An Anatomy of Games: A discussion paper

01 September 2004

This paper is intended to describe the components from which games are constructed. It is prompted in the first instance by the development at Futurelab of new formats of games, and the need for advice and guidance for designing and constructing games by considering some of the affordances of previous games.

This paper is based on what one finds when one begins to dissect games. The paper does not describe how games work as such in a way that the work of Juul (2003) or Crawford (1982) provide. The descriptions they valuably provide are more systemic - more in the nature of the physiology rather than the anatomy of games.

The paper draws no distinction between recent concerns in the study of games between game play or what has been termed ludology and the narrative or fantasy elements of computer games (see Andrews 2004). These factors are treated similarly in the anatomy as (potential) parts of describing what games consist of.

The paper also makes no attempt to describe motivation to play games, or what or why people may gain from engaging in games as described in the work of Gee (2003). The review does not constrain itself to computer games in that new formats can draw on elements that have been previously in board games, field games or card games and so on. The paper does not discuss simulation in any depth, however, many complex and rich games are some form of simulation.