Culture General

What’s a Game and What’s an Activity

So, I’ve been sitting on this topic for a while, because there was a popular game last year (I’ll review it this week) called The Mind. It was very popular but also got a bunch of dislike around it because people saw it not as a game but as an activity. I wanted to talk about the differences between the two and if that really matters in the long run.

Taking from the Oxford dictionary, the definition of a game is:

“a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck”

Oxford Dictionary

According to that definition, is my example of The Mind, a game?

Basics of the Mind are that you are trying to play cards in numerical order without talking, you can see your cards but there is no communication, so you have to guess, based off of feel when to play them down, and you’re trying to get through a certain number of rounds.

By the definition of a game, it doesn’t really take skill or strength, but it is very much luck. And, I think that something that I’d say for a definition of a game, it needs to have a win condition of some sort, I think that competitive is trying to cover for that, but I think a win condition is clearer, because cooperative board games are definitely games even though you’re not competing against someone. So, the Mind, by the technical definition is a game. But, when looking at the definition, it feels like it’s lacking a little bit of what is normally a game because it is just luck based.

Image Source: Board Game Geek

So, maybe it’s a combo of a game and activity. I think that you could say that all games are activities. And with the Mind, because you’re mainly just guessing when to play down a card or when to use a special ability, it feels more like an activity to me. And it is a fun group activity as you try and use body language or other non-verbal queues and non-spoiling clues to get other people to play or to have a rush of playing when the numbers are close together. For me, the Mind is more of [redacted – come back for the review].

Is it bad that it might be more of an activity than it is a game? No. I think that many party games, they are best when they are treated more as an activity than a game. When you are playing something like Stipulations and trying to come up with an answer, it’s better to put down something that you think is funny. Same with Balderdash or a game like Cards Against Humanity or Apple to Apples. Even if it isn’t the best answer or the answer most likely to win, it’s a lot of fun just to create moments where you can laugh. And you play until laughing is just starting to fade, and you’ve had a great activity without caring about who wins because you can just be goofy. If you treat them as a game, you won’t get the in-joke answers, you’ll get people trying really hard, and that’s less fun. Yes, you might be removing the game aspect from it or going against the spirit of the rules, but it’s a party game, and a party is supposed to be fun. That’s why I have issues with “party” style games that don’t led themselves to being an activity because they can’t have the same level of fun. I’ll talk about what makes a good party game later as well.

So, with the Mind or party games, they can border on an activity, and that’s fine. I think what’s not fine and some of the reason why I’m writing this article, is because there can be a sort of snooty thumbing of the nose towards these games and the people who play them. Yes, it’s not that complex a game or activity, but are the people having fun, yes. Can it be a gateway for getting people into the heavier and more complex games? Yes. Will it always do that? No, and that’s fine. We want to encourage as many diverse gamers to join the hobby as possible as that will keep the hobby growing and from becoming stale. It might not be a 4X game, an 18XX game, a euro game, or an Ameritrash game, but that’s fine depending on the group, and if they don’t want to move on to those sorts of games, it might be that game group isn’t the right one for you, but don’t disparage someone for having fun in their own way.

What is a light game that you think works better or is more of an activity? Have you tried The Mind, and do you like it? Let me know in the comments below.

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