Games: The Artificial Construct
December 7, 2011 | Follow comments
Games. What are they? Are they a set of rules imposed on a player? Is there a goal that a player must acquire in order to win? What counts as losing a game? There are many definitions available for what a game is, but all of them can agree on one thing. This ‘thing’ is the goal — that is, a game condition that results in an outcome, whether it be positive or negative. But, getting to those goals is very different in each game and greatly depends on the player.
As we, the player, interact within the construct of the game world, whether it is Monopoly or a game of house, we follow the rules that are imposed on us. But why? It is an incredibly easy task to ignore certain rules. For example, there is no reason why you can’t just take all of the money in Monopoly, or peek between your fingers when people are trying to play hide-and-seek. A game of house can be wrecked by the player breaking character and kicking down the little plastic house, declaring themselves Godzilla. So what about video games? You are not playing the game yourself; you gain an avatar that represents you in the game. As a result, you can’t physically break the rules. But in game you can shoot your own teammates or run away from the game being played. Artificial rules imposed on a real person make a game (and thus able to be broken with ease).
What are artificial rules? Well say we’re playing a game of cops and robbers. I could shoot every last cop with no real consequence. Yet in real life, while I could kill a cop or two, the laws in place world mean that I’m going to be punished for my misdeeds. While laws themselves are a construct, they act as a means of controlling our actions. It is in our nature to not want to break these rules. The majority of us tend to follow the rules of our world. So let’s take that cops and robbers scenario and put it in a video game. The avatar, controlled by you, can commit atrocious crimes or acts of violence without fear or risk of any real, physical penalty. If the situation gets bad, the player can reset the game or use a cheat code to eliminate the threat. The player is following artificial rules.
We as players choose to follow the rules of games that involve our physical bodies, such as in a game of kickball. That’s having a goal and artificial rules. Obeying the laws of our society is not artificial and does not have a goal. But in a video game, where our bodies are replaced with an avatar, we are no longer constrained by what the rules would tell us. We can willingly ignore the main game, instead choosing to roam the game world or kill civilians. Games –video games included- give us a choice to disobey rules and goals.