Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

In Which EU Makes Me Question my Idols

My steam tells me that I’ve now spent more than 100 hours playing Europa Universalis. That’s a lot for a game that sat in my account for basically ever, even when you discount the fact that I sometimes leave it on when I make dinner or something. One thing I realized some time into the game is that it doesn’t have an ending. Or rather, there is no win condition. Zilch.

Now, according to the usual subjects in game design writing, a game needs a goal (or outcome) to qualify as such. Crawford, Costikyan, Salen and Zimmerman, and others all agree on that simple fact. I, for one, consider Europa Universalis to be a game. Who am I to disagree with the likes of a Chris Crawford though?

The thing is, playing Europa Universalis without a goal reduces the fun by quite a bit. Maybe it stops being a game and is degrade to the level of a toy at that point. As it turns out, though, it is quite efficient to set your own goals for it. Playing as Brandenburg? Why not form Prussia or Germany? (Or both!) Playing as Navarra? Maybe trying to survive is a worthy goal all by itself.

I’m not really used to playing my games like that, and it does feel odd not to get any victory screen telling me how well (or badly) I did, but it does work to a certain degree. I still think that actual victory conditions are preferable, but this does put an interesting view on game design and all those clever definitions of what a game is. You see, if I can turn this toy into a game by simply adding my own rules, why can’t I do that with each and every toy?

Thinking further, what about the requirement of “rules” to be considered a proper game? Europa Universalis surely has rules, but they are simply defining the physics of my “toy”. A yo-yo is defined by similar rules, so is Europa Universalis no more a game than a Yo-Yo is? Or, if EU is a game and the Yo-Yo a simple toy, what is the real definition for a game?

This post doesn’t really have a point to get to; I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader. I’m just questioning definitions I’ve considered valid for quite a while now.

Oh, and this clearly applies to MMORPGs as well. (What, with them never ending.) Curious.