Stefan M. Grünvogel, Richard Wages
What Systems can and cannot do for Computer Games
Abstract: From a research point of view there is a strong need for analysis and classification of games based on certain basic design patterns. These patterns have to be defined with the help of a terminology, which uses only well-defined terms from its own realm. In a comprehensive theory obscure collective terms like 'game play' will have to be omitted or redefined. It is then that we have the chance to analyse games properly. We would be enabled to either describe their build-up itself from basic design patterns explicitly in a constructive manner, or - when exploring an existing game - by developing a canon of questions that will deliver the character type of the game under investigation as a result. The term 'system' is used both for the definition of games as well as for their description and analysis. In this paper we will explore the opportunities the notion 'system' offers, its limitations and what alternatives could be used.

The term 'system' is used in many different ways in games research. However, in most of the cases it is not defined precisely either and it has a different meaning in the various scientific areas. But they all come down to essential elements and concepts of classical system theory in the sense of Bertalanffy or cybernetics in the sense of Norbert Wiener. An approach which uses the terminology of systems is made in diverse scientific disciplines, since it is in some way a universal concept. This facilitates to find analogies between games research and other areas of knowledge. We present examples on how to transfer and apply concepts from various scientific fields (e.g. mathematics, computer science) to games analysis and design and also show the limitation and drawbacks of this approach.