Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
geo

Is a game still a game if it can play itself?

Recommended Posts

I don't mean demos. I mean like right now I've had Sims 4 on in the background for around 24 hours. Not just that, but there are some tycoon / management / city building games that run themselves at a certain point. The games don't even need me.

Share this post


Link to post

I'd say it's more like a demo if you can just watch it while it evolves itself, like a non-conventional movie, if you like. A game requires interaction, challenge and/or competition.

Share this post


Link to post

It is if you can alter or configure various parameters at the beginning of the simulation, and if there is some kind of goal (even if it's just accumulating points, or keeping your dude alive as long as possible).

Share this post


Link to post

I don't see why a sentient player should be required for a set of rules to meet the definition of 'game'. Is Conway's Life still a game? Most will say yes, it's a game with zero players.

From a different angle, chess played between two computers is still a game, no?

Share this post


Link to post

A game requires interaction. How else could you have fun playing if you don't participate?

EDIT

Share this post


Link to post

I've never played a football simulator, but aren't many of them based on the principle that you just select a strategy and/or players before the match, and then just watch the game playing itself? I'd still consider it a game. Same with those Sims, even if you let them play themselves for hours, it's a game as long as you're interacting with it at least for a short time sometimes during, at the beginning or at the end of the game.

Mithran Denizen said:

I don't see why a sentient player should be required for a set of rules to meet the definition of 'game'. Is Conway's Life still a game? Most will say yes, it's a game with zero players.

I would say that no, it's not a game in the meaning of the word "game" as I understand it. Well, the wiki page says "Zero-player game", because the system is obviously active and it depends on its initial state at least. But I wouldn't consider a game to be a game if there's no interaction with a being (human or AI) independent on the game, having more free choices to pick from to influence flow of the game, and ability to make decisions. In my view, Conway's Game of Life is a time-variable visual show determined by its initial state and a simple algorithm, not a game.

Mithran Denizen said:

From a different angle, chess played between two computers is still a game, no?

This yes, it's a game. The computers are independent beings from the chess itself, and their programming would be elaborate enough to able to make decisions, even if these decisions would be unambiguously determined by an algorithm. Also, we're not actually judging the computers, but chess itself. It's obviously a playable game independent on those computers, therefore a game.

Share this post


Link to post

Differing personal impressions of the term "game" are of course something people have (and will still be) arguing about for countless years, but I don't quite grasp the reasoning used here. The line you're drawing here seems fuzzy to the point of irrelevance / nonexistence.

scifista42 said:

Same with those Sims, even if you let them play themselves for hours, it's a game as long as you're interacting with it at least for a short time sometimes during, at the beginning or at the end of the game.

With cellular automata like Conway's Life, you can put as much or as little interaction as you choose into the initial setup. You can stop the simulation at any point, interact by manually adjusting the state of the game as you please, and start the play back from there. The game ends whenever you choose to be done with it.

Would The Sims 2 no longer meet your definition of a 'game' if the simulation could end without your input? (It can: your family can die off totally unattended.) Or if the game could specify its own starting state? (It essentially can: you can set up a procedurally generated random family with a few blind mouse clicks, and send them on their way automatically.)

If The Sims is still a game, but Life isn't, I'm curious as to what other meaningful distinction seperates them, since they can be about equally interactive.

But I wouldn't consider a game to be a game if there's no interaction with a being (human or AI) independent on the game, having more free choices to pick from to influence flow of the game, and ability to make decisions. In my view, Conway's Game of Life is a time-variable visual show determined by its initial state and a simple algorithm, not a game.

So why is the deterministic algorithm that runs the Sims any more of a distinct "being" than the deterministic algorithm that governs the cells in Conway's Life? It has no "free choices." Its ability to make decisions is only in the most limited mechanical sense--the same sort of "decisions" that are made for each cell in life, like this:

if (this_cell_is_dead)

	then if (number_of_live_neighbours == 3)
		revive_cell
	else
		kill_cell

else if (this_cell_is_live)
	
	then if (neighbour_cells < 2) OR (neighbour_cells > 3)
		kill_cell
	else
		revive_cell
Those decisions influence the flow and outcome of the Game of Life just as much as the AI's decision about whether your Sim needs to piss his pants more than he needs to sleep.

