What’s the Definition of a Game?

A month ago, I updated my LinkedIn profile to say I was, “…playing and making some games.” I’ve had a few game ideas kicking around and the games I’ve been playing lately have gotten me a bit more motivated to work on my own ideas. My thought was that this small declaration would keep me moving forward and I would actually make some headway on at least one project. As others have noted, ideas are cheap, but seeing a project through to completion is considerably more difficult.

What I hadn’t anticipated was a co-worker asking me what kind of games I was working on. Since my day job is in web development for an HMO, my co-worker was unaware of my background in game design and my continuing interest in doing that kind of work. However, the reason I’m not employed full-time doing game design has more to do with the nature of industry, particularly the crazy hours and my daughter being of an age where she started to think daddy lived in the phone. At the time, people were beginning to take a hard look at some of practices and work environment that went with game development, the most visible being the story of EA Spouse. Just as a case in point, the agency I contracted through gave me vacation time that accrued at a rate of 2 weeks per year based on hours worked. In my first contract, between overtime and the occasional all-nighter, I accrued four weeks of vacation.

So, though I’m not working in the game industry as my day job, I’m still very much interested in games. But my co-worker’s question raised an interesting point: What is the definition of game? Her assumption was that, as a computer guy, I would be turning my energies toward some form of computer game. But even that’s a pretty broad range, given the proliferation of casual games, many of them web-based, alternative reality games, that incorporate many forms of technology including web pages and other technology, and console games, developed on computers despite the hardware being rather specialized.

However, I also play pen-and-paper roleplaying games (Dungeons and Dragons and Ars Magica, among myriad others), I am guilty of having played live-action roleplaying, and I play boardgames, given the opportunity. In fact, about the only thing I don’t play is fantasy football and its real-world team sports analogues.

So, while I’m not planning on creating something like BASEketball any time soon, I’m casting my net considerably wider than trying to develop the next version of Duke Nukem Forever (figuring whatever game I work on still probably has a better chance of seeing the light of day).

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