A game is a structured or semi-structured activity, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes also used as an educational tool. (The term "game" is also used to describe simulation of various activities e.g., for the purposes of training, analysis or prediction, etc., see "Game (simulation)".) Games are generally distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more concerned with the expression of ideas. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games may also be considered work and/or art. Key components of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interactivity. Games generally involve mental or physical stimulation, and often both. Many games help develop practical skills, serve as a form of exercise, or otherwise perform an educational, simulational or psychological role.
Known to have been played as far back as prehistoric times, games are a universal part of human experience and present in all cultures.
Ludwig Wittgenstein was probably the first academic philosopher to address the definition of the word game. In his Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein demonstrated that the elements of games, such as play, rules, and competition, all fail to adequately define what games are. He subsequently argued that the concept "game" could not be contained by any single definition, but that games must be looked at as a series of definitions that share a "family resemblance" to one another.
French sociologist Roger Caillois, in his book Les jeux et les hommes (Games and Men)Caillois, Roger (1957). Les jeux et les hommes. Gallimard. , defined a game as an activity that must have the following characteristics:
Computer game designer Chris Crawford attempted to define the term game using a series of dichotomies:
Crawford's definition may thus be rendered as: an interactive, goal-oriented activity, active agents to play against, which any player (including active agents) could interfere one another, and which is designed to make money for the creator.
Crawford also notes (ibid.) several other definitions:
Games can be characterized by "what the player does. This is often referred to as gameplay, a term that arose among computer game designers in the 1980s but as of 2007 is starting to see use in reference to games of other forms. Major key elements identified in this context are tools and rules which define the overall context of game and which in turn produce skill, strategy, and chance.
Games are often classified by the components required to play them (e.g. a ball, cards, a board and pieces or a computer). In places where the use of leather is well established, the ball has been a popular game piece throughout recorded history, resulting in a worldwide popularity of ball games such as rugby, basketball, football, cricket, tennis and volleyball. Other tools are more idiosyncratic to a certain region. Many countries in Europe, for instance, have unique standard decks of playing cards. Other games such as chess may be traced primarily through the development and evolution of its game pieces.
Many game tools are tokens, meant to represent other things. A token may be a pawn on a board, play money, or an intangible item such as a point scored.
Games such as hide-and-seek or tag do not utilise any obvious tool. Rather its interactivity is defined by the environment. Games with the same or similar rules may have different gameplay if the environment is altered. For example, hide-and-seek in a school building differs from the same game in a park; an auto race can be radically different depending on the track or street course, even with the same cars.
Whereas games are often characterized by their tools, they are often defined by their rules. While rules are subject to variations and changes, enough change in the rules usually results in a "new" game. For instance, baseball can be played with "real" baseballs or with whiffleballs. However, if the players decide to play with only three bases, they are arguably playing a different game.
Rules generally determine turn order, the rights and responsibilities of the players, and each player’s goals. Player rights may include when they may spend resources or move tokens. Common win conditions are being first to amass a certain quota of points or tokens (as in Settlers of Catan), having the greatest number of tokens at the end of the game (as in Monopoly), or some relationship of one’s game tokens to those of one’s opponent (as in chess's checkmate).
A game’s tools and rules will result in its requiring skill, strategy, chance or a combination thereof, and are classified accordingly.
Games of skill include games of physical skill, such as wrestling, tug of war, hopscotch, target shooting, and stake and games of mental skill such as checkers and chess. Games of strategy include checkers, chess, go, arimaa, and tic-tac-toe, and often require special equipment to play them. Games of chance include gambling games (blackjack, mah jong, roulette etc.), as well as snakes and ladders and rock, paper, scissors; most require equipment such as cards or dice. However, most games contain two or all three of these elements. For example, American football and baseball involve both physical skill and strategy while poker and Monopoly combine strategy and chance.
Most games require multiple players. However, Single-player games are unique in respect to the type of challenges a player faces. Unlike a game with multiple players competing with or against each other to reach the game's goal, a one-player game is a battle solely against an element of the environment (an artificial opponent), against one's own skills, against time or against chance. Playing with a yo-yo or playing tennis against a wall is not generally recognised as playing a game due to the lack of any formidable opposition. This is not true, though, for a single-player computer game where the computer provides opposition.
Sports are arguably the most popular type of game. Many sports require special equipment and dedicated playing fields, leading to the involvement of a community much larger than the group of players. A city or town may set aside such resources for the organisation of sports leagues.