The sort of AI that runs The Sims is just a set of rules, applied algorithmically; not fundamentally distinct from the system of rules, applied algorithmically, that runs a game of Life. The only real difference is in the complexity of those rules, given that there is more variable complexity involved in a "family simulation" than in a "binary cell simulation". That Sims AI, especially in the first two games, is not nearly as complex as the anthropomorphic graphical coating would suggest, either. Sims can only do on thing at a time, and they follow an extremely simple system of needs / motivations that can appear intelligent, at best. Take human interaction out of The Sims, and it essentially becomes playerless, since the AI is so intertwined with the game mechanics that distinguishing them as seperate entities borders on nonsensical.

[Chess played between two computers] is a game. The computers are independent beings from the chess itself, and their programming would be elaborate enough to able to make decisions, even if these decisions would be unambiguously determined by an algorithm. Also, we're not actually judging the computers, but chess itself. It's obviously a playable game independent on those computers, therefore a game.

Part of this reinforces my point: the rules and structure of the game we specify as "chess" are what makes it a game, not the details of the players themselves. It doesn't matter if the players are human beings, dedicated chess-playing algorithms, or simply any system that moves the pieces around randomly (within the rules that govern the game, or course). It doesn't even matter if any players exist. Chess doesn't cease to be a game when nobody is currently playing it.

Anyway, I guess one could propose using an alternative term to describe a "game without players," but a term for that already exists: it's "zero-player game," and I'm just not convinced that there's enough meaningful or relevant distinction between the two concepts to consider them fundamentally seperate. This is like how it's useless to say "zero is not a number," just because it's a unique case with special properties.

Aspects such as interaction, conflict, and competition are present (even integral) in most games, but why should they really be essential to the theoretical definition of 'game' itself?

Share this post


Link to post
geo said:

I don't mean demos. I mean like right now I've had Sims 4 on in the background for around 24 hours. Not just that, but there are some tycoon / management / city building games that run themselves at a certain point. The games don't even need me.


Take a player-vs.-player game. So don't think Doomguy vs. demons in regular play, but more like Doomguy vs. Other Doomguy in deathmatch. Or you know, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bomberman, Heroes of Might & Magic, chess, racing games, card games, whatever.

Then add AI bots to allow players to play even when they don't have any friend nearby or no Internet access.

Once you have that, you can make the game play against itself, pitting bots vs. bots.

At this point, you wonder if it's still a game. Well, I have a question for you: if I watch some sports match on the TV, while I sit on my sofa, is it still a game? After all, I don't play. The players who do play could as well be robots for all I care.

Share this post


Link to post

It's a system with rules that you can interact with, even if it runs on its own without intervention. I'd say it's a game.

I mean, you can sit on your ass in Doom (or any other traditional action game) and not get punished (assuming you're in a safe location). Does that make it a non-game?

Share this post


Link to post
Mithran Denizen said:

With cellular automata like Conway's Life, you can put as much or as little interaction as you choose into the initial setup. You can stop the simulation at any point, interact by manually adjusting the state of the game as you please, and start the play back from there. The game ends whenever you choose to be done with it.

That's not interaction in the sense of interaction I'd expect from a game. A game needs more interaction than this.

Would The Sims 2 no longer meet your definition of a 'game' if the simulation could end without your input? (It can: your family can die off totally unattended.) Or if the game could specify its own starting state? (It essentially can: you can set up a procedurally generated random family with a few blind mouse clicks, and send them on their way automatically.)

No and no, it would still meet my definition of a game, as long as it lets the player interact at least somehow.

If The Sims is still a game, but Life isn't, I'm curious as to what other meaningful distinction seperates them, since they can be about equally interactive.

I disagree that they can be about equally interactive, but anyway, here are the distinctions:

1. Player's input (with a meaningful impact on the game)
2. Purpose
3. Goal (not necessarily leading to an absolute end / victory, but still a clear one)

The Sims is presented as a game that will entertain the player by giving him a virtual world as a simulation of real life, letting him to influence lives of the game characters as if it was their real life, and trying to handle it well. There's player's input, purpose, and goal. Conway's "Game of Life" ITSELF is not a game, because it has neither. However, it can be used as a gameboard if someone approaches it and says: "Okay, I'll play a game with myself: I'll be trying to input cells to this board so that a very complicated chaos occurs." Now, the algorithm of Life serves as a ruleset and the board as a gameboard for a whole new game, the person's game. There's a whole new purpose, goal and possibility of input.

So why is the deterministic algorithm that runs the Sims any more of a distinct "being" than the deterministic algorithm that governs the cells in Conway's Life?

