many places, "top ten games" means toys. So you could have some DVD game listed along with an Elmo doll. In hip and sophisticated newspapers, "top ten games" means top ten video or computer games.

If you turn to the back of the newspaper, top ten games means top ten sporting events.

In the business section, top ten games, even top ten "board games" could mean financial takeovers.

If you ask an average American, top ten games means top ten mainstream or party games. Ask an old grognard and he wouldn't consider anything outside of a war game a game at all. Ask a non-computer obsessed teen and it might be CCG's or RPG's.

What would the "top ten games" look like if we had to choose from all of them?

1. Financial takeover of Foo by Bar
2. Great goal by Fizzbuzz right before the buzzer
3. Halo expansion 65 for the new Foobar corp system
4. D-Day, 7:35 am - 7:37 am on the south beach.
5. Monopoly, Infectious Diseases Edition.

and so on ...

Apples to oranges as they say. We all make the divisions. Why can't we call them something different?

Saying that something is a bad game or a good game so depends not only on particular merits of a game, but "game", the ballpark, the whole sport. We're not talking about the same activity.

When some guy at Google disses Board Games With Scott, making fun of Scott for introducing a game with "lots of mechanics", what do you expect? This guy thinks what to pull out at a party with drunk people or what to play with his grandmother.

He comes across a site harping games that look complicated. Of course he'll make fun of them.

He never would have made this comparison, never would have held up Scott and rejected him if Scott's "game"s didn't appear to be classified under the same category as what he was looking for: a game.

Soccer? Good lord, would you tell a small boy, a guy in a wheelchair, and three grandmothers to play soccer? What a "bad game".

Uh, Chess? Good lord, I've got 40 young boys full of energy and a world full of fresh air. I'm going to teach them Chess?

Uh, Halo? Are you crazy, I don't even own a television.

Monopoly? What? A game where one person wins and another loses? By luck? Are you crazy?

Long-time readers of this blog, or other board game blogs, have heard a lot of this before. What makes a good game? It depends on the context. It's just frustrating that we seem to be nowhere near making any process in separating contexts so that it is obvious what we mean when we say "game".

How can we separate out "board gaming" as an intellectual pursuit from "board games" as toys, "board games" as life-long competitive pursuits, and "board games" as party activities?


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