We’ve already gave a great deal of time when it came to talking about video-games, and what determines a game to be fun. But this time, we’re here to discuss on what makes something a game, and what certain common attributes shared amongst today’s video-games makes something a video-game. Per Juul’s definition, he says “A game is a rule-based formal system with a variable and quantifiable outcome are assigned different values, the player exerts effort to influence the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable” (Juul 2003). So, per Juul here, he basically says a game is something fixed rules, negotiable consequences, variable outcome, player attachment to outcome, player effort, and valorization of outcome.
Well, for me to determine this myself, I’m going to have to go over the game’s basic concept and objective, how it plays over time, and whether it truly connects to Juul’s rules of what a game. So, in the game fl0w, you are placed randomly in an aquatic environment with a bunch of 2D planes. There is no instruction given, but the controls within this game are simple enough for one to figure out quickly. Then it is up from there for the player to also figure out the game’s objective. From exploring the game through yourself, you quickly learn the way to switch through the 2D planes is by eating a specific organism, and that through these planes you have the linear objective of eating the other organisms to grow bigger. There are several types of other organisms that you can feast on by eating their significant parts of their models, which in turn, grants you a bigger size. This game’s objective goes on repeatedly until you grow big enough. The process does seem bored, however, there are different aspects of the game that provide increasing difficulty for the player to be entertained. These are such as organisms that also can eat you which makes you smaller, other organisms have different movement patterns, and the difficulty in navigating your own worm organism. This enough has kept me entertained, however, I feel that it won’t keep me entertained for long because of its repetitiveness, and lack of diversity when it comes to objective and environment.
But, whether I’m bored or not is not the topic right now, it is whether fl0w is truly considered as a game. Going off my experience that I have just recalled above, I think that fl0w indeed classify as a game. If we go by Juul’s definition and diagram, this is, technically considered a borderline game. Let’s go into the multiple points of Juul’s definition that apply to this game, and why it makes it a borderline game.
The first point being here is a game has a set of fixed rules. In fl0w, we are not clearly given a set of fixed rules, but we can eventually figure out the set of rules quickly by playing through the game. In fl0w, there are many rules to advance your objective of getting bigger. First to get bigger, you must eat a specific organism’s part after defeating it. Second, you can only scroll through other 2D planes to find other organisms that can make you grow bigger by using the red and blue organisms that have a ripple effect. Third, to grow bigger you must also avoid being eaten by other organisms. And finally, you must explore to find other organisms or you’ll never accomplish some point of your objective. This here I have concluded must be the set of rules for this game after experiencing, and although I may be missing information, the apparent rules figured out by playing the game can justify for this being a game.
This second point comes from one of the first point’s rules of the game. In this game, there are variable outcomes depending on what you do, and how you go about doing these actions. What I refer to specifically here, is how you go about attempting to eat other organisms, as if you do not time and carefully attempt to eat an organism, you will potentially lose your size. Basically, variables such as how fast you move and how sharp you turn affect your outcome when trying to eat another organism.
This third point also comes hand in hand with the second point’s explanation and justification. The consequences are clear in this game, if you do not carefully move around when attempting to eat an organism, you will be punished by being eaten and having your size reduced. However, it is negotiable, due to possibly having good results from preying on different types of enemies. The bigger the organism, the higher the reward, but also the higher the difficulty.
The player does exert quite the amount of effort by challenging him/herself to the more difficult enemies to be reward more greatly. This difficulty comes from attempting to eat bigger organisms that have a greater chance of eating you due to their size. Although there is no great amount effort, the effort is still there to be acknowledged, and gradual.
(Unlike some certain exponentially harder games…)
The Unmet Criteria: Player Attachment to Outcome & Valorization of Outcome
Both the player attachment to outcome and valorization of outcome come with great relation to each other, as the player in the end determines the valorization of the result of the game with his/her emotions about the game. While playing fl0w, I had never felt a player attachment to outcome, nor had a valorization of outcome. This is because when I think of these two points of Juul’s definition here, I perceive that the outcome here is different than the outcome in “Variable Outcomes.” The outcome here seems to be more of an ultimate goal at the end of the game that comes from doing objectives. However, in fl0w, there was not an ultimate goal to be met, it was to just get bigger and bigger. And once you had just reached a certain point, the game then cycles you back into a new beginning, leaving you to play once again starting from nothing. There was no attachment due to not having anything to become attached to since it was just a game of eating and growing bigger. In turn, this lack of attachment gave a lack of valorization to the outcome. The valorization (basically meaning to give value or validity) had never occurred because I never felt genuinely attached to this game. And that is not only because of its lack of anything to get to attached to, it was also because of the length of the game. The overall game time is something of around two hours, which I find very lacking for a game if I were to get attached to it.
After carefully examining through Juul’s main points of what a game is we can see here that fl0w meets the requirements for more than half of Juul’s points of what a game is, but falls through when it comes to the points of Player Attachment to Outcome, and Valorization of Outcome. This then, converts fl0w to being categorized as an “Open-ended simulation” per Juul, in which there is no valorization of outcome. In conclusion, fl0w passes off as a game, but a borderline game.