It's not. Both are just the "rulesets" without required input. The player is that being who gives input.

the same sort of "decisions" that are made for each cell in life, like this:

*PSEUDOCODE*

Those decisions influence the flow and outcome of the Game of Life just as much as the AI's decision about whether your Sim needs to piss his pants more than he needs to sleep.

These are not decisions, these are unchangable movements determined by the game's rules. True decisions needs to be made (as I said) by a being (human or AI) independent on the game, having more free choices to pick from to influence flow of the game, and ability to make decisions.

The sort of AI that runs The Sims is just a set of rules, applied algorithmically; not fundamentally distinct from the system of rules, applied algorithmically, that runs a game of Life. The only real difference is in the complexity of those rules, given that there is more variable complexity involved in a "family simulation" than in a "binary cell simulation". That Sims AI, especially in the first two games, is not nearly as complex as the anthropomorphic graphical coating would suggest, either. Sims can only do on thing at a time, and they follow an extremely simple system of needs / motivations that can appear intelligent, at best. Take human interaction out of The Sims, and it essentially becomes playerless, since the AI is so intertwined with the game mechanics that distinguishing them as seperate entities borders on nonsensical.

Yes, I agree with you.

Aspects such as interaction, conflict, and competition are present (even integral) in most games, but why should they really be essential to the theoretical definition of 'game' itself?

Because that's simply what the word is used for? Aspects such as having a white color are present (even integral) in most white things, but why should they really be essential to the theoretical definition of 'a white thing' itself?

Share this post


Link to post

scifista42:
That's not interaction in the sense of interaction I'd expect from a game. A game needs more interaction than this.

I'm still not convinced that this descrimination is meaningful or useful. When a client asks a tailor to alter his jacket in an impossible way, and the tailor tells the man, "there are 'a number' of problems with that request," nobody would reasonably expect that statement to include the possiblity that the number of the tailor's objections is "zero," even though both understand "zero" to be a (special type of) number in a broader sense. Expectations and colloquial usage should have little place dictating the precise technical meanings of terms like that.

Yes, I would be a charlatan if I were selling people copies of a zero-player, interactionless 'game' over Steam, or alongside Scrabble in a toy store, because the term, as understood recreationally, implies those things you speak of. Interactivity and engaging play are what make a set of rules a 'good' or 'playable' game, and they are properties that emerge from almost all interesting games, but there are still games that can be undertaken with no interaction whatsoever.

Doom doesn't just cease to be a game in the last twenty tics of a session, if you're stuck falling uncontrollably (no choice or interaction possible) into the path of a fireball that will instantly kill you. Even if that were all that happened as soon as you loaded the game, every time, that'd still be a game, just a really lame one.

We could distinguish between 'games' as exclusively 'fun' and 'non-games' as 'not-fun,' just as well. I do expect any decent game to be fun, but by those terms, Doom ceases to be a game if the player isn't having a good time. Under this definition, is it a game when an AI bot plays Doom, so long as the AI keeps track of a boolean variable like (havingFun == true)? Both this and the interactivity thing are pointlessly anthropocentric criteria that inhibit meaningful generalization about how structures of rules actually become 'games.'

Another analogy: Tic-tac-toe on a 3x3 grid is a simple enough game that it has been solved (i.e. optimal play is known) and if one of the rules is understood explicitly as "play to win" then a round between two rational players will always result in a draw. It's still a game when two algorithms play tic-tac-toe against each other, even if there is no possibility of any result besides a draw, and no distinct consequences of any given "choice" of move--indeed, even if they play the same exact, known sequence of moves every time they are matched. At this point, the algorithms can be replaced with a simple array of numbers representing moves, and the terms "player 1" and "player 2" can be replaced with the concepts "sadness" and "happiness." Call this a "mood simulation," in which sadness and happiness will, by design, always balance each other out. Still a game.

Play tic-tac-toe on a 2x2 grid, and although simpler, it's still a basic game, right? Now all opening moves are equivalent, and the outcome is always a trivial 'win' for the first mover, with no interaction possible at all, beyond which square is left unoccupied at the end. No decision-making entity is required to play this, either since every square is indeed equivalent; carefully considered moves, randomly assigned moves, and simply assigning cells on each turn in order will result in mere permutations of the same game.

