Restart Story

''RESPONSE'': The right answer is whatever wins, as much as it may pain you right now. For example, I hate the use of the phrase "could care less" when it's clearly a corruption of "couldn't care less" that has crept in through careless (ha-ha) use of language. But in a hundred, two hundred, a thousand years time if everyone is saying "could care less" then it won't matter one bit what I thought about the corruption at the time. \n\nThere are many words and phrases I use right now which, when one considers their etymology, are clearly corruptions of older, different or more precise meanings. Yet not only do I have no problem with using them, I think that my use of the words is perfectly correct. \n\n"Decimate" is a famous example, and you may not realise that the concept of "begging the question" did not start out being used in the way that even well educated people tend to use it nowadays. It referred, and in philosophy still refers, to a circular argument - not a question that is raised by a point someone has made. Yet the second usage has very quickly become the predominant.\n\n[[CLAIM: But how far must this stoicism go? If someone were to pick up a feather and say 'this is a game' then do I sit back and say 'time will tell'? I say it'd be correct to contradict them.|CLAIM: But how far must this stoicism go? If someone were to pick up a feather and say 'this is a game' then do I sit back and say 'time will tell'? I say it'd be correct to contradict them.]]
''RESPONSE'': First of all, there isn't anything wrong with being uncertain about whether something falls into a category. To keep the same example, if someone were to ask me if //Proteus// is a game, "I don't know" would be a perfectly reasonable response. Perhaps it would be an unsatisfying response to some, but there's nothing that says we need to be able to neatly categorise everything we experience.\n\nHowever, there is some value in having a linguistic shorthand so that we can convey the general idea of what we're talking about in relation to other things. Or, as you put it, ensure we're talking about the same thing. For the time being some people lean towards a broad understanding of the word game that encompasses things like //Proteus//, while some people argue that some of these things are so different from what we ordinarily understand as games that they need a category of their own. \n\nInsofar as this disagreement exists, you are right that it makes communication harder in that discourse is made tricky when the discussion continually gets snagged on 'but is it a game?'\n\n[[CLAIM: But I think it's obvious that they need a category of their own, if we could just agree on one we could dispense with the disagreement and get on with talking about the things themselves.|CLAIM: But I think it's obvious that they need a category of their own, if we could just agree on one we could dispense with the disagreement and get on with talking about the things themselves.]]
''RESPONSE'': You're right. I call it a game. But only because it seems to me to be the path of least resistance to slightly broaden the meaning of a category we already use, rather than to invent a new one. It could be in the fullness of time that linguistic convention demands another category - if so, then so be it. For now I'll follow the path of least resistance.\n\n[[CLAIM: That seems a little wishy-washy.|CLAIM: That seems a little wishy-washy.]]
''RESPONSE'': While this seems superficially valid, it's a bit of an unfair example. Implied here is a slippery-slope argument, that if we are not willing to object to one example of someone we don't think of as a game being called a game, what's to prevent any manner of things being called a game? But there's no reason to suppose there is any such danger. Certainly nobody is seriously calling feathers a game at the moment - and there's no real plausible linguistic slippery-slope that will lead to that eventuality. It's just not something that we find ourselves needing to guard against. \n\nMeaning is a malleable, flexible, changeable sort of thing - but it's not so loose weave that at any moment we can expect our understanding of a word to be upturned. If that were the case, language would indeed be a troublesome thing to use to communicate, moreso than it already is. Rather, language is understood by convention. Ever changing convention, and sometimes multiple conventions exist that are in conflict, but it's not as if meaning will be destroyed if we're not always vigilant for linguistic trespassers. If something finds its way into linguistic convention, it's by agreement. Not a signed agreement that has been discussed and negotiated, but a messy agreement that occurs over generations and across cultures or social groups. \n\nLanguage which withstands the ravages of time and space is simply that which has proven to be linguistically useful.\n\n[[CLAIM: I think having another category outside of games for things like Proteus would be linguistically useful. You say time will tell; I just want to speed that process up.|CLAIM: I think having another category outside of games for things like Proteus would be linguistically useful. You say time will tell; I just want to speed that process up.]]\n\n\n\n
''RESPONSE'': You may think so, but unfortunately (or fortunately depending on one's perspective) it's not up to you. Language is a very difficult beast to corral. It tends to go where it will regardless of where a particular group of people think it should - as evidenced by the varying success of the French language academies to establish official French versions of imported words.\n\nIf things like //Proteus// become generally accepted as part of what we call games, then so be it. If not, then so be it. Time will tell, and it seems to me that we can still talk meaningfully about games - and indeed //Proteus// - without knowing what the answer will be yet. This confusion that people our worried our discourse will be thrown into if we aren't precise enough just doesn't seem to bear out in reality.\n\n[[CLAIM: That doesn't mean that I shouldn't at least try to influence the result, especially when I believe there is a right answer.|CLAIM: That doesn't mean that I shouldn't at least try to influence the result, especially when I believe there is a right answer.]]
