The Meaning of Videogames for Video Game Studies

A game is essentially a structured type of interactive play, normally undertaken for fun or entertainment, and at times also used as an educational instrument. Unlike work, which is typically carried out for remuneration, games are usually an expression of personal or artistic ideals. The word ‘game’ comes from the Greek gameos, meaning ‘game.’ In most cultures around the world today, games are the primary means of entertainment for people of all ages. While in modern society most games are trivial and only intended for children, there are a few exceptions such as the well-known Tetris, that are played on major computer networks and have a significant influence on the social development of young people.


With the proliferation of Internet games, it has become necessary to define the concept of the term. While many authors and commentators, in an effort to simplify the concept, have sought to redefine the term, newer definitions take advantage of the richness of the human endeavor to provide a new definition of the term. New exponents of the new definition argue that games are an interactive set of practices that provide an interface for people to interact and exchange information. New definitions also point out that games have important sociological, psychological, technological and other implications. This article provides an introduction to some of the more interesting arguments concerning the nature of games and what these arguments can mean for games studies.

One way to think about the nature of games is to imagine a classroom where students were asked to solve problems using only buttons and switches on their computers. It would be a very boring environment, with no novelty or engagement from different age groups. Likewise, games that involve using imagination, critical thinking and problem solving skills are also boring. In a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, Frank Kern suggested that we need to redefine what “fun” is: “fun is the chance to do something unexpected, something difficult, a long shot, something that might not be tried by anyone else.” In contrast, Kern believes that playing games like the Zombie Bowl-O-Rama game and Extreme Sandwich Crusher is fun because it challenges all of the abilities and talents of participants.

Games, according to some experts, can help people think, reason and learn. The most common definition of a board game involves at least two or more players, each controlling a group of objects on a particular grid, with objective markers positioned along the edges of the board. Board games are also classified according to the number of sets (if there are more than one player) or sets (if there are more than three players). The next step is to define the game definition by adding in the various features of the board, such as pieces that move, or other aspects of play. The three most important features of board games are luck, skill and pattern.

One of the biggest problems facing game scholars is determining which prior definition of a game is the best. In many cases, they agree that a board game can be categorized according to at least three definitions, but they disagree on which prior definition(s) are the most important. Some scholars argue that luck is the only defining feature, while others prefer to include patterns in their definitions. Proponents of strict definition over flexibility argue that skill and pattern are more important than luck in defining games.

While the issue is yet to be settled between those who favor strict definitions over those who favor flexibility, there is agreement that the problem is an ongoing one. Some sources suggest that the issue will never be completely resolved, especially given the increasing complexity of games. As technology and new methods of production make it possible for greater creativity, more games will find their way into the cultural landscape. Even with the uncertainty of game studies’ definition, videogames have proven themselves resilient and continue to grow in popularity. Video games, according to scholars, offer a unique perspective on the human experience, allowing them to provide insight into human behavior that cannot be found anywhere else.