Tic-tac-toe cut all the way down to 1x1 is basically the simplest form, and it's functionally equivalent to the 2x2 case in all but the number of turns the game lasts. This too is still a game in the technical sense. Flip a coin to see which player goes first, and it's no longer purely deterministic, but still a game.

I disagree that they can be about equally interactive, but anyway, here are the distinctions:

1. Player's input (with a meaningful impact on the game)
2. Purpose
3. Goal (not necessarily leading to an absolute end / victory, but still a clear one)

I simply mean that at its least interactive level (which you concede to still be a game), The Sims is less interactive than the most interactive level of play in Conway's Life.

1.) Input in both games can range from "none whatsoever beyond initial setup" to "total control over every detail of the simulation, per frame, if you feel like pausing them that often." In both cases, this input determines the state of the game in whole or in part.

2.) This seems like an artificial distinction. Life and The Sims can both be stated to fulfil the purpose of "amusement" or "novelty", but I'm not convinced that this is even relevant. Almost anything can meet that criteria. Does rock-paper-scissors, or pat-a-cake have any purpose to the player beyond this? Does they cease to be games if they're played without their ordinary purpose?

3.) From what I've played, I don't think The Sims 2 has any clear "goal" established at all. The whole game is just an elaborate set of rules that we project our own goals onto like a canvas, the same way you described Life. For example, the most fulfilling thing I've ever done in the Sims was to make a house into a levitating dungeon that can trap people from around town when they come inside, populated by a family of charming but deplorable adult siblings who all want to see each other dead. I wanted to make that happen, and the game provided the set of rules that let me do it. I don't know how that goal could possibly be any more endemic to the game itself than goal of tinkering with Life until you have dueling Gosper guns.

The Sims is presented as a game that will entertain the player by giving him a virtual world as a simulation of real life, letting him to influence lives of the game characters as if it was their real life, and trying to handle it well. There's player's input, purpose, and goal. Conway's "Game of Life" ITSELF is not a game, because it has neither. However, it can be used as a gameboard if someone approaches it and says: "Okay, I'll play a game with myself: I'll be trying to input cells to this board so that a very complicated chaos occurs." Now, the algorithm of Life serves as a ruleset and the board as a gameboard for a whole new game, the person's game. There's a whole new purpose, goal and possibility of input.


That "presented as" argument seems fallacious. If the graphics and box art and game text and player preconceptions were stripped away and all you were left with was the bare-bones social simulation of the Sims 2, it'd still be a game, even when played in a clinical setting by humourless mathemeticians, turn-by-turn, with a spreadsheet-based interface, simply out of curiousity to see how the game evolves based on the rules it consists of. It's still a game when they put it on autopilot then grow bored with it but forget to shut it down, so it ends up running in the background for a week, to absolutely no purpose.

I don't buy that game vs. gameboard distinction for Life, either. That's like saying the behaviour of pawns, rooks, and knights are elements of the chessboard, rather than part of the game of chess itself. The bare binary cell matrix is the "board" in life, while the system of rules governing how the cells change as play progresses is what makes up the game itself.

For another Doom analogy, if I assemble an empty, exitless 256x256 map for Doom, and remove all weapons and enemies, a game is still being played when I load up the level. It's still a game even if no player input occurs at all. It's still a game if no input can ever occur, because I've physically locked the computer in a sealed room. Likewise if the input is derived from an AI algorithm as simple as [ if (last_step was_forward) then {take_two_steps_back} else {take_one_step_forward} ], or if all input is purely random noise from my cat jumping on the keyboard while I'm gone.


Anyway, I see the interactivity distinction less like "black thing (Game of Life) vs grey thing (Sims 2 on autopilot) vs white thing (chess between two humans)", and more like "constant function vs linear function vs polynomial functionpolynomial function."
The word 'game' can essentially encompass any type of rule-governed activity with any level of external input, including no input. There are enough similarities across the board that it's more useful to frame these as variations of of input/interactivity under the general term "game," than it is to quibble over anthropocentric criteria which mostly tend to collapse or become meaningless when applied theoretically.

It's not. Both are just the "rulesets" without required input. The player is that being who gives input.

So then, when you leave the room and the AI (i.e. as part of the game's rules, not a distinct being) takes over for you, The Sims becomes what I'm calling a playerless game, since it requires and recieves zero input, but retains the same fundamental design. One can say that it ceases to be a "game", and simply a "ruleset" during that period, but that seems a needless distinction. I see no reason to distinguish the word "ruleset" from the most basic sense of the word "game," in any case. A zero-player game is can be stated as "a set of rules in which action can take place without sentient input."

