Why Games are Important


Mech Retriever Dev Blog


Last time I talked about Games as Language by showing how the two layers of understanding of emergent games are like Words and Grammar.  Another way you can think of it is like the difference between paints and knowing how to paint.  Depending on what sentences you make, or what strokes you use, you make a different conversation–just as in painting, you have the chance to express yourself.  This is most true of Emergent games, which have such a rich grammar that can express so many things that there is no clear, single best strategy.  This means you can simply do what you like and have some amount of success, thereby expressing yourself through the medium of the game.

But what’s particularly interesting about games is the fact that you compete with others.  Your act of self-expression doesn’t exist in a vacuum–it happens in conversation with the self-expression of the other players.  You can then see how that strategy interacts with their’s, and in so doing, have the opportunity to confront the self.  As you see what you could have done better, or what the effects of your strategy are, you have the chance to think about why you made a decision, and whether you think you should change that decision.  This can lead to insights about motivations within you and whether you can be channeling them more effectively.

Related is the work of German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who described the self as being defined in response to the experiences we have, and how exploring experiences outside of the same day-to-day ones can help us expand and change ourselves–like described in this video:

So games can be a form of self-expression and conversation in a way that forces you to evaluate said expression in light of the actions of other players, and afford you the opportunity to grow in ways you would might think to otherwise.  In a world where many ideas have too many variables to isolate and study with normal scientific methods, they afford us the chance to test our ideas and refine them in a creative but competitive space where there is no huge consequence for failure-e.g., losing a job or breaking a law.  Far more than child’s play, games can serve as an important catalyst for growth, progress, and personal enrichment.

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