What makes a game a game? Does it have to be fun?… because Vanitas was not fun to play.
Vanitas is a category of symbolic works of art, usually associated with still life paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands.This artistic style is seen portrayed in the game Tale of Tales developed early in 2010, called Vanitas. Tale of Tales’ Vanitas, is classified as a videogame but is it really a game? According to Roger Caillois, a twentieth century French writer and philosopher, play is defined as, “a free and voluntary activity, a source of joy and amusement,” meaning that play is subjective and at the discretion of the individual’s idea of fun. A game, however, could be divided and classified using, “the [game’s] role of competition, chance, simulation, or vertigo” (Caillois). This definition, or requirements, for a game divides the different categories: the role of competition means that there are games played against others and ones that do not require interaction, the role of chance allows for the possibility of outcomes, simulation games have components that interact with the players, and the role of vertigo is in regards to the sensation of movement.
In Vanitas, the individual slides open a box and there are three objects in the box. The individual can move the objects around and view the composition of the contents. When the individual is finished viewing the contents you then slide close the box and three new objects are placed in the box and if three of the same objects appear the individual earns a star. After every third viewing, new objects are introduced to the contents. The objects range and include things such as: nails, bells, tarot/playing cards, snails, lady bugs, cherries, skulls, crystal stars, and so on. Quotes and poems also appear on the lid of the box when the objects are being reloaded. As for the additional aesthetics of Vanitas, there is little to do with music just an occasional melody but there are the noises that correlate to the objects, like the sound of a bell jingling or the contents sliding in the wooden box. Although the viewing is artistically appealing, there is not much to entertain the viewer and it become repetitive despite the changing contents.
In regards to Caillois’s ideas on play and games, Vanitas can be called a game. Since one category a game falls under is chance, meaning that there are a number of outcomes possible, and the major aspect of Vanitas is the different possibilities of the box’s contents, it then falls within the parameters of the definition. Even though it could technically be called a game, it may not engage an individual in play, which is more subjective and depends upon the individuals enjoyment and participation. For me, the game was repetitive and I continued to feel that I was missing some objective. Vanitas may have the components of a game but it did not have the fun required to play.
Caillois, Roger. "The Definition of Play and The Classification of Games" The Game Design Reader. The MIT Press (2006:Cambridge, MA.).