What Is a Game?

We probably all have a pretty good intuitive notion of what a game is. The general term “game” encompasses board games like chess and Monopoly, card games like poker and blackjack, casino games like roulette and slot machines, military war games, computer games, various kinds of play among children, and the list goes on. In academia we sometimes speak of game theory, in which multiple agents select strategies and tactics in order to maximize their gains within the framework of a well-defined set of game rules. When used in the context of console or computer-based entertainment, the word “game” usually conjures images of a three-dimensional virtual world featuring a humanoid, animal or vehicle as the main character under player control. (Or for the old geezers among us, perhaps it brings to mind images of two-dimensional classics like Pong, Pac-Man, or Donkey Kong.) In his excellent book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster defines a game to be an interactive experience that provides the player with an increasingly challenging sequence of patterns which he or she learns and eventually masters. Koster’s asser-tion is that the activities of learning and mastering are at the heart of what we call “fun,” just as a joke becomes funny at the moment we “get it” by recognizing the pattern.

Video Games as Soft Real-Time Simulations

Most two- and three-dimensional video games are examples of what computer scientists would call soft real-time interactive agent-based computer simulations. Let’s break this phrase down in order to better understand what it means. In most video games, some subset of the real world -or an imaginary world- is modeled mathematically so that it can be manipulated by a computer. The model is an approximation to and a simplification of reality (even if it’s an imaginary reality), because it is clearly impractical to include every detail down to the level of atoms or quarks. Hence, the mathematical model is a simulation of the real or imagined game world. Approximation and simplification are two of the game developer’s most powerful tools. When used skillfully, even a greatly simplified model can sometimes be almost indistinguishable from reality and a lot more fun.

An agent-based simulation is one in which a number of distinct entities known as “agents” interact. This fits the description of most three-dimensional computer games very well, where the agents are vehicles, characters, fireballs, power dots and so on. Given the agent-based nature of most games, it should come as no surprise that most games nowadays are implemented in an object-oriented, or at least loosely object-based, programming language.

All interactive video games are temporal simulations, meaning that the vir- tual game world model is dynamic-the state of the game world changes over time as the game’s events and story unfold. A video game must also respond to unpredictable inputs from its human player(s)-thus interactive temporal simulations. Finally, most video games present their stories and respond to player input in real time, making them interactive real-time simulations.

One notable exception is in the category of turn-based games like computerized chess or non-real-time strategy games. But even these types of games usually provide the user with some form of real-time graphical user interface.

What Is a Game Engine?

The term “game engine” arose in the mid-1990s in reference to first-person shooter (FPS) games like the insanely popular Doom by id Software. Doom was architected with a reasonably well-defined separation between its core software components (such as the three-dimensional graphics rendering system, the collision detection system or the audio system) and the art assets, game worlds and rules of play that comprised the player’s gaming experience. The value of this separation became evident as developers began licensing games and retooling them into new products by creating new art, world layouts, weapons, characters, vehicles and game rules with only minimal changes to the “engine” software. This marked the birth of the “mod community”-a group of individual gamers and small independent studios that built new games by modifying existing games, using free toolkits pro- vided by the original developers. Towards the end of the 1990s, some games like Quake III Arena and Unreal were designed with reuse and “modding” in mind. Engines were made highly customizable via scripting languages like id’s Quake C, and engine licensing began to be a viable secondary revenue stream for the developers who created them. Today, game developers can license a game engine and reuse significant portions of its key software components in order to build games. While this practice still involves considerable investment in custom software engineering, it can be much more economical than developing all of the core engine components in-house. The line between a game and its engine is often blurry.

Some engines make a reasonably clear distinction, while others make almost no attempt to separate the two. In one game, the rendering code might “know” specifi-cally how to draw an orc. In another game, the rendering engine might provide general-purpose material and shading facilities, and “orc-ness” might be defined entirely in data. No studio makes a perfectly clear separation between the game and the engine, which is understandable considering that the definitions of these two components often shift as the game’s design solidifies.

Arguably a data-driven architecture is what differentiates a game engine from a piece of software that is a game but not an engine. When a game contains hard-coded logic or game rules, or employs special-case code to render specific types of game objects, it becomes difficult or impossible to reuse that software to make a different game. We should probably reserve the term “game engine” for software that is extensible and can be used as the foundation for many different games without major modification.