Popular sports may have spectators who are entertained just by watching games. A community will often align itself with a local sports team that supposedly represents it (even if the team or most of its players only recently moved in); they often align themselves against their opponents or have traditional rivalries. The concept of fandom began with sports fans.
Stanley Fish cited the balls and strikes of baseball as a clear example of social construction, the operation of rules on the game's tools. While the strike zone target is governed by the rules of the game, it epitomizes the category of things that exist only because people have agreed to treat them as real. No pitch is a ball or a strike until it has been labeled as such by an appropriate authority, the plate umpire, whose judgment on this matter cannot be challenged within the current game.
Certain competitive sports, such as racing and gymnastics, are not games by definitions such as Crawford's (see above, despite the inclusion of many in the Olympic Games) because competitors do not interact with their opponents, they simply challenge each other in indirective ways.
Lawn games are outdoor games that can be played on a lawn. Many games that are traditionally played on a pitch are marketed as "lawn games" for home use in a front or back yard. Common lawn games include Horseshoes, Croquet, Bocce and Stake.
Board games use as a central tool a board on which the players' status, resources, and progress are tracked using physical tokens. Many also involve dice and/or cards. Most games that simulate war are board games, and the board may be a map on which the players' tokens move. Some games, such as chess and go, are entirely deterministic, relying only on the strategy element for their interest. Children's games, on the other hand, tend to be very luck-based, with games such as Candy Land having virtually no decisions to be made. Trivia games have a great deal of randomness based on the questions a person gets. German-style board games are notable for often having rather less of a luck factor than many board games.
Card games use as a central tool a deck of cards. The cards may be a standard Anglo-American (52-card) deck of playing cards (such as Go Fish or Crazy Eights, or a deck specific to the individual game (such as Set). Uno and Rook are examples of games that were originally played with a standard deck and have since been commercialized with customized decks. Some collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering are played with a small selection of cards which have been collected or purchased individually from large available sets.
Video games are computer- or microprocessor-controlled games. Computers can create virtual tools to be used in a game, such as cards or dice, or far more elaborate worlds where mundane or fantastic things can be manipulated through gameplay.
A computer or video game uses one or more input devices, typically a button/joystick combination (on arcade games); a keyboard, mouse and/or trackball (computer games); or a controller or a motion sensitive tool. (console games). More esoteric devices such as paddle controllers have also been used for input. In computer games, the evolution of user interfaces from simple keyboard to mouse, joystick or joypad has profoundly changed the nature of game development.
In more open-ended computer simulations, aka sandbox-style games, notably those designed by Will Wright, the player may be free to do whatever they like within the confines of the virtual universe. Due to the lack of goals or opposition, it is disputed whether these programs are games or toys.
Online games are played using an Internet connection; some have dedicated client programs, while others require only a Web browser. Some simpler browser games appeal to demographic groups (notably women and the middle-aged) that otherwise play very few video games.
Role-playing games, often abbreviated as RPGs, are a type of game in which the participants (usually) assume the roles of characters acting in a fictional setting. The original role playing games—or at least those explicitly marketed as such—are played with a handful of participants, usually face-to-face, and keep track of the developing fiction with pen and paper. Together, the players may collaborate on a story involving those characters; create, develop, and "explore" the setting; or vicariously experience an adventure outside the bounds of everyday life. Pen-and-paper role-playing games include, for example, Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS. Modern independent RPGs, however, often blur the line between the more traditional idea of the RPG and other traditional genres, or border on story-telling.
The term role-playing game has also been appropriated by the video game industry to describe a genre of video games. These may be single-player games where one player experiences a programmed environment and story, or they may allow players to interact through the internet. The experience is usually quite different than traditional role-playing games. Single-player games include Final Fantasy, Fable: The Lost Chapters, and The Elder Scrolls. Online multi-player games, often referred to as Massively Multiplayer Online role playing games, or MMORPGs, include RuneScape, EverQuest 2, Guild Wars, and Anarchy Online. Currently, the most successful MMO has been World of Warcraft, which controls the vast majority of the market.
A DVD game is a stand alone game that can be played with a DVD player and a remote control. The game takes advantage of technology built into the DVD format to create an interactive gaming environment compatible with most DVD players without requiring additional hardware. The games tend to sell for between $20 and $50 in the United States, and by the end of 2007, are predicted to have generated $1 billion in retail sales across the globe. 
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