Is World of Warcraft a game?

So I’m back in school and taking an English (!) course called Video Games as/and Literature. We started out by talking about the definition of a game.  The first one we looked at was this:

“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.” – Sulen and Zimmerman

By that definition, is World of Warcraft a game?

I’ll post my thoughts (and the thoughts some of my classmates had) in a separate entry later this week, but wanted to hear what you guys had to say.

17 Replies to “Is World of Warcraft a game?”

  1. Hm. Well, I’d have to say that it depends on your definition of a “quantifiable outcome”. Some people would consider “killing all the raid bosses” and “getting a full set of top-tier gear” to be a quantifiable outcome. And those ARE measurable. You’re part of the way to having a full set, you have one boss left to kill.

    Buuut then there are people like me, who don’t have time to raid (*sob*) or like my friend Fizzy who has no intention to raid. We do our own things, we level, we have fun… but it’s not nearly as quantifiable as “kill all the bosses”.

    But then you have people like “Dora the Explorer” who got “The Explorer” as a lv 1 toon, and that was her aim, so in a sense, she won her game! And she can keep playing.

    IN ESSENCE: I don’t really know – it is and isn’t, by those terms, depending on the person. XD

  2. Apple – good answer and good counter-question!

    Sweetiebird – haha, no, because that’s not from the players’ perspective. :)

  3. “A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict…”

    Players, check. Conflict, check, in the form of PvE (questing, 5-mans, raids) and PvP (battlegrounds, arena).

    “defined by rules…”

    Yes, both class abilities, inter-class balance, and ToS.

    “that results in a quantifiable outcome.”

    Winning in combat, completing quests, getting a full set of gear, mounts, vanity pets, et cetera.

    Short answer: Yes, World of Warcraft is a game, but constantly mutating and as such has no specific end-game goal, as more “classic” games like Monopoly or Risk have.

  4. Wait, did I really go a whole comment without trolling of some sort? I’m losing my edge, Kurn. :(

  5. I would assume that definition of game was used for a specific purpose – quite possibly a specific research project or paper.

    I think that by any reasonable colloquial definition of “game,” yes, it clearly is.

  6. By the same token, is a table top rpg a game? Campaign play can be completely open ended in the sandbox model, or it can be highly structured in a “one shot”. In either case a rules framework generally exists to at a minimum help adjudicate conflicts.

    For that matter, how rules/goal centric does something have to be to be considered a game? I’ve seen games with encyclopedic rule sets, and others where it’s literally a sentence or two.

  7. I think that World of Warcraft definitely is a game, but I would also say that it encompasses a lot of aspects of a “sport,” too.

    I think the difference comes into play with how serious some people take things. Some people can play a casual game of touch football with their friends and it’s just a game. Others participate on a competitive level, like in school or on an adult team and they practice for hours (or even days), make sure to have the appropriate gear for safety and performance reasons, learn strategies, etc.

  8. Oestrus, you say WOW is a game and similar to a “sport”. But, isn’t a “sport” game as well? After all, we say a sports “game”. =)

    Players – Yes
    Artificial conflict – Yes (beat the other team)
    Defined by rules – Yes
    Results in a quantifiable outcome – Yes, it’s played until one team wins. Or if the game allows it, it ends in a draw.

  9. I’m conflicted. Going by the definition provided I would say that yes, WoW is a game. However – anytime I’ve encountered the question “in game” I always reply, “No.”

    Personally, I think WoW transcends what a game entails (and this is by no means limited to WoW – you could make this argument for the MMO genre). Yes, there is a game as the platform of the experience but is that where we typically dwell? I’m sure a lot of people play WoW to solo quest, level, pvp, etc., but how many of us do these things because it’s something more?

    I tend to consider WoW as time spent with friends and acquaintances where I also happen to be slaying internet dragons rather than having a beer and watching football, or sitting in a bar, or going to a movie, etc. Same social activity as the examples listed, just a different medium for the interaction.

  10. xmolder – I admit, no trolling comments made me wonder if someone was impersonating you! ;) But good answer, I like how you check things off, supporting your answer.

    Pradzha – Well, it’s an English class at university, so there’s a certain measure of “academia” in there, as there should be. ;) Is there any particular reason why you believe World of Warcraft to be a game? Can you back up your opinion? No worries if not, I’m just curious to see the reasoning. :)

    Fluffywumpki – A rules framework can also exist in order to create the conflicts in the first place! For example, while flagged for PVP, we cannot kill someone of our own faction (outside of arena world areas, arenas and RBGs), but can kill someone of the opposing faction. That’s a set of rules right there that indicates the “proper” course of action is to kill the opposing faction player.

    I don’t think there really needs to be more than a minimum of rules, by the given definition, by the way. I think probably 1-3 would suffice.

    Oestrus – Ah, so to you, a sport is a less casual game and is typically more organized and serious an endeavour than a “game”? Like, another step up? Very interesting, and I would tend to agree with you that WoW does encompass a lot of sport-like aspects (teamwork, dedicated time to it, organized events, strategies, etc).

    Bearsome – I think Oestrus was just saying that she things sports are somewhat more serious/elevated/organized versions of games, but that WoW, while a game, also stretches into the sport category. So I think you’re both in agreement that it’s a game and sports are games, too.

    Serrath – aha, and NOW, it starts to get interesting! Is WoW a game? Sure, looks like it, but is it also something more? Excellent comment!

  11. Wow for me is like a sport. Game day are the raids team KoT against Ragnaros, etc. I have practice 3 nights a week which encompasses anything from Battlegrounds to 5 man heroics. My team KoT, believes in teamwork, dedication and integrity.

  12. Kurn, yes, to me sports are games too. The way I see it, it’s a physical game whereas video games are pretty much mental.

    Oestrus, sorry, I guess I was skimming the comments too quickly. Just to see if I understand you correctly, in your definition, a “game” is more casual? So, the same activity (like touch football you mentioned) can become a “sport” if people are more dedicated and competitive about it?

  13. Kurn,
    It is rather coincidental, but I am teaching a college course of exactly the same nature. I’m not sure what text you started with, but we started with Koster’s A Theory of Fun, which I’ve found fantastically successful with the freshman I’m using it with (it’s not really as much a “game” course as it is a writing course that uses the theme “games” as it’s dressing). In it, the author quotes a lot of different game definitions, making a point about how different they are and how they all miss the idea of “fun.” The ebook’s only 4 bucks, so if you’re interested in it, I’d recommend it. My kids are mostly theater majors and they’ve gotten into it a lot more than I expected (but not as much as I hoped, of course).

    At any rate, a lot of what the author says rings very true to WoW and most of our behavior playing it. Even by your definition, I’d respond strongly with “yes,” as every raid, dungeon, pvp, and crafting session (conflict over limited resources) fits the definition. However, WoW has a lot of other activities that act as window dressing to the actual game, such as achievements and collecting, so I can see how it could at least be a debate.

    Nice little post – it’s generated quite a lot of discussion!

  14. I hate it when I think of things to add. Anyway, it’s just a plug for you to check my site out, since I’ve been talking about what we’re discussing in my course a good bit. Feel free to delete this comment as it’s mostly a comment for your benefit anyway :P

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