“Dichotomy Of The Game”

“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is”. Bob Feller

di·chot·o·my (dī-kŏt′ə-mē)
n. pl. di·chot·o·mies
Division into two usually contradictory parts or opinions: “the dichotomy of the one and the many” (Louis Auchincloss).

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.

“I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures”. Earl Warren

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 following characteristics:

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 everyday life

fictitious: it is accompanied by the awareness of a different reality

“Boxing has become America’s tragic theater”. Joyce Carol Oates 

“Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing”. Vince Lombardi

“Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquillity”. Billie Jean King

“You can’t win unless you learn how to loose”. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“Even when I’m old and grey, I won’t be able to play it, but I’ll still love the game”. Michael Jordan

Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it. Sai Baba

Gamer (n.) A person who plays games, especially computer or video games.

“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records”. William Arthur Ward

Computer game designer Chris Crawford, founder of The Journal of Computer 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 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 game.

Crawford’s definition may thus be rendered as[original research?]: an interactive, goal-oriented activity, with active agents to play against, in which players (including active agents) can interfere with each other.

“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play”. Mike Singletary

One thought on ““Dichotomy Of The Game”

  1. Pingback: “Dichotomy Of The Game” | Galactic Jukebox

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