The word game has a variety of meanings, including playfulness (as in hide-and-seek) and competitiveness (as in association football). It can also refer to an activity that requires skill, learning or entertainment. In the context of digital games, it can be used to refer to either an interactive experience or a virtual simulation. The term can also be applied to a piece of creative expression (art) or to a form of entertainment that is not interactive, such as movies or books. Finally, it can refer to an immersive and engaging digital experience that is based on a fictional narrative.
The idea of game is an omnipresent part of human culture, and it has been adapted for a number of purposes throughout history. It is therefore important to understand how this concept relates to other concepts and terms in order to properly use it.
A key element of a game is its interactivity. This interactivity may be defined by the actions of players or by the rules of a game. It can also be defined by the environment. For example, a board game may require specific tokens to represent other items in the game (such as chess pawns), or it could be based on an idiosyncratic system of play (like playing cards) that is confined to a particular region. Even an impromptu game of tug-of-war or a car race can be very different depending on the location and course.
These features of a game make it an ideal medium for exploration and experimentation. Many digital games, such as role-playing and social media, have been conceived as experiments in the way that they can influence player behaviour or encourage positive outcomes. While some of these experiments have been successful, others have not. A significant problem with many digital games is that it is difficult to get access to the data necessary to study their impact. The lack of openness and transparency has been a major obstacle to efforts to study the effects of these games on well-being.
While much work has been done on the various aspects of the definition of game, there has been less attention to how someone can be considered to be a part of a game. This article will look at this question by introducing a new taxonomy of the ways that people can be part of a game.
The author wishes to thank the reviewers for their comments. This paper is partly supported by the Academy of Finland grant No 312397. It also receives support from the University of Jyvaskyla and is published open access under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. This publication is dedicated to the memory of Professor Jaakko Karhulahti. This article is part of the ITU Working Paper series and a special issue on Gaming and Wellbeing, which can be found here. For more information about the series and future issues, please contact the Editor-in-Chief, Mary Bell. To subscribe to the Working Papers newsletter, please click here.