If you add a rule to the game of chess so that, every time a player takes longer than 5 seconds to make a move, their leftmost available piece is moved forward, would this new game lose its gamehood every time a player takes too long to pick a turn?

These are not decisions, these are unchangable movements determined by the game's rules. True decisions needs to be made (as I said) by a being (human or AI) independent on the game, having more free choices to pick from to influence flow of the game, and ability to make decisions.

Then that's a shallow distinction between the Sims and Life. You conceded above that the AI in the Sims is part of the game's rules more than it is a distinct "being". The rules of both games can therefore allow both games to run themselves so long as they're set up with an initial state. The rules in the Sims might provide for more randomness (i.e. it's harder to predict exactly whether your Sim will choose to go to bed or eat first, if their needs are roughly equal), or at least a more convincing illusion of such (since the AI can't actually exercise creativity, freedom of choice, or sentient judgment in any real capacity).

Those 'if' statements are 'decisions' in the essential sense; they evaluate criteria, and pick a course of action based on that. The Game of Life is simple enough that its set of rules is easily compartmentalizable, whereas the set of decisions that the Sims AI goes through is equivalent, but just more convoluted. Neither can make 'true' decisions.

There's also no "movement" in Life. Cells never move around on the matrix, each spot is simply either alive or dead, and life-or-death choices are made for individual cells based upon their surroundings.

One other odd point: why would the source of a game's input make any difference as to whether or not it's a game? A function is no less a function when it's run with numbers off the top of your head, or from a list, or from digitized analog noise.

Because that's simply what the word is used for? Aspects such as having a white color are present (even integral) in most white things, but why should they really be essential to the theoretical definition of 'a white thing' itself?

That's not a valid analogy, because 'whiteness' is the only required condition for something to 'be white.'
"Being coated in white paint" or "being white on the inside" are potential distinctions of white things, but not relevant criteria to put in the generalized definition of "a white thing."

"A game" can be most generally (and usefully) defined as "action undertaken within a system of rules," or some variant thereof. Anthropocentric concerns like "interactivity" are major aspects of most games, and almost all games that we can enjoy, but they should not be considered a necessary condition for the application of the term.

edit: Heh, I don't mean to belabor my points too much, but then I look back at what I've typed, and it's just a wall of text...

Share this post


Link to post

I'm probably with Ludwig on this one:

Wittgenstein said, in Philosophical Investigations, ss66-69:

66. Consider for example the proceedings that we call "games". I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? -- Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games' "-but look and see whether there is anything common to all. -- For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don't think, but look! -- Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost.-- Are they all 'amusing'? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared! sometimes similarities of detail. And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; can see how similarities crop up and disappear.

And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities.

67. I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than "family resemblances"; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way.-And I shall say: 'games' form a family.

69. How should we explain to someone what a game is? I imagine that we should describe games to him, and we might add: "This and similar things are called 'games' ". And do we know any more about it ourselves? Is it only other people whom we cannot tell exactly what a game is? -- But this is not ignorance. We do not know the boundaries because none have been drawn. To repeat, we can draw a boundary -- for a special purpose. Does it take that to make the concept usable? Not at all!

TL;DR: There's no single, specific mark or feature in terms of which all of the games are distinguished from the non-games, and in terms of which the term 'game' can be defined. In turn, there's no single, specific mark or feature, such that competency with concept of a game resides in the ability to recognise it.

Share this post


Link to post

I often wondered that myself when I ran out of coins at the arcades and was reduced to lurking other kids -with more money than me- playing ;-)

Share this post


Link to post
Maes said:

I often wondered that myself when I ran out of coins at the arcades and was reduced to lurking other kids -with more money than me- playing ;-)


I know this feeling all too well at the Q-Zar I use to go to when I was 10.

Share this post


Link to post

As much as Wittgenstein's work is a very worthwhile read (particularly for anyone interested in the philosophy of language), the excerpt above is one of the many places where I think his words fumble around unnecessarily and can cause people confusion, especially when taken without the surrounding context, and stretched beyond its application in his "meaning-is-use" concept. He's not seriously trying to say that the word "game" can't be defined in a way that would include all games. He's saying definitions do not play a primary role in social language.