Clearly this is not a black-and-white distinction. We can think of a gamut of reusability onto which every engine falls. One would think that a game engine could be something akin to Apple QuickTime or Microsoft Windows Media Player-a general-purpose piece of software capable of playing virtually any game content imaginable. However, this ideal has not yet been achieved (and may never be). Most game engines are carefully crafted and fine-tuned to run a particular game on a particular hardware platform. And even the most general-purpose multiplatform engines are really only suitable for building games in one particular genre, such as first-person shooters or racing games. It’s safe to say that the more general-purpose a game engine or middleware component is, the less optimal it is for running a particular game on a particular platform.

This phenomenon occurs because designing any efficient piece of software invariably entails making trade-offs, and those trade-offs are based on assumptions about how the software will be used and/or about the target hardware on which it will run. For example, a rendering engine that was designed to handle intimate indoor environments probably won’t be very good at rendering vast outdoor environments. The indoor engine might use a binary space partitioning (BSP) tree or portal system to ensure that no geometry is drawn that is being occluded by walls or objects that are closer to the camera. The outdoor engine, on the other hand, might use a less-exact occlusion mechanism, or none at all, but it probably makes aggressive use of level-of-detail (LOD) techniques to ensure that distant objects are rendered with a minimum number of triangles, while using high-resolution triangle meshes for geome-try that is close to the camera.

The advent of ever-faster computer hardware and specialized graphics cards, along with ever-more-efficient rendering algorithms and data structures, is beginning to soften the differences between the graphics engines of different genres. It is now possible to use a first-person shooter engine to build a real-time strategy game, for example. However, the trade-off between generality and optimality still exists. A game can always be made more impressive by fine-tuning the engine to the specific requirements and constraints of a particular game and/or hardware platform.

Good and Bad in Gaming

Gaming is one of the biggest hobbies and even careers in the world. People play games for fun or learning while others record videos about the games. In this article, I will focus more on gaming itself and not so much the side of how to make gaming videos. Gamers come in all different ages, genders, religions, locations and shapes. The backgrounds of people who are gamers make gaming that much more fun.

Backgrounds of gamers can play a part in the type of games that people play. There are all kinds of combinations for different categories relating to the type of games and type of gamers. You really need to look at the game’s website to get all the pertinent information prior to buying.

There are many online platforms where you can buy games from such as Steam or Humble Bundle. Those sites will give you the description, videos by the company, pictures, user and non-user tags, reviews, website, company and their social account(s). Be aware the game’s website might not show you everything you need to know. As a minimum, a gaming company will show a short sales pitch description, small amount of pictures (5 at best), one or two videos by them and their social accounts. The most they will provide is an informative description, their social accounts, user reviews and videos by them.

Let’s dive right into what is perceived as negative about gaming. The majority of the negative things about games come from the real-life people on those games, the type of games and the types of games for the wrong person. A game can be poorly made but it’s not always the case where the game itself is bad. It could be where it was the wrong type of game for the wrong person. This is where the categories come in. Maybe a game has a bit of violence. That doesn’t make it bad; it just makes it the wrong type of game for a seven year old. Or maybe you bought a puzzle game for a person who loves action type games. So the action loving person won’t enjoy it, but that doesn’t make the puzzle game bad!

The types of games are endless from nudity, drugs and alcohol, horror, gambling with money and more. These different types are wrong for youth gamers as well as wrong for people who don’t like seeing such things.

Gaming has good and bad sides just like everything else. The key is how good and bad are those sides. For example, some games have a bad side with players that like to fight a lot. This is common in games. Understand for a lot of gamers this is not a big deal; however, for youth who are new to the game or even gaming in general this can be frustrating. There are times when you want to avoid the bad sides all together. There are times when the good outweighs the bad. If this happens and there are no problems with the game itself; then the bad side is just that one little fly in your room which is no big deal. Caution: If the bad outweighs the good, I would strongly recommend avoiding that game.

Another aspect that people will nag a game developer or creator about is representation. Should I say, a lack of representation which is not limited to race, body type and message in the game. If you are able to customize your character, then of course you will not have a problem with representation. There is a problem in some games where they don’t represent strong and smart females, minority females and males, big, small, tall, and short females and males. Notice how I didn’t put “males” after female for strong? That’s because males in games are ALWAYS represented as strong and smart.

In games that show a male strong and smart, he will mostly likely be white, tall, thin, movie star looking and buff. You will rarely see him be a minority, short, chubby, not buff, nerdy looking, while still being strong and smart. You see this even LESS for females. Some females in games are also white, tall, thin and strong while showing skin like no tomorrow. You only see THESE females in MMORPG games (Massively Multiplayer online Role Playing Game) though. RPG games are meant for fantasy worlds where you mostly fight people and monsters. Of course the females’ stats will be strong but they won’t look strong.

