A game is any structured activity undertaken for entertainment or play, though some games also have a more practical, educational, simulational, or psychological function. The activities a game involves can be physical or mental, and it is possible for them to combine both. The term can be applied to many forms of human play, from impromptu tug of war between friends to complex simulated military operations. The games that are played on consumer electronic devices are generally called video games or computer games. The term can also be used to refer to any activity that is part of a larger gaming culture, such as competitive sports or board games.

A useful game definition should make it clear what is and isn’t a game, and it should take into account previous work in the field (e.g. Bogost 2009). It should also be clearly understood how a definition is to be used, as there are pitfalls that can occur when trying to define games. For example, it is easy to make a prescriptive definition of games (what they should be, for all eternity) instead of an objective description that describes what they actually are at the moment. Our limited horizons rule out such an ideal, but we can still produce a useful description of what games are by taking into account their current state and how they are evolving.

It is common for people to define a video game in terms of the features it has, such as graphics and sound effects. But there are many other factors that determine whether a game is considered to be a video game. For example, some researchers have argued that the nature of the interaction between the player and the game system is one of the defining characteristics. Other aspects that are considered to be essential include the rules of the game and the player’s ability to influence the course of the game by his or her actions.

Another important consideration when making a game definition is how the activity exists in relation to the quotidian. For example, how do games exist within the context of professional sport, where the participants are paid for their performance? How do games relate to art (such as jigsaw puzzles or mahjong), and how do they compare to traditional recreational activities, such as a walk in the park or reading a book?

Finally, it is important to remember that a game is a medium and that the rules and structure of the game can be translated into other media. This is why it is often difficult to say what a video game is because there are so many different ways in which they can be played. Similarly, a tug of war can be seen as a game or not depending on how it is organised and whether it is being played for the thrill of winning or to win money. This is a key point that distinguishes the game as something that is distinct from other types of play, such as a spectator sport.