A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome often eliciting an emotional reaction. This definition is widely accepted by people who research, write and make games. However, there is also a long tradition of people trying to define the word game in a way that either excludes things that are clearly games (and makes the definition too narrow), or accepts things that are clearly not games (and thus renders it too broad).

When it comes to design, most designers will focus on making the type of game they would like to play. This is a good starting point, but it’s important to understand the wider market for your game so that you can find out which appeal factors are most likely to be shared by your audience. The best way to do this is by studying the success of existing games within your genre. What are the key features of these games that seem to be most effective?

The most fundamental element of a game is that it has a set of rules. These rules dictate time-keeping systems, player rights and responsibilities, scoring techniques, preset boundaries and each player’s goals. While the rules of a game can be modified by players, this will usually create a new game, rather than simply changing one aspect of an existing game. A game may also be characterized by its tools and how these are used. For example, a baseball can be played with real or wiffle balls, but a change in rules will almost always result in a new game being created.

Games can also be characterized by their narratives. These can be as simple as a storyline told through the actions of characters, or as complex as an entire fictional world with its own history and culture. A storyline can be a powerful tool for establishing a sense of immersion in a game, and it can also be an important element in influencing the emotions that are experienced when playing a game.

Another important aspect of a game is the feedback that is provided to players. This can be a combination of the aforementioned feedback loops, or it can also include more abstract forms of feedback, such as the feelings that are evoked when players fail to meet their goals.

One of the most challenging aspects of defining a game is measuring player behaviour during gameplay. While there have been attempts to use a variety of methods for measuring the duration and intensity of gameplay, most studies to date have relied on self-reports. This approach is problematic for a number of reasons, but it is particularly troublesome when researching video game effects on well-being. For this reason, there is a pressing need for games companies to provide independent scientists with anonymized high-level player data. This will allow researchers to accurately measure the true level of engagement and help them resolve the inconsistencies that are currently present in the literature on video game use and well-being.