Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Personal Definitions of the Word “Game”

How would you define the word game? It seems like such a simple word. I was sure I knew how I would define it: in my academic speech, “A game is a semi-bounded and socially legitimate domain of contrived contingency that generates interpretable outcomes.” Actually that’s Thomas Malaby’s definition (Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games, in Games and Culture April 2007 vol. 2no. 2 95-113) but I like it. In my every day speech I would say a game is any semi-bound activity or product that serves no direct productive function other than socializing or diversion. On a personal level I would call both of these definitions working definitions, but they served as a basis from which I could communicate with others, so they were useful…

Until they weren’t.

I had a “lost in translation” moment. The connotative meaning of the word game had changed in my every-day lexicon without me even realizing it. It wasn’t until I “misused” the word (“misused” if I was going by my former definitions) that I realized the change occurred. All this after struggling through understanding Taiwanese variants of this very idea, and I come home and suddenly I begin to question my own conceptualization of games. How did this happen?