Kim Possible Taught Me What A Game Is

Kim Possible Taught Me What A Game Is

What really makes a game possible.

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EDIT: Jesus. That got long fast. TL;DR = YAY PLAYTIME!

Dennis Scimeca:
Kim Possible Taught Me What A Game Is

What really makes a game possible.

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A great insight that I wish more adults would get. Imagination is too often viewed as a childhood convenience that is to be set aside for facts and numbers at the ripe old age of eighteen, and our world is worse for it.

Imagination isn't just for kids It's a valuable critical thinking skill, and the cause of all the world's best things. When kids in school solve word problems, they do so by imagining the situation being described. Everything that has been invented was only invented because someone imagined a world that worked differently and took steps to make it so. And it all starts with that first stray stick that turns into a sword.

Playtime is the gymnasium in which we build the strength and agility of our imaginations. And it's still true for adults, though the gym equipment is often dusty and neglected, the doors boarded shut.

Somewhere along the line, we start to believe Imagination gets in the way of the Practical. Pretending to be a spaceman does no one any good, so instead you should find more "productive" hobbies like building birdhouses or something. Instead of the purpose of a game being to play, we have to have goals -- most importantly, numerical win conditions. Competitive gameplay became more important than cooperative gameplay, because it resulted in "knowing who was better" -- a practical, useful result.

With win conditions came loss conditions, particularly important in singleplayer games. After all, a game in which anyone can win if they persevere? That's useless and impractical. We need some way of using games to measure... Ah! And there's the problem. Instead of playtime having its own purpose, the only way we could justify its continued existence in our lives is to use it to measure something practical. "Skill" is the usual goal.

Behind the scenes, though, imagination is still the fuel. Seeing potential and possibility, or even just asking "What if the impossible wasn't?" When a golf enthusiast buys that new club Tiger Woods is endorsing, and he spouts off all the technical specs and science behind its design... there's still an eight-year-old in his head that loves that club because he imagines it'll turn him into Tiger Woods. To ignore that inner eight-year-old does him a disservice, because it closes off part of the joy and purpose of the "play time." Ask a pro athlete, and they'll probably talk a bit about visualizing -- the first step to becoming great is imagining yourself being great.

Playtime is important for communicating with ourselves. It can alleviate stress, quiet doubts, give us aspirations... It's the only cure for rampant, paralyzing cynicism. The value of true Playtime is that it is open-ended. There's no condition that brings a definitive "end" to the experience -- whether by losing or by winning. Now rules, yeah, they're important for governing the interaction of Your Playtime and My Playtime, but when we fixate on the numerical measures and demand that playtime have a "point," we set up roadblocks that destroy the open-ended nature of the experience.

I've often asked myself what makes Man A, who wears a Chewbacca costume to a Star Wars premiere, any "worse" or less "grown-up" than Man B, who wears his favorite player's jersey or favorite team's hat to a football game. Society has programmed me to assume Man B's expression is more "acceptable," but I have yet to find any convincing reasons why. We simply allow the numerical measurement to tell us there's more of a "point" to football than to Star Wars, and never question whether that's an improvement.

Beh, I could go on forever about this, it's so near-and-dear to my heart... I'll skip to the end with two things:

1. How is it that we expect children who are "all play" to suddenly turn into adults that are "all work?" Children and adults are both just humans (of various sizes). Both groups need work and both groups need play. Our world would be vastly improved if adults had the ability to just go outside with their neighbors and play a game of Freeze Tag.

2. Imagination doesn't get in the way of the Practical. It gives the Practical purpose. It's the only thing that ever drives improvement. It's not the numbers telling us "better," it's the fact that our imaginations tell us it's even worth looking for those numbers in the first place. And we're forgetting that. How can we ever expect the world to get better if we won't allow there to be any people left who can imagine it that way?

This was an excellent read. I love scavenger hunts in this sense. But one without a real time limit? That's just awesome.

Dastardly seems to have summed up my thoughts fairly well though, so I don't need to feel the need to re-iterate points.

I hadn't exactly thought about this point, and I have to thank you for bringing it up.

Honestly, a game can't be defined in any sense other than the most general term possible: 'Any activity that provides a source of enjoyment to the person'. It's a broad term, and could possibly be confused with other activities and disputed as such, but at the same time, the whole concept of a 'game' has become so broad to begin with that it's virtually impossible to do so. Trying to define a game would be the equivalent of riding your bike around the world, finding a decent and well-mannered CoD player, or convincing Yahtzee that the Wii is amazing and that motion controls are the future of gaming.

And besides, why should it matter what we define something as a 'game' as? If we've started to argue stuff about how stuff like 'Farmville' isn't a game or about how 'casuals' are ruining the game market, then I think we've lost sight of why video games, or frankly games and gaming in particular, were made in the first place.

I frequently find myself feeling like the point of the game is to win 'more' than the other person. I know its wrong but I get into that groove and my mind sits there...

Still, kudos to that kid for reminding you about what's important while playing a game. And I need to chill out when my friend knifes me in the back repeatedly in Halo.

