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Bart Stewart
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Chris, you've already gotten the good answers, so allow me to suggest a naive response. It's this: it feels as though you might be playing a bit of a game with the phrasing of your question itself, in two ways, and these combine with how you're making your argument to produce an unnecessary conclusion. Specifically: 1. You're answering your question as though it was being stated as "Are games made entirely of rules?" 2. You discuss "games" as though this is synonymous with examples of individual games, but "games" and "a game" are significantly different in the context of your question. 3. There's an elision of important differences going on in your argument between the nature of a game meant to be played by people sitting in a room together with the human rulesmaster and a game meant to be played by strangers separated in time and space from each other and from a potentially non-human rulesmaster. (Please note that while the wording of these objections may sound like I'm accusing you of deliberately using some rhetorical tricks to try to make your conclusion look stronger, I am not saying or implying any such thing. It's just a little easier to summarize my objections this way.) 1. To the first objection: it seems to me that once you see the two phrasings of your question, one with the word "entirely" and one without, the reasonable answers break down into two trivial cases. "No, games are not made 'entirely' of rules because humans supply the random element required for play to exist. But games (as generally understood) do include rules of play as a required feature for comprehensible interaction with a product intended to entertain, so in that sense, games are made of rules." In other words, if the assertion "games are made of rules" is said to mean that games include rules, that games are composed of multiple components of which one is a set of rules of play, then yes, that's a reasonable assertion. But if "games are made of rules" is meant to imply "games are made entirely of rules," then no, they aren't. There's no contradiction between these statements, and in particular no need to treat the first statement as inaccurate. 2. To the second objection (which is going to blend into the third in a moment), your question refers to "games" in the plural, and your argument points out (correctly, I think) that games as an ecosystem for playing certainly do seem to include components that aren't just about dictating how to play. But an ecosystem for play is certainly not the same thing as a game, which is the direct experience that will be had by most persons engaging in structured play. This moves the first objection, which is about about essential quality (entirely vs not-entirely), into the realm of quantity: whether the percentage comprised by rules of "games" is, by some amount, relatively less than the percentage by which "a game" consists of rules. So now I'm arguing that maybe a sufficient difference in quantity -- how much "a game" is made of rules versus how much "games" are made of rules -- achieves a real difference in quality. "Games" may not be "made of rules" (meaning that the amount of rules comprising the ecosystem supporting play is perhaps 50% or less), but "a game," for most individual games, can perhaps fairly be said to be "made of rules" in that formal rules comprise a good majority of the stuff that defines that particular game. You may not consider this a strong argument against your conclusion. But I wonder whether considering this argument -- being clear about whether your assertion refers to "games" or "a game" -- might help to strengthen your argument. If your goal is to argue that any randomly-selected individual game is mostly not made of rules, I think that's going to be much the harder (and more interesting) sell. 3. The third objection puts us fully into the realm of quantity: how much rule-ness is required to be able to reasonably say that an individual game is "made of" rules? Your arguments use D&D (more generally, pre-video tabletop games) as an example, and that's fair; it's a game, but it has a large quantity of input supplied on the spot from human players. But you then use D&D as a template for judging other games, and because they also have human input you conclude that all games are like D&D (because all games have human input) and thus all games, like D&D, are mostly not "made of" rules. The problem with this is that all games are not like D&D. And I think it's unobjectionable to opine that the vast majority of computer games, including CRPGs, are more unlike D&D than like it. As I suggested at the top, there's a big difference between a game played with other players and the rulesmaster right there in the room with you and a game played with computer-mediated avatars of strangers in other places and times with a distant computer program managing application of the rules of play. Humans in a room together can make up a lot of things as they go. But to deliver the required perception of fairness (which I know is a whole other subject of interest to you), a game must be defined as composed mostly of rules that are stable, that are enforced equitably for all players, and that can be applied automatically by a computer program. (See "code is law.") The farther you go from humans-in-a-room to MMORPG, the more that individual game is indeed "made of rules," because it has to be in order to achieve its intended function. The more that players are separated and unable to agree on rules ad hoc, the more the rules must be codified and enforced as written... and thus the greater percentage of "the game" is constituted by the rules. So what I wind up with from all this is that while no game is made entirely of rules, some games are necessarily so strongly composed of well-defined rules, versus on-the-spot random inputs, that a reasonable person can be considered correct in asserting that such games are "made of rules." I further suspect that it's acceptable to think that most games are made mostly of rules as a requirement for recognizability. I love Minecraft's emergent outcomes probably more than most gamers. But I can still think it's made mostly of rules or else it wouldn't be recognizable as Minecraft. I don't know if you'll find any of this persuasive, but I hope it was at least entertaining. ;)
Toggle Commented Sep 26, 2017 on Are Videogames Made of Rules? at ihobo
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Maximizing participation (to leverage knowledge and analysis) is hard; maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio is hard; designing a system that does both of these is really hard. :) The idea of a SIN sounds feasible in principle. It's essentially defining a process for building a generally acceptable model explaining how reality works. We each do this in our heads (some of us more than others); a SIN takes that internal, individual world-model and externalizes it so that it's no longer individual but social. Wikipedia tries this, but suffers from the problem you described of reducing reality to "one Truth" (as defined by the clique of approved editors). StackExchange's mechanics seem to work more effectively, but its problems are narrower and it also has the "accepted answer" philosophy. Actually, what you're describing reminds me a bit of the World Game idea described by Buckminster Fuller. In a way, that was also meant to be a model of reality, though it was even more expert-dependent (and thus subject to confirmation biases) than Wikipedia/StackExchange. It's an interesting take on this question, though. But it all comes back, I think, to the difficulty of maximizing both participation (so that it structurally prevents any one voice from controlling the model) while also maximizing knowledge over arguments. The more people in a conversation, the nearer the likelihood approaches 100% that one participant will declare the other categorically wrong. Even if everyone stays calm, how are such normal desires to exclude "wrongthink" to be addressed? And what if -- as usual -- emotionalism and personalization and the ever-popular "I will mock you and/or shriek at you if you dare to defy the least of my pronouncements" attitude show up, as they always do in any social network of any useful size? The idea of the VSN speaks to that. Keeping group sizes low so that people recognize each other as human beings can minimize the noise level. I believe this is why MUDs consisting of a few people who know each other are almost always nicer places to be than a MMORPG filled with anonymous masses with no structural encouragement toward respectful interaction. But again: while keeping the numbers low improves S/N, it diminishes the diversity of perspectives on any question. As I said: it's a hard problem. But "hard" doesn't mean "impossible." The SIN/VSN ideas here are a step toward some kind of working solution. I hope they find some traction.
Toggle Commented Oct 14, 2014 on A Social Intelligence Network at Only a Game
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Chris, I actually started with the iHobo site in 2007, probably after exchanges at Terra Nova. On Richard Bartle's recommendation, in 2009 I picked up your book _21st-Century Game Design_. Among other things, I found your DGD1 model of play styles so interesting that I rudely wedged it into what I called a "unified model" of fundamental styles of play ( While not terribly active, I've been visiting your site since then. G+ is just the latest gateway. :)
Toggle Commented Jun 10, 2014 on The Meta-Campaign at Only a Game
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Another long-time reader checking in! I came for the DGD1 model of play styles, and stayed for the deeper explorations of "why we play." :)
Toggle Commented Jun 9, 2014 on The Meta-Campaign at Only a Game
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