A video game is a carefully structured form of interactive play, normally undertaken for amusement or relaxation, and occasionally used as a teaching tool. Videogames are different from traditional work, which most often is performed for remuneration, and unlike literature, which is primarily a creation of artistic or academic elements. In video games the player controls a character, navigating a map and attempting to achieve goals by means of various techniques. The object is not to ‘win’ the game; to advance progressively towards a final objective. While some forms of media, such as television, already understand this, video games have traditionally been designed as one-dimensional, where the player assumes the role of an action hero, a champion who struggles against increasingly difficult challenges. A recent trend is for games to offer multiple outcomes, with the objective of completing the game being secondary to the satisfaction of the player.
One of the distinctive features of games is that the player is not locked into any single position or skill set. This allows the player to adopt a variety of strategies and learn through trial and error new skills. Video games provide a vast variety of opportunities for the player to develop their individual skills, with the option of allowing a player to choose a single playing technique rather than developing a range of abilities.
There are several key elements driving the design of games. At the basic level, games provide an opportunity to experience the act of playing, through which the player can build critical thinking and problem solving skills. At the higher levels, games present more complex situations, requiring the player to use advanced computer code to solve problems. At the highest levels of most games, the player is literally playing ‘God’ at a particular level, using mathematics and logic to ‘play’ the game.
There are several different ways in which games can be structured to deliver critical learning. Some games provide a fixed set of instructions, giving the player a clear objective to follow and directing them towards a specific goal. Games that include multiple goals, or multiple solutions to the same problem, provide the opportunity for players to develop a sense of agency, where they are the agent in control of the narrative. Games that present multiple outcomes, or multiple perspectives, give the player the ability to imagine how their choices will affect the outcome, as well as providing additional learning opportunities associated with potential environmental factors. Finally, games that rely on players taking calculated risks, or employing critical thinking skills, allow players to develop important problem solving skills.
There are numerous benefits to the development of games. First, games are inherently entertaining. They offer the potential for long periods of non-stop entertainment. Games engage multiple senses, including sight, sound, touch and, in some cases, even taste. They can be enjoyed by individuals of all ages, which in turn promotes a broad range of learning and interaction possibilities.
Games also promote player engagement and are a major learning and development tool. Experienced players actively participate in games, helping the developers to improve their games accordingly. Gamers benefit from playing with others who have mastered the mechanisms and concepts of the games they are playing. Gamers get the opportunity to work and learn with like-minded players and develop valuable team-building skills that can help them in their future games.