In most games, when they add a character for you to play they always add a white male first, then a white female, then a black male, and then a black female. They don’t even really add people who are mixes of races or in between. When it comes to the black characters they only add one shade of “black” or “African American” and not every black person on earth is that shade.

In games, the majority of the characters are always thin and tall. You don’t really see characters that are short and thin, tall and chubby, short and chubby, etc. There are a lot of people who aren’t thin and who aren’t tall.

Then lastly, there is the mental message that goes with the gender, race, and body type. What do I mean by the mental message? Some games send an indirect message about that character being strong and smart or something else. While for other games it can be a mental message either on purpose or not. For example, in the game you play and you see a minority female who is short, chubby, nerdy looking and her traits are to be a goof ball, naive, and dumb. It could send a mental message to you that people that look like her are just like her. They’re not smart, they aren’t thin, and are not tall. They did poorly in school, etc. etc. So you start thinking those things based on not only seeing this in that game over and over again, but when it happens in other games too.

The worst part is NONE of these things are true. Yes, some people aren’t thin, tall, and maybe not that bright; but not EVERYONE is like this! You do have short chubby minorities who are smart as all get out! You have all kinds of combinations of people who ARE smart! Of course, all these things about gender, race, body type, and messages aren’t just in gaming; they’re in movies, TV shows, ads, etc. What’s interesting is that some of the creators who make the games, movies, TV shows, ads, etc., are minorities themselves and they make up the population of the earth. (Search “world population by race 2016″ and click the first three links if you don’t believe me.)

Quick disclaimer: I AM NOT BASHING ANYONE! Yes, I was shouting that. This section of the article is telling you what I know, read, hear and experience in gaming.

If you don’t believe me go look at today’s TV shows, movies, ads, and games. A show to look at for good representation is Milo Murphy’s Law. Two games to look at as a reference for good representation are OverWatch and Atlas Reactor. Now in these fields it has gotten better for representation specifically gender, race and just now starting body type (specifically in this order). Some games even add robots and creatures as playable characters to avoid having problems with representation. This removes the problem of users wanting a character to represent their actual or preferred gender, race, or body type because now there is a character most users can agree on. After all, you can’t please everyone.

Alright, now that I ranted and got the bad stuff out of the way; let’s get into the good parts of gaming! You have gamers as young as three years old and as old as 90+! No matter your age, race, gender, religion, culture, or location gaming can be good for anyone. Gaming can not only be fun, but beneficial and educational.

A benefit with gaming is it can help youth have more confidence in themselves and be more social. If they play an online multiplayer game and talk to other players around the world, this can help then get used to talking to other people besides family and they gain confidence in what they’re saying. They can go from an introvert to a social fanatic! It can happen fast or slowly. Even if it’s not a game but a place for gamers, artists, fashion designers, car enthusiast, etc. to chat; it will still help them be more social. Keep in mind though, typing to someone and then voice chatting to someone are two different experiences. Youth can be very social when typing but very shy when voice chatting.

This is how I am. Before I was shy when talking to people I didn’t know whether it was online or offline, now I’ve become more comfortable with it because I know how to handle myself and have confidence in myself. But when it comes to voice chatting online, I’m the quiet person on the chat. Counterproductive right! You might even forget I was in a call with you! Before when the people at the bank said “Hi” I wouldn’t say anything, now I actually respond and say “Hi. How are you?” After that I don’t really expect to talk with them so I’ll be quiet again lol. See what I mean? After socializing, in general, over time you get better at it and become less nervous and more confident in yourself.

Another benefit with gaming is team work. Sometimes in games the only way to win or accomplish a goal is to work with one or more players. In certain games, players are allowed a task can be accomplished with only one player, but it might be harder unless you have more players than yourself. Other times certain tasks can’t be accomplished with one player and need two or more. There are times you make a group with your friends or family to finish the goal. Other times you can make a group with people you didn’t know.

This is where it can get tricky. If it’s a game where you can make a group that’s invite only, you’d just invite your friends or family. You can strategize with them, you’d be more comfortable talking with them, and you’ll all agree to work together. If it’s a game where there is no group system but you can still work with others, aka free for fall, and you can talk with them there may still be a goal that can only be completed with multiple players. Do you have to play with other players you’ve never talked to before if your family and friends can’t join you and you really want to complete this goal?

