The Word Game: The ontology of an undefinable object

Espen J. Aarseth, Gordon Calleja

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


In this paper we address the problem of defining games formally, following Wittgenstein's dictum that games cannot be defined adequately as a formal category. Several influential attempts at definitions will be evaluated and shown to be inadequate. As an alternative, we propose a descriptive model of the definable super-category that games belong to, cybermedia , that is pragmatic, open, and capable of meeting the needs of the diverse, intensely interdisciplinary field of game studies for a uniting conceptuallization of its main phenomenon. Our approach, the Cybermedia model, consisting of Player, Sign, Mechanical System, and Material Medium, offers a medium-independent, flexible and analytically useful way to contrast different approaches in games research and to determine which aspect of the phenomenon one is talking about when the word "game" is used.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 10th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG 2015)
Number of pages8
PublisherSociety for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games
Publication date2015
ISBN (Print)978-0-9913982-4-9
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventFDG 2015 - Foundations of Digital Games 2015 - Pacific Grove, United States
Duration: 20 Jun 201522 Jun 2015


ConferenceFDG 2015 - Foundations of Digital Games 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPacific Grove


  • Game Ontology
  • Game Definitions
  • Lusory Attitude
  • Wittgenstein
  • Game Object
  • Game Process
  • Game Perspective


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