Can we define what we actually mean by the term "game"?

Article by Ken Thompson, 06 Apr 2017

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Jane McGonigal, in her excellent book Reality is Broken, defines the 4 characteristics of any game in a very simple but useful way:

  1. The Goal
  2. The Rules
  3. The Feedback System
  4. Voluntary Participation

Jane illustrates how these 4 components can be used to define various different types of games such as Golf, Scrabble and Tetris.  It is even more interesting to note what is NOT a defining characteristic of a game, for example the myth that "ability to win" is a defining aspect of all games - its not! 

See also my 15 Principles of Business Game Design for team-based learning.

More about Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Managing Director of Business Simulations Ltd.

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