There seems to be many definitions of what a game is. Before a person can create a game, they must understand the criteria by which a game is defined. It may surprise some people to find that much of what they considered to be a game really isn't a game at all.

The Five CriteriaEdit

There are five criteria that define a game:

  1. A game exhibits play
  2. A game contains rules
  3. A game is non-linear
  4. A game has goals
  5. A game has winning conditions

A Game Exhibits PlayEdit

The first criterion that defines a game is that it exhibits play. There is little disagreement that games are meant to be fun. People should enjoy themselves when playing a game and not feel they are being forced to play it. Play can come in the form of mental, physical, or emotional activities.

A Game Contains RulesEdit

The second criterion that defines a game is that it contains rules. Rules are the boundaries in which the game is defined. Rules define what the player can and cannot do. Developing a good set of rules for a game is one of the most time consuming parts of designing a game. It is also one of the most important. Overly complex rules increase the learning curve for games. It is best to reduce the number of rules to only what is necessary. If the amount of freedom afforded to the player calls for a more complex rule set, then it is fine to implement what is needed. Though, complex rule sets should not be created for the sake of complexity alone. Complex rules can diminish the quality of play in a game.

A Game is Non-LinearEdit

The third criterion that defines a game is that it is non-linear. Linear entertainment, which include things like books and movies, can only be observed or experienced. They are unchanging and allow no possibility for a person to affect the outcome. One may point out that many story-based games like the Final Fantasy series are linear. That is true to a certain extent, but the story really isn't the game. The game is the battle system. Non-linear entertainment such as games give a person the opportunity to affect the outcome.

A Game has GoalsEdit

The fourth criterion that defines a game is that it has goals. This can be in the form of collecting points by performing certain actions, eliminating enemies, assisting allies, or reaching a specific location. There are surprisingly very few different types of goals that can be found in a game. One just has to sample a variety of games to find that many of them contain the same goals. The biggest difference usually lies in the presentation and the rule set of the game. Goals are an important aspect of games, because combined with rules, they allow players to devise a strategy to win.

A Game has Winning ConditionsEdit

The fifth criterion that defines a game is that it has winning conditions. There must be a point where the game comes to an end and players are labeled as winners or losers based on their performance. Winning conditions can be based upon reaching a certain score, having the highest score after a certain number of turns, eliminating a certain number of opponents, or remaining an active player after a certain amount of time. If there is no winning condition present, then it is likely a competition instead. MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) are often competitions overall. Though, they also include mini games where winning conditions exist. An example would be battle zones, dungeon instances, battles, and some forms of quests.

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