the virtual and the game

Part of nearly every definition of game is, that there are no consequences of in-game actions and decisions to the realms outside of the game. Games have this trait in common with simulations. The decision a pilot makes when inside a flight-simulator only affect the simulation. For a professional airline-pilot, who is forced to regular simulator-sessions by his employer, the sum of his in-simulation actions and decisions of course have an effect on him outside the simulation: If he does badly in the simulation he may have to do more simulator-hours or may be banned from flying a non-simulated plane for a certain time, and so on. But these consequences are situated on another level, as the outcome of a simulation-session is taken into account. The in-simulation actions themselves only affect other elements of the simulation, they remain virtual.

With all kinds of communication online it’s a completely different thing. A flight-simulator ‘only’ pretends to be a flying airplane as it is known outside the simulation, but an IRC-session doesn’t pretend to be a conversation, it is conversation. Hence online-communication can’t be labeled to be virtual. In consequence communities which are formed by use of ICTs can’t be labeled ‘virtual communities’.

While musing about this issues I came to the conclusion that, if we accept the absence of trans-game consequences as a part of the definition of game, soccer is not a game. With the help of this we now can differentiate between games and sports. Soccer-players really run during the match, and get exhausted by it, they hurt each other and have to be treated by a doctor afterwards. Or take a boxing-match: The in-bout going-ons are no simulations as the boxers indeed smash their facial bones to dough, and they can’t leave those consequences inside the arena, but have to take them home. What happens inside the realm of a boxing-match is consequenceful for the participants, but not for the spectators—taken for granted, the live-spectators of a heavyweight championship bout lack a grant afterwards, but that consequence again is situated on a meta-level.