My thoughts on games and play seem to be evolving ^^ , so this blog is already a success to me.
I want to examine my following statement:
“A construct set up to facilitate play might even be the best definition of “game”, because the behaviour of play differs so much it's clearly hard to define universal characteristics of games.”
I guess the form of the construct that facilitates play can vary significantly, but if it didn’t facilitate play it wouldn’t be a game. To say that games are only played would be an understatement. Games are not only played, they are experienced and engaged. Games can be “watched” and enjoyed for their story, like a good tv-show. It’s even possible to live through otherwise dangerous experiences (like war situations or car races) using a game as a simulation. Games may demand strategies to be perfected as a player heads further into the game, a proverbial puzzle test. Some games are action packed to deliver a dose of adrenaline. There are even puzzle games, which makes me doubt if puzzles are not just games. In the end games cater to a wide range of interests.
The more I think about it, all games challenge at least one skill in an enjoyable way. Though the range of interests or skills to be challenged is immensely diverse, the enjoyable challenge that games provide seems a common denominator. Going back to the previous paragraph, it doesn’t have to be the challenge of skill alone that keeps the gamer engaged. Due to their interactive nature, games can create a layered experience without equal. In the end each player interacts with a game in a different way to create their own experience.
Still for a bit of falsification I thought about Minecraft and Lego. At least the original Minecraft was about building with blocks, like Lego but cheaper because you could make as many blocks as you'd like :p . Both can be played with and the play is enjoyable, they can even challenge skills like spatial insight and several creative skills. However they initially support unstructured play. They are building blocks for creation, calling the act of playing with Lego a game would be like calling drawing with pencils a game. In the end all games support play but nog all play needs games. What we call games seem to facilitate at least in part a structured form of play.