This isn’t a bad thing though! This is where you not only become more social but you learn how to work with other players you’ve never met before. If you always play with your family and friends you both already know how to work together, how the other thinks, etc. But if it’s someone you’ve never met it can be a little difficult. Me and my brother grew up doing everything together without really having any friends, maybe colleagues and associates but not really friends. So we were very used to knowing what the other wanted or how they played etc. But when we actually got two friends, it was very difficult to agree on many things. So if you play and work with other people now it will be easier later. Me and my brother have improved our skills to work with others.

Another benefit is patience which ties in with team building and socializing. After all, in order to get better at something you not only have to keep doing it but you have to have patience while doing it. There are many times in games where you have to wait. Just like reading is in everything, you have to have patience for everything. In games you always have to wait for something. You need to have patience for finding something, something to finish cooking, something to finish dying, your friends to come back from going afk (Away From Keyboard), the next wave of monsters to come, the next level to open up, etc. etc. I had to have patience when writing this article! So gaming can help you have more patience in gaming and everyday life.

Another benefit is hand and eye coordination. When you’re gaming you have to pay attention to what’s happening on your screen while also pressing your controller or keyboard button to do more things on your screen. If you want to move your character in that game, you have to use your keyboard and mouse or a controller while still looking at your screen. It’s like learning how to type. Most of the time you’re supposed to learn how to type words and sentences while looking at your screen without looking at your keyboard. This same thing applies to gaming. You have to be able to press the needed keys in order to accomplish that thing you’re trying to do while looking at your screen. After all, if you’re pressing your keys but not looking at your screen, how are you going to know if you’re doing it right?

Now, this one is a benefit and educational benefit – memory. Games can help improve your memory. How? Let me tell you. Take what I said above about typing. The people who can look at their screens and type without looking at their keyboard have something called “muscle memory”. When they want to make a certain letter appear on screen they just have to press that key and they don’t have to look at the keyboard because they have press that key so many times they themselves and their muscles remember where that certain key is. You have muscle memory already. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your keyboard right now. You see where all the letters, numbers, and symbols are right? The letters are not in alphabetical order. So whenever you tried to type your name or something on a digital keyboard where the letter were alphabetical; Did you take you longer than usually to type that word and was it weird and confusing? It was. I’ve done it. You know why?

When you type or text to someone you know the word you want to make appear on screen and you remember where the keys are. Maybe you can’t tell them in order if someone asked you but if they asked you to type a word you’d be able to type it because you know where the keys are. For me I know how to spell certain words when I’m typing but maybe not how to spell it verbally. This is because I’m seeing the word being spelled in front of me. Technically when we type to each other we’re spelling out words and then reading them in our mind. But when you speak out loud you don’t see the words you just hear them. Sure, when you read text on screen you hear them in your mind, even right not you hear these words I’m typing, but you don’t verbally hear them and you’re seeing each letter make up that word. When someone spells something wrong you immediately notice it because it’s not spelled right and you read it. When someone speaks something you don’t read any letters, you only hear the word.

So games can help you build up muscle memory and mind memory. If you can store items in game you have to remember where you put it, or if you need a recipe to make something you might remember the recipe, or maybe you remember a detail about something important, or maybe you remember the way through a maze or the way home. Some games are even built just to help improve your memory or the only way to keep progressing is remembering certain facts. My mom can type without looking at the keyboard but struggles with trying to walk in games.

So now let’s get into the educational benefits. One educational benefit is math. Now, the game doesn’t have to have a goal to teach you math in order for it to have math. The point of going to school is to get an education! Not socialize, but you still might make friends. So this applies to all games. The game doesn’t always have to have a goal of J but it might include J. Its goal might be X but it might still have J. In some games you can build houses and use recipes to make items. How big do you want your how to be? 30 blocks X 10 blocks X 60 blocks? Did you understand what I just said? Let me say it differently. 30 blocks on the X axis (left and right on the ground), 10 blocks on the Y axis (up and down on the ground), and 60 blocks on the Z axis (up and down in the air). This is how you’d build a house, using math, in a game called Minecraft. With these coordinates it means your house will be a rectangle with a very tall roof. Let’s use Minecraft again for this next example.

If you want to make 4 swords for example, what do you need? You need wood and iron. How much wood? How much iron? We’ll start with the handle. You need two sticks to make the handle for one sword. One wood log can be turned into four wooden planks, take two and you can then make four wooden sticks. You want to make 4 sword handles. So how many wooden logs do you need? One. For the sword itself it takes two pieces of iron. You want to make 4 swords, so how much iron do you need? Eight. See? Depending on what you’re making and how many of that thing the recipe can call for lots of resources or just a few.

