Game Formalism: Gaming the game of games

Preamble: This is one of the stupidest posts ever. I’m going to write about game formalism because I need to get this out. It’s not you, it’s me. Feel free to skip this immediately. 


What was I going to say again?

Ah yes, Games Formalism.

Yeah, so I don’t know exactly what games formalism is. Nobody does, according to game design theorists. But they go on to say it’s basically the idea that defining a game as a medium is important. It has something not exactly to do with content.

Now before you discredit me and pour sugar in my gas tank, you should know that I’ve read A Theory of Fun by the poet Raph Koster and I’ve listened to some podcasts by the music theorist Keith Burgun. I’ve even managed to buy and read a book, at arm’s length, on the philosophy of irony by Ian Bogost. Not to mention the fact that I’ve watched at least three Frank Lantz lectures.

Where was I? 

How important is it to define a game and its gaminess?

Really important, that’s what!

It makes making games that easily easier to discuss. We can say, “No, that’s not a game!” or “Yes, that’s definitely a game!”, and other important things. We can also say: “Oh gosh, not another so-called ‘video game’ that doesn’t have actual gaming elements!” We can praise games for their depth too, I mean have you even played golf?

The sky is the limit…

…as long as the sky has some sort of interactive system.

You: Weather system? 

Me: You betcha! Climate change is the game of… ummm… sky!

Climate change houses the game of politics, a system you interact with unironically because you can make a difference. This system inside of systems is like a nesting doll nested within another game… of games. The Game of Thrones is literaturely nested, like a dragon-bird, in the climate change game.

Make sure you win! 

Much like blogging, life’s a game. 

Not… a puzzle.

Life is a simulation in a computer.

It’s a big joke.

I mean, this post is…

A joke.

What do you think this is…

some kind of game?


Post-ambulation: I actually like playing all sorts of “games”, games that are more like movies, or where they are pretty much not games, and games that are deep as fuck, like chess. I actually like those people I mentioned, too. 

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