This short article is based on the premise that the most fundamental aspect of a game is the decision-making; specifically, ambiguous decisions. I created this chart, which I have published now at Gamasutra and inside my upcoming book, which is the foundation of this article’s premise.
So, I call an interactive system a puzzle if it has a problem that must be solved. If there is an element of competition, then I call it a contest. And finally, if you add ambiguous decisions, it becomes a game. This is, of course, a proposed definition. If you want to know more about this classification system, please read my article What Makes a Game on Gamasutra.
On to the topic of the day: execution.
Firstly, what is “execution”? Like most words, it has several meanings, but the meaning I wish to talk about could be described as “obstacles between yourself and putting information into the system”. The most obvious example would be complicated button inputs in a fighting game; stuff like “forward, down, quarter circle back to forward, then all three punches”. This is a situation where there was an obstacle put between the player and input intentionally.
Now, in contests, this type of execution makes a lot of sense. The difference between the winner and the loser of a push-up contest, a game of whack-a-mole,or a game of Dance Dance Revolution is the person who executed better – either due to having more strength, dexterity, or memorized patterns than the other person. Contests are not won by “he who made the better decisions”; contests are a raw measurement of something.
Games should be about the decision regarding whether or not to take a specific action. Being able to even perform the action should, ideally, be a given.