Game is a word we associate with contests, pastimes and entertainment. It is used to describe activities like football, Monopoly, chess or Ms Pacman that have winners and losers, and can be played for pleasure or for millions of dollars. It can also refer to a wild animal hunted for sport or for use as food. It can also mean something else entirely, a way of referring to loopholes in a system or bureaucracy, for example “We’ll bury them under paperwork and game the system” (Bergonse 2017).

The meaning of the term changes depending on context. For example, a game can be a real or imaginary world, and the rules of a game can differ between these two. Games can also be interactive or non-interactive, and the interaction may be mediated by an environment or a computer. There is no single medium that defines a game, but there are some recognizable elements such as tokens, rules and a goal.

Many games are designed to be as immersive and engaging as possible, with a range of different environments to play in. This can be as simple as a board, or as complex as a virtual reality simulation. A game can also be a physical activity, with many modern video games encouraging movement and involving physical interaction with the player.

Some games have a clear purpose, such as teaching a specific skill, or can be used to express an emotional or psychological state. Other games are purely entertaining and provide a way to relieve stress or boredom. They can even be useful in a therapeutic context, by helping to develop concentration and self-control. They can be a tool to encourage social connection and engagement, as well as helping people with anxiety or depression.

To make a game, developers must first design the rules and set of tools that define the overall context. They then create assets, such as characters, objects, and environments. They also write and record audio for the game, which can involve foley artists for sound effects, voice actors for character voices and musical compositions for soundtracks. During development, the game is known as an alpha or beta until it is finalized and published.

While it is tempting to try and come up with a universal definition of a game, this is often impractical. Useful definitions are those that fit the context and take into account previous work in the field. This is particularly true when it comes to game design, where the process of creating a new game involves iterative refinement and improvement based on the experiences of players.