The question as to what a game is raises itself again and again as developers push the boundaries of the medium. Some people think that games are art, others consider them a form of sport or puzzle and there are those who see them as a separate category from other entertainment like film and books.
A game is a form of entertainment that involves competition, rules and interaction. It may also serve as a learning tool or a simulation of a real-life situation. It is typically undertaken for enjoyment or for monetary gain, though many games also provide other forms of stimulation such as mental or physical challenge.
A wide variety of games exist, from the simplest table tennis or jigsaw puzzle to complex, interactive video games that allow the player to inhabit an alternate fictional world and control the behaviour of their avatar. Games are often regarded as having a higher level of interactivity than other forms of entertainment such as films, TV and books, which do not require the participant to interact directly with them in order to receive their entertainment value.
The first commercial video games were simple simulations such as Pong. As processing power increased, new genres of games were developed that involved the player directing their avatar to complete a specific task in an artificial world. Many of these games include an extensive and rich background story that is intended to draw the player into the game world and make them feel as if they are actually in it with their choices and actions having a direct effect on the game world and its inhabitants.
Some games require a high level of skill and/or luck to win, while others are purely entertaining and provide an outlet for the frustrations of daily life. Games can be used to explore a number of issues and problems that are common in society, such as crime, war and addiction. They can also be used as an educational tool, to develop practical skills and to help people overcome psychological difficulties.
Whether a game is considered to be a form of art, entertainment or work depends on the goals of the creator and the extent to which it engages with the participants. It is generally considered to be art if it is created for its own beauty and entertainment if it is intended to bring pleasure or amusement. In contrast, work is considered to be work if it is undertaken for financial gain or as part of a profession. Despite their varied definitions, all games are designed to engage with players and provide them with a sense of accomplishment and achievement. It is for this reason that play time positively predicts subjective well-being, irrespective of whether the game is enjoyable or not. In addition, play time is positively predicted by experiences of autonomy, competence and relatedness. This is in line with the theory that individuals are more likely to enjoy games if they have control over how they play them.