Toy Design Project

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Game or toy?

I just read an old essay by Chris Crawford yesterday on definitions of "game", and suddenly realized something: Role-playing games, whether tabletop or MMORPG, are not games, they're toys.

According to Crawford, a game is a plaything that is a challenge that is a conflict that is not a competition.

A Role-playing game do not fit under the definition of games in that it does not have defined goals, and therefore cannot be classified as a challenge.
It does not have a clearly defined opponent either. Sure the player is tossed into conflict all the time, fighting monsters and such, but there is no player clearly trying to oppose you. So the are no real conflicts in RPG's.

The only other alternative is that RPG's are toys.

"Toys" are playthings without defined goals. A player uses a toy in an unstructured fashion, without pursuing an explicit goal.

And if one considers the focus on storytelling in RPG's, the similarities are even greater. It seems to me that playing RPG's are really closer to playing with dolls than playing games. One makes up a story as one plays.

This kind of scares me.
I've been playing RPG's for a long time now, and I really enjoy them. To compare them to playing with dolls seems degrading somehow.

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