Post news RSS Games: Goals, Rules, Tools, and Frustration

What are Games? This article puts forth several categories that could be utilized for analyzing game-systems and the dialectic between player and game.

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The theme of this article began with the thought, "What is one of the underlying characteristics that unifies such games as Tetris, Chess, Super Mario, and God of War?". Reflection upon these disparate games led to the following conclusions. My argument is therefore thus stated: When approaching any game, the player asks a prime question: "What is the goal?" in tandem with another "How can I obtain this goal" which leads him to discover the rules of play. Thus from the outset there is both a search for the rules or boundaries of allowable action and a search for a definable goal which will be achieved through action within the boundaries of the rules themselves. In Tetris the goal is identified as linking a solid row of blocks (or multiple rows) horizontally across the screen, while the rules are the ability to two-dimensionally rotate a set of variously shaped blocks. However, the interest and lack of frustration in Tetris arises from the fact that the goal is clearly defined (i.e. not ambiguous), the rules allow one to achieve the goal, and the tools available (i.e. the blocks) are shaped in such a manner that the achievement of this goal is possible. Player-Frustration, I assert, is the inability to achieve a goal in a game, not because of Player inability but because the toolset available and/or the rules themselves disallow or at least hinder the attainment of the in-game goal.
Moving to Chess, we see the same phenomenon. A clear goal is set, namely, to win and that the attainment of this goal is only possible through the slaying of the opponents king-piece. The realm of possible maneuvers is defined by the 8x8 playing field and move-attributes of each piece. Thus both Tetris and Chess have one defineable goal, for the first it is either the racking in of points to a level succeding that of previous records, and in the latter it is winning by virtue of killing the opponents king (or forcing him into a checkmate). Both of these games could be said to have a one-goal structure. However, when turning to Mario and God of War, we see games that have a hierarchical nature in goal structuring. Mario and GOW have levels, many levels are divided into "parts" and each part has a particular defineable goal usually termed puzzle which one must solve, if one wishes to obtain the overarching goal of the game, one must first overcome these intermittant stages. However, what rules or theories of game design can we obtain from this brief analysis? I would assert the following:
1) Goal(s) and Rules must be clearly defined.
2) The tools available to the player must be adequate for the attainment of the established Goal(s), such that any failure in acquiring the ultimate goal cannot be attributed to the game field itself but that the player must rationally feel that his failure was an inadequacy on his own part.
Critiques and Ideas pertaining to this topic are more than welcome, since the purpose of this group is to work towards a set of criteria and philosophy for understanding games so that we may be able to better construct game experiences for players.


Very interresting I do think that overcoming challenges is what makes a game a good game also having goals that are/seem hard/if not impossible are important when gaming, god now I am so happy I am top English student of my class haha for ppl who don't know I am Dutch not English hehe..

I would like to add though that overcomming challenges and having hard/impossible seeming goals is for the 'Hardcore gamer'.
A 'Softcore gamer (casual?)' might prefer having a good time for 30 minutes then to spend several hours overcomming a challenge ;)

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i agree.not everyone is willing to put a couple of hours on a single challenge but that is the commercial aspect of the game or better yet the group of people u want to play your game.

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