Wednesday, 14 February 2007

When does the game start?

One can't help but ask the question 'what constitutes a game?' Are there elements that need to be included for an activity to constitute a game? Does it have to involve skill? Luck? Be rule-based? Include competition? Wittgenstein (in Tilgham, 1973) argued that games don't have to share all these features but can simply involve a degree of overlapping characteristics. He argues that a game can be viewed as something more akin to family resemblances than following a hard and fast formula. B Tilgham (1973) points out that the word game itself is not taught through the learning of strict criteria but by providing various examples of what a game is. Interestingly, Tilgham notes similarities in the abstract categorisation of the word 'game' to the word 'art'.

Here is one of the more recent questions that have arisen 'Are games art?' Lets us take an example of a 'game' that crosses these boundaries. Samorost and its recent sequel, Samorost2, were created by Jakub Dvorsky, a Czech graduate of Arts, Architecture and Design (Adventure Gamer, 2005). The play is minimalistic style point and click in the vein of early 90s games such as Myst. It is clear that almost all of the time has been spent on creating the artwork with only a small proportion on gameplay. As such it has more of the feeling of moving through interactive art. Does it have the characteristics of a game? There is no competition, very little skill is needed, no luck as all 'baddies' are automatically avoided but it is certainly enjoyable and does require interaction. One thing is certain, Samorost does highlight the ambiguity of the notion of game that was highlighted by Wittgenstien.

Bibliography,593/ - Retrieved 28/2/07

Wittgenstein, Games, and Art
B. R. Tilghman
The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 31, No. 4. (Summer, 1973), pp. 517-524.
Stable URL:

Further Reading

Playing Games with Wittgenstein (in Commentary)
John M. Ellis
New Literary History, Vol. 19, No. 2, Wittgenstein and Literary Theory. (Winter, 1988), pp. 301-308.
Stable URL:

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

What do you have in there? Doom!

Please note, this post should not be included in the marking. It is more a general interest post.
"There is a scene in "The Color of Money" where Tom Cruse [sic] shows up at a pool hall with a custom pool cue in a case. "What do you have in there?" asks someone. "Doom." replied Cruse with a cocky grin. That, and the resulting carnage, was how I viewed us springing the game on the industry." - John Carmack, 2005
Doom is considered by many as the breakthrough first person shoot-em-up. Created by John Carmack in the 1993 for Id Software, Doom made all the impact on the gaming market that Carmack a hoped for. The game was highly touted for its 3D rendering engine (which isn't strictly 3D due to an inability to look up) but perhaps more importantly, for its extensibility by the users. The program was initially released as shareware which allowed it to spread to and estimated 10million computers. Perhaps one of the key points for its continued success is that the engine that it was based on and subsequently other derivative engines, such as the Quake II engine, were released under GNU/GPL licenses. This continued openness and interaction with the fanbase has not only helped develop an entire subculture but given the game a life far exceeding that of a normal product cycle and has created sequels, spin-offs, comics, novels and even a Hollywood movie.

As with much in the games industry it wasn't all fun and rendering engines. The freely available nature of the game and the introduction of multiplayer Deathmatch mode over networks meant that productivity in many companies was impacted with both network clogging and staff spending all their time playing each other. Though that may have caused a headache to network admins, the real controversy surrounding Doom was the gore, gibs, satanic imagery and general level of violence. Some described the games as simulated mass murder but nothing could have been more harrowing than the line "It's gonna be like fucking Doom man" spoken by Eric Harris before engaging in the Columbine High School massacre.