Games are fun, and they often have a sense of purpose or challenge. They can be simple, such as playing football or Monopoly, or complex and intense, like professional basketball or a video game. Some have clear winners and losers; others do not. Some are played for a few dollars, while others are played for millions of dollars. Some are social, such as Monopoly or poker, and others are solo activities such as chess or juggling.

A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict defined by rules and resulting in a quantifiable outcome. This definition is useful for designers, as it allows them to understand the nature of a game without either leaving things out that are obviously games (which would make the definition too narrow) or incorporating elements that are not games into their work, which can make the term meaningless (the definition becomes too broad).

The word game has several synonyms: sport, contest, play, entertainment, or even war. Sports are games, and they can be incredibly competitive, with athletes putting their bodies on the line for the sake of winning. A chess match is also considered a game, and it can be won or lost by skill and luck. A game can be as small as a board of Connect Four or as large as a multiplayer online video game. Some games are simple, while others involve complex scenarios and multiple characters.

Using the term game in this way can be controversial, especially when used to describe something non-interactive. Some researchers have argued that a piece of art is not a game if it is created for its own beauty, or a form of entertainment is not a game if it is not interactive. This is a major point of contention in studies that have attempted to link objective measures of game time and well-being, as it is important that these measurements are accurate and comparable.

Another aspect of the game is that it requires a certain level of skill or strategy, which distinguishes it from other forms of entertainment. This is a key reason why games are seen as having potential educational applications, as they can encourage positive behaviours such as problem-solving and teamwork.

Increasingly, educational games are being used to teach computer skills, such as keyboard and mouse control or how to use the internet. These are often referred to as “soft” or “employability” games, and they can help to develop key competencies such as critical thinking, communication, teamwork, creativity and digital literacy. The use of games to teach is referred to as gamification, and it has been shown to be effective in encouraging engagement and motivation. In addition, there is evidence that it can lead to positive psychological outcomes such as increased autonomy, competence and relatedness. These benefits can be seen in both the classroom and the workplace. In the future, these advantages may be extended to the treatment of psychiatric disorders.