Wittgenstein's (earlier) challenge to the reader to define the word "game", and his resulting thought experiment, serve to demonstrate that people can successfully use words without a mutually shared definition; even without an explicit definition at all. He's saying that a word's meaning arises from the social context that word is used within, and not simply from a definition (i.e. 'definitions' are the layer we retroactively slap on top of established meanings for different purposes, but they're not required for language itself to operate.)

Linguistically, we don't need to precisely define concepts to discuss them, since our brains can work with the hazy imprecise notions of meaning that are built up through the word's application itself. But as he argued, this holds true for all language, not just that one word.

Now, reading that quoted paragraph it's easy to get bogged down thinking about the differences between broad kinds of games, such as absence or presence of elements like skill, luck, victory, or amusement, and so on: all these examples are unnecessary criteria for a precise definition, as counter-example games can spring to mind for each one.

I do still think it is very possible to precisely define games by their one actual commonality: "a system of rules (or rules and states, if you consider the two distinct--I think of one as an extension of the other), within which action may occur". Whether rigid or flexible, implicit or explicit, known or unknown, active or passive, 'rules' and 'actions' are present in all games.

This isn't to say games should be thought of rigidly: recognizing and compartmentalizing the structure and complexity of their systems into comprehensible constructs is where normative judgment should be applied. The definition put forward is intentionally rather inclusive/permissive for this purpose. Interpretation about what makes different sorts of games function in different ways, or whether something's "gameness" is overridden by its other properties, and to whom, is where critical thinking is essential (i.e. a mentally deranged serial killer might see her own behaviour in a light comparable to playing a game, but it'd be both silly and uninteresting to widely describe such behaviour as a game in anything but the most contrived clinical sense.)

Wittgenstein's "family resemblence" analogy is another good illustration of how our intuitive understanding of words operates: when we see two people, and they share some common traits (e.g. eye color, body type, surname, facial features, mannerisms, etc.), then beyond a certain threshold, we notice the similarities and attribute it to "family resemblance." So it is with essentially all words, including "game". Failing to recognize two people as siblings doesn't mean they're necessarily unrelated, either, even if one is tall, slim, and pale, while the other is short, chubby, and olive-skinned. I'm not saying to do away with this powerful naturalistic comprehension of language, just that we can augment it with defined terms that capture what we're talking about in a way that still requires judgment and critical thinking, only in a less intellectually hazy fashion.

Share this post


Link to post

I guess being forced to watch many cutscenes is playing a game too. :P It's not like it's an interactive movie or anything.

Share this post


Link to post

I read this thread and had a thought.

If I put on Monopoly on my iPad and have the AI play as all 4 players, is it still a game?

Absolutely.

The ambiguity of what the word "game" can be applied to is making my head spin in this thread though. There doesn't seem to be any perfectly clear definition of what a game is, but why should your interaction determine if it is or is not? Regarding geo's original post about The Sims 4: does it stop being a game just because it can be run fully automated? If I develop a chess program that is simply two computers going against each other does that change whether it is still considered a game?

I'm less trying to get into the discussion of the actual "game" concept (as per Mithran Denizen and scifista42), more rather answering geo's question of "If the game can run itself does that still make it a game?". My answer is absolutely yes.

Share this post


Link to post

I thought this question has been answered in the early 80s and in the mid 90s with Laserdisc and FMV games. Many of them were at the very borderline of what you could call a game. In fact, some of them were meant to be played on a VCR. Not even quite "playing themselves", but they sure did play back exactly the same every time (minus degradation).

Share this post


Link to post
Kirby said:

I read this thread and had a thought.

If I put on Monopoly on my iPad and have the AI play as all 4 players, is it still a game?

Absolutely.

The ambiguity of what the word "game" can be applied to is making my head spin in this thread though. There doesn't seem to be any perfectly clear definition of what a game is, but why should your interaction determine if it is or is not? Regarding geo's original post about The Sims 4: does it stop being a game just because it can be run fully automated? If I develop a chess program that is simply two computers going against each other does that change whether it is still considered a game?

I'm less trying to get into the discussion of the actual "game" concept (as per Mithran Denizen and scifista42), more rather answering geo's question of "If the game can run itself does that still make it a game?". My answer is absolutely yes.

You know, I distinguish between a game played by an AI independent on the game's own rules; and a "game" (actually non-game) that powers itself without input and no input can meaningfully influence it. If someone built a chess set that literally played itself (and any input would just break the show), it wouldn't be a game. Chess played by 2 computers is. And Sims is too, because the player (or possibly an AI, but independent on the game's own logic) is able to input and influence the game.

