What Is A Game?


  • To consider what a computer game is.
  • To think about what features of games make them interesting to play.

Trying Out Some Games

Test out the following games from this site.

Think carefully about the experience that you have had with these games. Now try out the following games,

What are the main differences between the first set of games and the two that you have just played?

None of the first 3 games is finished. Important features of game play are missing. As you read through this page, you will be able to explain more clearly what these features are. The main problem is that the first 3 games are not complete games. Some of them aren't even really games. The hangman or rotatamundo may be limited, but at least they are finished.

Definition Of A Computer Game

A computer game is a software program in which one or more players make decisions through the control of game objects and resources, in pursuit of a goal.

A computer game is a software program

  • No pieces, boards and equipment to lose.
  • The computer game helps you with the rules and sometimes teaches you how to play.
  • The game can react to the player and be suitable for players of all abilities.

A computer game involves players

  • You dont just watch the game, you are usually involved.
  • Games have to be made with the players in mind.
  • Different audiences (eg child, hardcore gamer) have different expectations of the game.

Playing a game is about making decisions

  • Players make decisions that influence the rest of the game.
  • This might be choosing which enemies to kill first, which direction to move etc.
  • If it makes no difference which weapon is used, why have a choice?

Playing a game is about control

  • Players should feel in control of the game, not the other way around.
  • Players do need surprises to keep interested and game designers need to balance the amount of freedom they give to the players.

Game objects and resources

  • Games are full of characters, vehicles, weapons, power-ups, landscape etc.
  • Players have to keep an eye on their score, health or lives when playing games.
  • The game maker has to think about how the player interacts with these things.

A game needs a goal

  • Players have to do certain things in order to win or complete the game.
  • The goal needs to be achievable but not too easy or quick that the game is boring.
  • Complex games have many subgoals (often levels) and the player normally is rewarded when they reach a goal.


Think about the Shoot Ponies game. The subgoal is to shoot a pony. There is no main goal, the game carries on forever. What might make this game better?


  • Players need the game to acknowledge their progress.
  • When you reach a goal or subgoal, you usually get a reward like,
  • Points on the score
  • More health, weapons or power-ups
  • A mini-movie, medal, unlock part of the game
  • This keeps the player interested in reaching the goals.

Music, Graphics, Sound

  • All of these things can make a game fun to play.
  • Remember that Tetris remains one of the most playable games ever written.
  • Good game play is more important than graphics.