The article Definition of Videogames1, which I commented earlier, reminded me of a discussion about defining games at Digra 2007 conference. When I mentioned Wittgentein2 critique on definitions based on necessary and sufficient conditions, I got a reply that dismissed Wittgenstein critique, because he changed his mind. The presented argument, he changed his mind, is an example of ad hominem argument which is logically invalid argument.
Wittgenstein critique on the categories of natural languages seem to be accepted in social psychology (see, e.g., Kunda3); the categories of natural language has no clear borders, and whether something belongs to a category is based on similarity rather than necessary and sufficient conditions. There are of course categories that are based on strict definitions, e.g. odd numbers. But there are also categories, such as art and game, where using necessary and sufficient conditions (or cluster definitions) in defining what belongs and what does not belong to the category has turned out to be problematic.
Maybe we should take Wittgenstein critique on formal definitions seriously and start to think what implications of that in game studies, instead of proposing different definitions that can be used to categorize an arfifact just by looking at its formal features.
- Tavinor, Grant. (2008). Definition of Videogames. Contemporary Aesthetics 6. Available http://www.contempaesthetics.org/newvolume/pages/article.php?articleID=492.
- Wittgenstein, L. (1958). Philosophical investigations. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 3rd edition. Translated by G. E. M. Anscombe.
- Kunda, Z. (1999). Social cognition: Making sense of people. Cambridge: The MIT Press.