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1:35pm on Friday, 4th September, 2015:

Play and Game


In English, it's easy to talk about play. Play is something that people do (especially children, before they get homework dumped on them every night). It's also easy to talk about games. Games are play at which you can win or lose (well, at least lose, anyway). The concepts of play and games are related, and people will connect them effortlessly. "What are you playing?" is pretty much the same question as "What game are you playing?".

Play and games are not the same category of word, though. I can say "play is fun" but "game is fun" is hard to interpret — I have to go with "games are fun". It's easy to say "I want to play", but if I say "I want to game" it's not at all obvious what I mean — it's far more natural to say "I want to play a game".

Play is something you do. Games are what you do something to. This is one reason why people who say that games and play are equivalent have such a hard time of it (the other reason being that the two aren't equivalent, of course...).

That's in English, though. Other languages may do things differently, and have some word which is a subset of their word for "play" that means specifically to play a game. Of course, as I am English, I have only a passing acquaintance with other languages so have no idea whether any of them make this kind of distinction.

I hope they do, though, because then we can simply steal it and make it English. That way, I will be able to understand it.

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Copyright © 2015 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).