Gaming Glossary: An Overview

Last week’s post on defining a game was the first in my series attempting to explain game terms in a technical sense. I try to give good definitions for terms I use to discuss boardgames and  game design, because providing good definitions is one of the most helpful things a person can do when working with ideas. A definition is a form of identification which is important in several regards.

First, it lets you clearly establish a concept in firm language that is understandable. It explains. It becomes a reference point so I know what I am talking about and can make my points more clearly. It also lets me share my ideas with others on a shared conceptual footing. Second, it lets you differentiate things that fall under that concept and things that don’t. It excludes. You must be able to evaluate things against the definition and determine whether they meet it or not. A definition that doesn’t specify which things are and aren’t included isn’t useful. Through this, I can refine or change my opinions when needed. Finally, it puts a name to a concept. This completes the act of identification, and means I can reference the concept easily.

There are two more important features of a definition. A definition can change as new information is added. Changing does not automatically make the old definition wrong, because the old definition may be included as part of the new refined definition. And definitions need to be usable, above all. Not everybody needs to agree on a single definition, but a word that means different things to different people at the same time is not a useful medium for ideas. Rather than attempting to capture every sense in which a word is used, these definitions are meant to establish my own abstract concepts in more firm language for a starting point of discussion.

The “Gaming Glossary” series will provide some technical definitions for gaming terms. But my larger goal in the series is to not just define terms, but to study their use in depth and try to understand why they are important in the hobby in general and in game design specifically. So I have started with the most basic concept, the game. This page will provide a logical (not alphabetical) index and outline to terms as I define them.


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