In digra list there is discussion on serious games with claims like game is only game if it is played. This view highlights the process nature of the games. On the other hand, the claim make obvious there is confusion what term games refers (Here I do not mean that we need definition composed by nessesary and sufficient conditions): but I think that we need a language that can explicate what kind of stuff we are referring when we say “a game”. Do we mean a process of playing a certain artifact, the artifact, or something else.
Similar vague use of term of role-playing game in recent discussion at Roolipelaaja forum causes missinterpretations. Usually it is not obvious from context if writer with a term role-playing game refers to game system (rulebook), beforehand designed scenario, game event, or already played game event.
Björk & Holopainen (2005) have proposed some terminology to clarify this mess:
A game instance defines the complete collection of all components, actions, and events that take place during the playing of single game. A game session is the whole activity of one player participating in such a game. A play session is the uninterrupted stretch of time when one player is actively playing a game. (p. 9).
I am not sure if these terms solves the problem in general, but their proposal demosntrates some distinctions that might be useful when discussing on games or role-playing games.
Björk & Holopainen (2005). Patterns in Game Design. Hingham: Charles River Media.