Well, dang it, thanks for reminding me what an awesome show that was and now I have to go swallow my adult pride and go watch it again.

More OT: Interesting point about games. Exploration.

Wow I live in the area and have seen this before and never given it a shot because it seemed like it was something for kids. I'll definitely try it out next time!

Not to burst your epiphany bubble or anything but there have been quite a few games that have come out recently that I would say resemble the Kim Possible one. Like Kirbys Epic Yarn, New Super Mario Brothers, I'm sure there are others but that's all that comes off the top of my head. In Kerby you can't die, in NSMB the game will take over for you if your doing poorly in other games you can get hints if you are lost.

In the Kim Possible game that you described there were rules (you had to find the clue to advance), there were winning conditions (catching the bad guy I'm guessing) and it even provided hints to you if you were lost, but there were no loosing conditions. I don't think these are uncommon features of "casual" games. For instance in Royal Envoy "time-management" type games you get a higher ranking for compleating a level before nightfall. But you don't loose for going over time.

Perhaps this just got you to come down from your "hard core" high horse for a little while. ^_^

Anyway, I'm glad you and your wife enjoyed yourselves at epcot. It soundes like a great time, and even get some exersise! Bonus!

I've been meaning to play the World Showcase Adventure for a while. I go to Epcot every year for the Food and Wine Festival, and I'm getting a little tired of the park.

And I love the take home message of the article. I was trying to argue that point with a friend of mine who refused to believe that Flower was a game.

Also, I thought ARG stood for Augmented Reality Game. My mistake.


Also, I thought ARG stood for Augmented Reality Game. My mistake.

Pretty sure its both.

This example is an "alternate reality game".
But on the 3DS you have games that use the camera view to virtually distort and place objects in your environment. That would be (I believe) what qualifies for "augmented reality games".

I want to play that Kim Possible reality RPG now.

I got to try out that game a few years ago on my family's trip to disney, and it was blast. I had watched Kim Possible all through middle and high school so all the secret agent stuff mixed with the familiar villains was just brilliant.

I did it with a friend we'd brought along on the trip and like you, we were hesitant to try it out because it clearly was something targeted at kids. Though eventually we said "Fuck it, we're at Disney World and get a free pass to enjoy stuff for kids." It was just so cool to see how they'd integrated all the hidden animatronics that blended seamlessly into the park. After that I've got my fingers crossed they do something with Perry the Platypus and Dr. Doofenshmirtz, if only so I can shout along with him at the end of the mission "Curse you Perry the Platypus!!"

Our favorite mission was the one with Lord Monkey Fisk (Fist?) in China, it had the coolest ending and some of the best integration of the animatronics. Which one was yours?

Liked this article. I don't know if I would necessarily agree that a game is just "something you play" (depending on the definition of play), and whether a strict logical definition of "game" is even feasible. A win condition, i would agree, is not necessary. But i think you're wrong to say that this game didn't have rules. For example, there were rules for what buttons did what on the Kimmunicator, rules for what you had to do to progress in the missions, and so on. True, these weren't rules in the sense that a law is a rule, but in the sense that "Unit x does y damage" is a rule of an RTS, these were the rules that defined this game.

Nice article indeed. As Hijax says, your definition of a game is a bit too vague, but it certainly is hard to come up with a more concrete one that covers everything that could be called a game (although I would probably use the term 'fun' or 'satisfaction' somewhere in it), since it's just a very broad term. Even when we just look at the relatively small subgroup of videogames (compared to games as a whole), there are only very few descriptions that fit all of them. 'Something' on a screen (hence, the 'video' aspect of 'videogames'), something people generally do for enjoyment, something interactive and something with certain conditions that define your possible actions? Anything else is..tricky. Even 'imagination' is not to be taken for granted. Imagination has hardly anything to do with how a competitive player is experiencing raids in World of Warcraft.

Just look at only one broad term: 'purpose', for example. Minecraft suits whole other purposes than Halo, as does Zelda. And it gets more tricky when you realize games are played for vastly different reasons. A roleplayer in World of Warcraft is doing something entirely different than a competitive PvPer, but they can still both say that they're spending time in the same game, with the same dwarf, the same conditions and the same fantasy world.

I don't see how the topic deserves an article. A real world scavenger hunt is actually a game? A grinning kid reminds us what a game is? That my definitions of gaming are too specific? I don't see why these questions need asking, and I don't think there is much to the answers.

The scavenger hunt is obviously a game. It had objectives, it had an ultimate goal, and though the rules weren't spelt out, there was a method to progression and winning, and a defined play area. Sounds like a fun game. I've been to Epcot a couple of times, and never even noticed it was there. I'm a little too old to have seen Kim Possible in the first place, so I think a lot would be lost on me.

OK that sounds freaking awesome! Damn you for making me want to spend a pile of money on disney crap. Btw Disney is expunged of all sins for giving the world the best animated series in the history of ever...Phineas and Ferb.

I'm glad the author had such a good experience with the KimPossible hunt. When I tried to play it with my daughter last year, we had a very frustrating time. Maybe the system was just having a bad day.


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