A game is typically a structured form of interactive play, normally undertaken for fun or entertainment, and at times used as an instructional tool. Games are very different from homework, which generally is done for remuneration and is not usually an expression of artistic or emotional thoughts. But with video games, you can use the game to both study and actually learn. Learning becomes easier because it becomes an interactive experience. Likewise, the game teaches you through providing you with visual and auditory feedback as well as through the application of skills such as logic, spatial awareness, problem solving, decision-making, and memory.
Many computer games, especially those which are designed for use as instructional tools, incorporate some element of gamification. They use game design to provide a controlled environment, where the objective is to achieve a particular goal, be it completing a level or completing a mission. Gamification is also used to provide a sense of accomplishment, to challenge the player, or to reinforce certain aspects of the game design.
In the case of a computer game, the gamification approach can be taken to the extreme, generating a game environment where every action that you take will have some consequence, and where winning is dependent on being able to perform actions in a specific sequence that emerge from predefined parameters. For example, in the popular game FarmVille, players are allowed to plant crops, produce food, build structures, and shop. The object of the game is to become more successful than other people by “planting the most crops”, by “farming the most crops”, by “building the biggest house” etc. The consequences of each action stem from a prior decision made by the game designer. Each time you commit a decision that results in another outcome, points are scored until you reach a level where you fall off a platform, triggering an immediate and catastrophic crash. You then have to get back up and continue your journey, while your opponents fall to the ground, only to start again at a different point and suffer the same consequences.
A similar approach is used by many online games such as Age of War, wherein points are awarded or penalties are applied when you commit a certain course of action, either strategic or tactical. Essentially, you are trying to make your way through a complex scenario while avoiding all the dangers that are thrown your way. The system is then defined by the type of gameplay it offers, with varying levels of complexity depending on whether you are playing an active combat, or if you are just trying to survive and find food for your family. By breaking down the mechanics of the game into different factors such as objectives and consequences, the designers are able to create a very engaging experience that keeps players engaged and engrossed in what they are doing.
But even these complex systems need to have a simple underlying structure that can be broken down into discrete parts with simpler objectives. By isolating the concepts of a game, developers are then able to create more engaging game play, where players are able to move from one part of the game to the next without struggling to understand how the whole thing works. A good example of this is Grand Theft Auto, a popular game where players are given the task of stealing money or items from a location before they time runs out, otherwise failing and the player will become surrounded by guards and have to play out the remainder of the game trying to escape. By breaking down this process into smaller parts, like robbing a bank and running around to the next bank, the player is given a greater sense of accomplishment, because they have accomplished a goal. It becomes a lot easier to understand exactly how things are going to work when smaller tasks are given larger goals to complete instead of having to understand each and every step along the way.
Computer game design is also influenced by many other factors besides game theory. Designers also have to consider aesthetics, presentation, and the overall look of the interface and any sound effects they might utilize. Chris Crawford, a computer programmer and designer at Rockfish Development, believes that the success of a computer game lies not so much in its rules, but in its user interface and graphics. “We all know it’s a challenge to fit tons of information into a small space, and consoles are optimized for that,” he said. “But you also want the graphics to look great and be versatile enough to meet any technical requirement.”