Another educational benefit is problem solving. There are lots of games with puzzles or none but it can still include problem solving. A good game for example is Scribblenauts Unlimited. In this game you go to make different places solving people’s problems to make them happy which gives you an item to cure someone. In order to solve their problems, you have to use adjectives and nouns to solve the problem itself or make something to solve the problem. The best part is you can solve that problem many different ways and no way is the wrong way. Some games even change based on your choices and we call these “paths”. Some paths can change, stay on the same route, or end. So you need to solve each problem the best way otherwise you may choose the wrong path or a path that ends.

Another educational benefit is reaction timing. If you don’t want to die in a certain game your reaction to something could be the deciding fact of your survival or grave. The more you test your reaction timing the faster you will get and soon you’ll be able to react to things quickly. This can come from games with combat like MMORPGs, shooters, and PvP (Player V Player).

You do a lot of these things in games without even knowing it! When you play that game you just have to do A, G, M, and S to do whatever it is you’re trying to do, without knowing in the real world those skills are technically called B, H, N, and T and used in 3, 6, and 9. See? So you just have to get used to applying those skills in the real world.

Some games are better for certain ages or interests. Some games are meant for little kids, some are for teen and young adults, and others are for adults. Then there are games just for people interested in robots, cars, fashion, princesses, ice skating, etc. So the games could have the same benefits, but those benefits might be better for certain people than others.

Some games are being used in schools or college, as tests for robots and even to teach certain topics. I recently got a game that will teach me how to read and write the Japanese characters while surviving in a game world. Some people who don’t speak English now know it enough to talk to English speakers just by playing or watching games in English! If you find someone who knows how to speak, read, or write a little Japanese; ask them if they have watched Anime. Most English speakers know some Japanese because they play or watch Anime things.

So when you see your youth or grandparents playing some games, don’t think it’s bad. It could be helping their memory, problem solving skills, math skills, or they may be learning another language or learning more about a topic.

As you read, there are good and bad sides to gaming. I recommend you just have fun and be safe while gaming. There are plenty of games out there for every type of person and more games are still coming. Games can help you improve and teach you skills you not only use in game, but you will use in school and in the real world. Games can help you get sharp and stay sharp. Have fun gaming and y’all stay safe!

Five Fun Camp Games for the Kids

Camping is such a fun activity for kids and for the parents too. However, it will be more fun and enjoyable when you have camping games on your list. You should remember to take into consideration the preferences of the kids to make this camping moment a truly memorable one. So to help you on your camping preparations, here are five fun and easy camp games that you might want to include on your list:

1. Ah! So! Gi! – All participants will sit in circle around bonfire perhaps. The group will learn three commands for this game.

Ah! – they will shout “Ah!” aloud and put their left or right hand across their forehead in a salute motion. They will then point to the person sitting next to them.

So! – they will shout “So!” aloud while putting their left or right hand across their chin in a salute motion. They will then point to the person next to them.

Gi! – they will shout “Gi!” while placing both their hands across their chest in a clapping motion. They will then point towards any person in circle.

The commands and corresponding actions shall be done in order. When someone is “Gi”ed by another person, he/she shall start the sequence from the top. The person who will fail to follow the correct order and action of each command will be booted out from the circle until only two participants left. Of course, the last one with no mistake will be the winner of the game.

2. Hot Seat – One person will be on the “hot seat” and will have a piece of paper on his forehead with a word written on it. He/she will ask various questions and the rest of the group will answer “yes”, “no” or “maybe” until he/she gets the correct answer. A timer is used in getting the correct answer. If the person did not get the right answer within the time allowed, then he/she has to perform a consequence.

3. Follow the Leader – There will be one leader and the rest of the kids will follow whatever this leader do or say. Participants who will fail to follow the exact words or actions of the leader will be out of the game. The last one standing shall be announced as the winner.

4. Bean bag toss game – Prepare some all-weather cornhole bags for exciting beanbag toss game for your camper kids. This game is fun and easy for the kids. They will just need to aim and toss the beanbag filled with feed corns at a raised platform with a hole at the end to be able to play the game.

5. Scavenger’s hunt – You can also organize a scavenger’s hunt activity for your kids. However, if you are going to camp on mountains or forest, you might want to make the game easier for them to avoid going in farther areas. Make sure that adults are also surrounding the place to look after the kids.

These are some examples of perfect games that will make your camping activity more fun and memorable. The kids and adults will surely have a great time playing these games.