Share this post


Link to post
Mithran Denizen said:

Too much to quote...


Nice response - I was using the extract somewhat blithely, and for the most part I don't disagree with your reading. Indeed, I take it that your point on the possibility of more refined and precise definitions is what Witters is getting at in the last few sentences on drawing boundaries (though I'm no Wittgenstein scholar, so take that with a pinch of salt).

I wonder, though, if your suggested definition might still be susceptible to the kind needling he undertakes here, though from the opposite direction, since - rather than being too exclusive - it would appear to be altogether too inclusive. For example, I think it would be stretching the notion of a game to say that motorists on the roads are all engaged in a game, but plausibly they're acting in accordance with rules - the American constitution is plausibly not a game, but it's certainly a system of rules (other such cases are easy to generate). The definition is no good if lots of things will fall under it which manifestly aren't games, since then it doesn't tell us what's distinctive about such systems qua games as opposed to non-games. Put another way: The problem is that, while plausibly it states a necessary condition on a game, it's clearly not a sufficient one, since plenty of things will satisfy it which aren't games, and so plausibly it doesn't really tell us what the essence of a game is, since it still leaves open what discriminates the systems which constitute games from the ones that don't.

Share this post


Link to post
scifista42 said:

If someone built a chess set that literally played itself (and any input would just break the show), it wouldn't be a game. Chess played by 2 computers is. And Sims is too, because the player (or possibly an AI, but independent on the game's own logic) is able to input and influence the game.


But why?

If a person decided to play Chess by themselves and accepted no outside input or info from any other entities does that change the fact that it's a game? Is Chess fundamentally termed a game because there are two people (entities) playing?

In another sense, isn't what you described with the AI something that people do every day? If a person decided to create their own game using their own rules and they play it by themselves without anyone else's input does that not make it a game?

For example, I create a game where I throw a tennis ball at a brick wall and try to catch it 10 times to win. I'm only playing it by myself, I'm the only one giving input and deciding the rules, and no one else is playing. Since I create the rules, I decide it's only a one person game and no one else can join in or tell me how to change it. Does this not constitute a game? Even more so, does replacing myself with an AI affect this situation in the first place?

Share this post


Link to post
durian said:

[Just enough to quote, if it weren't just a post or two above...]

Yeah, that's the thing about a word so widely applied across so many cultural contexts over such a long span of time, with so many potentially conflicting meanings; I'm not convinced that it's even possible to explicitly define both sufficient and necessary conditions which will encompass all hypothetical games and disqualify every hypothetical thing that isn't a game (especially not if we expect anyone to be able to agree!). To wit, almost anything that isn't thought of as a game in its normal context can become a game in a different context.

Firing a gun at a target is termed a matter of survival if the target is a bear trying to eat you and you have kids to feed. Firing a gun at a target is a clearly a sort of game if the targets are inanimate objects and you're participating in a winter biathlon. Replace the hungry charging bear with a locked box full of food that you're shooting open, and it's still not a game. Replace the inanimate targets on the ski range with live aggressive bears that charge at (even sometimes kill) the biathletes, and it still seems to be a game, albeit a twisted one.

Is there any special threshold between these two extremes that clearly dilineates the difference, so that each hypothetical target shooting scenario can be termed "game or not" without requiring sapient judgment, argument, or justification? I don't think so. But, of course, we don't need to have a 100% perfect definition to discuss these things in such a way, we just need to have a basic framework for thoughts about games within which meaningful discussion can be had.

For the record, your earlier post is basically spot-on in my opinion, and "competency with concept of a game resides in the ability to recognise it" is certainly something I'll agree with. That's why I didn't directly quote the post with my last response; it was less a response, and more an addition of context. I think people glossing over the thread without having read Wittgenstein's material, for example, would be robbed of a real sense of what he's talking about they had seen just that excerpt alone.

So yeah, what does or doesn't warrant distinction as "a game" is really a normative question, not an empirical one, based on specific judgments made for specific contexts. The "action under rules" definition is purely descriptive and intentionally as inclusive as possible, only meant to hone in on the shared commonality of games in the most basic way, as part of the framework for discussion of all their other qualities. For all the rambling I've done in this thread about games as action under rules, I don't endorse that as the be-all-end-all test of gameness.

