Preface to a Fundamental Theory of Games

Table of Contents

This article explores the question, “What do people experience when playing games?” It could also be considered an exploration of the “conditions of experience” of games.
In this article, Yamamoto examines the experience of game-play primarily from the perspective of making games. Unlike novels, manga, and films, which offer audiences their expressions without withholding anything, games—by their very nature—are guided by a combination of rules and systems that—guided by the choices made by the player—allow only one portion of what is latent to become apparent. To capture the totality of events that this produces, it is necessary to consider not only the phenomena produced through game-play but also the structure of the game that produces these phenomena. In doing so, the perspective of the creator is most helpful.
In creating games, game designers are, in fact, attempting to design the experiences of those who play the games. However, this is not always straightforward. This is because it has always been extremely difficult to capture and account for human experiences. There still is no adequate method for capturing a person’s experiences, concrete conditions of their body and psyche, and especially the conditions of their consciousness.
To grapple with the issues of player experience, Yamamoto proposes that further inquiry should be conducted from the standpoint of understanding games as a form of play wherein cause and effect relations are tested. In other words, we ought to understand the act of playing games as testing the cause and effect relations provided within the game and enjoying the latency of those relations.