What’s a game? There’s (at least) one important thing that I require from something to be called a game instead of a toy (or “sandbox game”):
- Player must be able to win (or end) the game
But now I’m getting bit into a trouble with this definition.
I’m not trying define game as is, I’m just trying to find the difference between “games” and “sandbox games/toys”. That’s why I’m leaving away things like “being in control”, and “set of rules” et cetera, and not bringing movies or other stuff here to compare. I’m now comparing two games: Minecraft and NHL ’11.
Minecraft is said to be a sandbox game since you get to do funky stuff in it, can die, and there’s tons of dirt to dig… and so on. Sandbox game would fit pretty well into that definition.
NHL ’11, now, that’s not a sandbox game, right? Playing an ice hockey game, that must be a “real game”. Wrong. There’s no ending in NHL ’11 if you think about it a bit. For example, there’s a career mode where you can level up your character for quite a long time. There’s Stanley Cup and whatnot to win. You can win matches, and can win tons of trophies and while you cannot dig your own tunnel, you can play online matches and adjust your character quite a lot.
In fact, you can win one battle (a match), but you cannot win the game. There’s no ending.
So… we could agree that one match in NHL ’11 that certainly is a game. Rules, time period and definite ending. But then what? You get another game. And another. And another. And another. All these matches can earns you points which you can spend to get better to earn better shovels I mean, players in your team.
In a very broad way of thinking (not talking about game mechanisms), NHL ’11 isn’t so different to minecraft. I’m pretty sure that you cannot win NHL ’11 (if you can, then they certainly aren’t making good effort in showing my progress). There’s no ending. You just keep on playing more and more.
This reminds me about Zombie Panic mod for half life 2. Excellent game, except of course it’s not a game since you cannot “win” the game. Sure, you can win one round but then what? You just keep going.
So, one could say that Minecraft is not a game and NHL ’11 is… but on what basis?
I guess end result is: who cares? If it’s fun, does it even matter?