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"The unavoidable conclusion is, unless we take a very narrow view of what counts as a ‘game’ (and many do just this...), we must concede that games are not made of rules." Agreed 100%, I obsessed over this problem during grad school, it leading first to a blog entry about it in 2011 (, a DiGRA 2013 paper and presentation (, and then last year was one of the 2 main topics I presented on as an outside speaker visiting USC's Interactive Media and Games program ( - first half was pinball, related research but skipped in the time of the link since not quite as directly on topic). One of the ways I found framing it helped some people to get the message in a way that felt less to them like arguing semantics (which at first was their main defense as "this is irrelevant, because who cares how we use words") was that rules in non-digital games work more like laws of government (must be known to be followed, is enforced within fuzzy limitations of human observer's judgment, can be violated by accident or intention), whereas what people sometimes call rules in digital games work more like laws of nature (don't need to be explicitly known to the player to be kept within, can apply at precision and quantity well beyond human observer's limitations, cannot be violated* by accident or intention). The * after note of whether a rule can be violated is since of course there are various things we can do with or to videogames which we casually refer to as cheating, but only those are the "rules" of digital games that share the properties of rules of non-digital games. They are essentially the same rules for virtually all digital games, and are the type of thing we would consider when evaluating whether to allow a high score in the record books or for someone to receive acknowledgement in a live tournament: only use standard input devices, do not physically alter the hardware, someone else isn't playing on someone else's behalf, players are not physically interrupting one another outside of the game, software is used in its official and unmodified released condition or if modded then in the same known and approved way by all involved, etc.
Toggle Commented Sep 21, 2017 on Are Videogames Made of Rules? at ihobo
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Sep 21, 2017