It's from this perspective that I wholeheartedly endorse the position that Conway's Game of Life (or whatever hypothetical game 'X' is in contention) may be held to constitute, "not a game", perhaps for very good reasons. But a strong logically consistent argument to back such a statement seems required at that point.

Anyway, for a fun alternative (and quaintly dated) look at the notion of "game" that's more concerned with honing in on what makes games good, this old article is an interesting read:

http://www.costik.com/nowords.html

Sandy Petersen is among those credited by the author, so there's the coincidental Doom connection, too. =p It seems Costikyan was right in his prediction about the (re)socialization of electronic gaming:

Greg Costikyan said:

"One oddity of the present is that the most commercially successful games are all solitary in nature: cart games, disk-based computer games, CD- ROM games. Once upon a time, our image of gamers was some people sitting around a table and playing cards; now, it's a solitary adolescent, twitching a joystick before a flickering screen. [...] I have to believe that the solitary nature of most computer games is a temporary aberration, a consequence of the technology, and that as networks spread and their bandwidth increases, the historical norm will reassert itself."


Now, by the definitions established there, Conway's Game of Life would best be classed as something along the lines of "a puzzle," (rather than a game) for its lack of interaction, while the Sims 2, even played purely interactively (no AI to run the game without your input), would be termed "a toy," rather than a game, due to its lack of an inherent goal or victory condition.

This seems a little closer to the line of thought that scifista42 is coming from. The real expense of this sort of more elaborately rigid criteria for gamehood is that such a definition will naturally exclude some things that could arguably just be thought of as "simple games," or "crappy games." Not that the article is entirely consistent, itself; it seems to implicitly lump Conway's Game of Life in with go as two examples of purely abstract games, despite Life not really meeting his own criteria for such. Gah.

scifista42 said:

You know, I distinguish between a game played by an AI independent on the game's own rules; and a "game" (actually non-game) that powers itself without input and no input can meaningfully influence it.

If someone built a chess set that literally played itself (and any input would just break the show), it wouldn't be a game.

Chess played by 2 computers is. And Sims is too, because the player (or possibly an AI, but independent on the game's own logic) is able to input and influence the game.

Under those terms, the Sims sounds like it's essentially a non-game wrapper (the AI logic that takes your input, and provides its own in your absence) which runs a game (the simulation logic itself)? That's a complicated way of looking at it, and I just don't see this distinction as encouraging any novel thought or discussion that couldn't be had by considering the AI solely as pure mechanics, but rather inhibiting it.

With such an interactivity-based definition, simple games like Candy Land or War, will seem to be ruled out, as their play is fully predetermined by the initial state. The players cannot undertake any meaningful "interaction" that will influence the game, but "gameplay" still occurs in the expected sense of the term. These two games have plenty in common with interactive games like chess or solitaire, yet they also have much in common with playerless games like "autochess", or Conway's Life.

What really distinguishes a chessboard that automatically plays itself vs chess played automatically by an algorithm, anyway? If I set up the (extremely stupid) chess-playing algorithm I wrote (back in high school) so that it plays against itself (the same algorithm alternates between white and black), a game is occuring. But, if I hook it up to a robotic arm that moves the pieces on a physical board, it stops being a game?

Moreover, why does the Sims AI get that special distinction as a seperate player, rather than just being a part of the game (i.e. the mechanics) itself, like other AI? It's not fundamentally more complex or different from the logic that runs the actors in other types of games. The AI that runs the squads of replicant soldiers in F.E.A.R. is hardly a seperate player more than it is an aspect of the game mechanics. In fact, if the game logic in the Sims can be a player in its own right, why can't each cell in Conway's Game of Life be thought of as a seperate AI player, fighting to survive, just equipped with extremely limited logic? Each player/cell in Life has the ability to influence the rest of the players/cells around it, directly and indirectly, after all, and it is the interaction of cells that makes Life interesting in the first place.

There can be interaction almost purely within the confines of the game state (as opposed to between the game and yourself), like with Life, but on the other end of the spectrum, there are games like peekaboo (along with many guessing and conversational games), whose states are so simple that interactivity tends to play out in an almost purely external social manner, rather than in any way that exerts influence over the state of the game itself.

Yahtzee is a game, yet your only influence is limited to how you allocate the points you're assigned completely at random. If you had to allocate the points down the scorecard in order, why should it suddenly become not-a-game, rather than simply becoming a game of pure chance?

Share this post


Link to post

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
×