A video game is a structured, typically multiplayer form of interactive play, often undertaken for fun or entertainment, and at times used as an educational instrument. In its most traditional forms, a video game is computer-based or digital, offering the opportunity to use a keyboard and mouse to interact with a fictional world. Games are different from work, in that most are undertaken for remuneration and not for artistic purposes and are generally carried out over long periods of time rather than in single moments. However, the term ‘video game’ has come to encompass any computer game that involves interaction with a character, and increasingly, the term has also encompassed the design and production of computer games themselves. Video games today can include free online games, download-able computer games, online role playing games, massively multi-player online role playing games (MMORPGs), social network games, sports games, and even video rental. The type of game, its features, and its interactions can vary widely.
Many people have made attempts to define games, especially since they continue to evolve technologically with new technological devices and platforms. Game scholars have spent years analyzing, theorizing, interpreting, and making broad and deep arguments about the nature and purpose of games. Early in the history of the games, game scholars noted that games were meant to provide relaxation, stress relief, and amusement. Today, the focus has shifted towards defining games as forms of imaginative activity, leisure, competition, communication, social interaction, or experience, depending on the type of game. In recent years, however, game scholars have begun to make claims about the nature and purposes of games, examining their impact on society, the way in which they are created and shared, how they can be modified and extended, and whether they are inclusive of other cultures and other types of media.
The emerging consensus in the field is that games are important and indeed indispensable to our very existence. Games are so pervasive and ingrained in our everyday lives that many of us hardly think about or appreciate that we are shaped by them. Game definitions provide a means for scholars, cultural commentators, educators, students, researchers, professionals, etc. to discuss these essential pieces of our society while moving away from some of the overuse of the term that could make games seem as though they are a monolithic cultural phenomenon. Game definitions help us remember that games are more than just mindless amusement and a way to pass the time, they are a rich and varied heritage that can help us understand ourselves better and the world we live in.