This is a book of models and hypotheses, not realities and truths.
The reality of games is bigger than a book or a mind. Games stretch causal threads through players’ minds and cultures, back to the history of their peoples and their species, and forward into all the lives they will affect and the future cultures that will judge them. A written model can’t encapsulate this. I haven’t even tried. Rather, I’ve attempted to create a guide to the craft that describes games in the most useful possible ways. But a guide is not the truth. It is a simple map to an astonishingly rich and diverse territory. No matter how much we learn, we shouldn’t forget that the reality is much greater.
Games are mental models for pieces of life.
A game is not a chain of events like a story. It’s a system. It crystallizes some part of the world into a set of mechanics and packages them up for us to play with. Instead of just showing us one thread of events the way a story does, it allows us to experience that piece of the world, again and again in a hundred variations. And that exploratory interaction teaches in ways that stories cannot.
After a failure punches my confidence in the gut, I think of poker. Poker has a message. Roughly translated into written words, the message of poker is that nobody wins every hand. But just reading that here isn’t the same as playing the game. The phrase, “Nobody wins every hand,” is just a piece of text to be filed away in memory. Only playing the ...