Altered State Reality and Game-Like Situations

Altered Reality and Game-Like Situations

At points throughout our course, we have discussed what it means for something to be a game, as well as the differences between a game, and play. Games are interactive, and have defined end states. I would also hold that a game in which no end states actually exist for success, but in which players create their own end goals (such as the Sims), are not games at all, but, rather, are toys. A ball is similar in nature – there is no way to “win” with a ball, though you could pop or break it, but once a game is created (kickball for example) to utilize the different qualities the ball possesses, a winning state exists. The ball is still just a toy, however. There are also games which are interactive and have solid end states, but which cut the need for choice, in other words, there are “correct” choices, which lead to an end state, and “incorrect” choices, which lead to some fail state. This is more a puzzle than a game. A game can, of course, contain a puzzle or puzzle elements, and a game can contain a toy or toy elements, but must be something other than these things, something interactive, effected significantly or changed by user interactions and choices, and something that has a defined win state.

So how about altered state games? Take the famous (or infamous) game, Assassin. This is a game in which players all receive marks, and then have to somehow, depending on the rules of that particular session, pick these marks off one by one, receiving as a new target the mark of their defeated mark, until one person remains standing at the end. There is a defined win state, players have a great many nuanced choices (for example, what to lie about, or not to lie about, and to whom) which change the face of the game, and the game is certainly interactive. It is fair to say that this is a game, then, by these criteria. It is not the only game of its kind. So the question I will pose is this: If you take a group of people in a real world situation and apply a set of rules to their interactions, which changes the nature of those interactions, and makes it such that at some point one of these people (or a group of them, or all of them if it is a cooperative game) will have “won,” that is an alternate reality game, correct? And if this is true, I pose another question:

Do the players of a game have to be aware they are playing, for it to be a game? Or is it, perhaps, not a game for them, but a game for others who are aware? And what if one applies rules to a situation which only apply to them, and which are only known by them. As the maker of the game, they are capable of stopping or changing the rules at any time. Are they, then, really playing a game? And if they are, and the people who are unaware of a game are not, then that begets the question: is a game not a game without our consent to play it? And what would that mean for games as we see them?

Some thoughts derived form This Blog Post elsewhere…

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