Frasca on the english words “Game” and “Play”

by ~hellfire~

“The term ‘game. is particularly problematic because it has multiple meanings. It can be used both as a noun (as in “I played a game”) and as a verb (as in “the gaming tables”), even though the first use is arguably the most common. It is also used to describe a match or game session (as in “letʼs go to the stadium to watch a game”). More importantly, it can both be used in order to describe both an object and activity (as in “the game of Chess is fascinating”) and the gameʼs materiality (as in “he borrowed my game”, referring to the physical set including, say, a game board and tokens). On the other hand, “play” is used in order to describe the activity that players engage while executing a game, either as a verb (as in “letʼs play!”) or as a noun (as in “the children were at play”). The main problem with these two terms is not that they are not useful. Indeed…games are both object and process. ‘Game’ is both the default term that is generally used to describe our object of study (Chess, soccer and videogames are generally referred to as “games” and not “plays”) and it also denotes their material aspects. For this reason, it could be argued that the English language may be biased towards a material, objectified idea of games to the detriment of framing them as performance.”  (Dissertation, 19,)[Emphasis added]

He goes on to add that this claim about the bias of the English language isn’t really one he’s going to pursue. Instead, he makes it only to highlight how lots of game ontology narrows down games to their measurable parts. These are structured, material/programmatic elements of games, like “rules, space, time, props”.

So. these structures aren’t all that make up a game. But at the same time, they are important: a player has to bring his or her performance into those structures. With this in mind, I really like Frasca’s project of giving emphasis to performance in games.