[[CLAIM: If we start being loose with our definition of game we devalue the meaning of the word, and so discourse about games is thereby weakened.|CLAIM: If we start being loose with our definition of game we devalue the meaning of the word, and so discourse about games is thereby weakened.]]
''RESPONSE'': I suppose it does, yet it works well enough. I still find myself able to engage in meaningful discourse about games.\n\nHere's something more solid, if you like. When I played //Starseed Pilgrim//, for the first two hours of play at least, I couldn't figure out if there were any win-conditions. There were rules which I could discover, but nothing that particularly stood out as a win condition in any traditional sense. Eventually I figured out what I had to do to progress in the game and presumably ultimately to win. But perhaps it might have been a succession of rules which could be discovered but never led to progress or victory. Up to a point, the two versions of events would have been indistinguishable. \n\nYet many people argue that win-conditions are essential for something to be considered a game. Those people would have had to play //Starseed Pilgrim// for hours to know whether it's a game or not. Is this not a little counter-intuitive? Would it not be easier to call it a game from the start than to suspend judgement? I think it would be, in terms of our ability to talk about it, to use language as a shorthand as I was talking about earlier. At the very least, it's something to think about. \n\nEND.
''RESPONSE'': It's true that there's disagreement about what a game is, but if anything that simply highlights how impractical definitions are as an arbiter of meaning. The disagreement won't be settled by defining a game and seeing what fits and doesn't fit the definition. The people who think, for example, //Proteus// isn't a game won't be convinced by a definition that includes it, and vice versa.\n\nIn other words, people's intuitions about what is or isn't a game trump any definition that one can come up with. \n\n[[CLAIM: But if that's true, there's no right answer. Something might or might not be a game depending on how you look at it. That seems unsatisfying, and it's surely harder to have a conversation about something if you're not even sure you're talking about the same thing.|CLAIM: But if that's true, there's no right answer. Something might or might not be a game depending on how you look at it. That seems unsatisfying, and it's surely harder to have a conversation about something if you're not even sure you're talking about the same thing.]]
''RESPONSE'': In fact, definitions don't have as much to do with meaning or understanding as one might think. That may sound counterintuitive, but you'll find it's true if you consider how few words you can easily define and yet use every day and understand well enough. \n\nFor example, if I ask you to define the word 'table' no doubt you will be able to come up with something suitable, but you will have to think about the definition, how to distinguish it from a chair, how to include all the cases of non-standard tables like bedside tables or coffee tables. \n\nIn other words, the definition of table isn't sitting in your head, ready to be drawn upon. You can construct one with some thought, but it'll probably be imperfect and subject to modification. And it doesn't change the fact that you still knew a table when you saw one and could talk meaningfully about tables, even before you constructed the definition. \n\nSo it is with everything else, including games. We can have meaningful discourse about games without having a firmly fixed definition of them.\n\n[[CLAIM: That's an unfair example, because while there's no significant disagreement about what a table is, there is a lot of disagreement over what a game is at the moment.|CLAIM: That's an unfair example, because while there's no significant disagreement about what a table is, there is a lot of disagreement over what a game is at the moment.]]
How not to worry about what games are.
''RESPONSE'': Well, you can't. Sorry.\n\n[[CLAIM: But you've already made your mind up, right? I suspect you're happy to call it a game, so by your logic you are just as bad as me. I bet you don't call it a 'time will tell'.|CLAIM: But you've already made your mind up, right? I suspect you're happy to call it a game, so by your logic you are just as bad as me. I bet you don't call it a 'time will tell'.]]