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Part 2: Descriptions of Behaviour

by Darren Tomlyn on 03/21/11 09:44:00 pm

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
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Part 1: Foundations Of A Solution

So, hopefully we can now all understand how and why the words we are looking at – game, art, puzzle, competition, work and play, (as nouns) - can all be described as representing applications of behaviour.

I will now start from where the last post left off, in explaining why knowing this is not yet enough to define these words for what they are in relation to the rest of the language, (let alone in isolation).

There are two main problems left that just describing these words as applications of behaviour, does not solve.

The first problem, is the one I explained in the previous post – that without being described in relation to a person/entity or equivalent, people will always fill in such a gap with their own subjective perceptions.  Because of this, having an objective representation of such a person/entity such words can be described to and by would seem to help solve such a problem.

The real reason such a problem arises, is because of the problems with nouns themselves – what these words represent in general does not fully exist in isolation outside of the language, and so describing them as such will never be fully consistent with their place within the language as a whole.

Although the first type of noun – ‘things’ – can and do exist in isolation, this type of noun does not, even though it is treated the same way, and therefore belongs to the same type of word.  This is mainly what is causing the problems.  Although verbs also represent behaviour within the language, because they are used in combination with words representing the subjects/objects such behaviour applies to – they do not exist in isolation within the language itself.  Because this type of noun is used the same way as the first type – which can and does exist in isolation – it therefore lacks such an ‘anchor’ within the language, by which such behaviour can be related to or by.

So we have words that represent applications of behaviour, that exist in isolation within the language, and yet what they represent cannot, and does not exist in isolation itself.  But since words are described for what they represent in isolation within dictionaries/encyclopaedia’s etc. we therefore have additional problems when it comes to recognising these words in relation to not just the language itself, but also the subjects/objects that can and are taking part in such an activity, let alone each other.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with the definition of art from before – we’ve wound up with a problem for a lot of these words – ether they get defined in a manner that is too specific, or even not specific enough, to describe what such words actually represent in a manner that is consistent with how the words are used - (and therefore the rules of the language that governs such use).

This has lead to the second problem – that some people fail to recognise and understand whose behaviour such words actually represent applications of.  I’m not going to name names, (or even link to examples), but there have a been a couple of posts on this very site that have made such mistakes – defining art by the audiences behaviour, a game by the behaviour of the game itself, or a puzzle by its creator’s behaviour, (though they didn’t recognise they were talking about puzzles in the first place).  None of these are consistent with what these words represent.

Again, the lack of any consistent or even objective foundation by which the behaviour and any applications can be described for any or all of these words is the root of many problems we have with such words and their application.

But of course, that all assumes we fully recognise what behaviour these words represent applications of in the first place…

There are reasons why what it is that these words represent, has existed for so long without (really) changing (much), irrespective of any language and words used to describe and represent such things, (which they probably pre-date anyway).

The applications of behaviour – especially the behaviour – these words represent, are among the most basic, simple and common examples of such a thing.  Many of them would exist even without humanity itself.

The problem we have, therefore, is merely, and only of language itself – to match the words we have with what they are used as representing – by describing them for what they represent in a consistent manner for all who use them.  All we need to do for this, is to recognise what it is these words must represent, based on how they are used, and then be able to describe them in a manner that is consistent with that – nothing more, or less.  The how and why of what these words represent simply does not matter, unless it has some bearing on their definition – which isn’t the case, since what they represent is so simple and basic - (and old).

EDIT:  Before we go any further, however, we can narrow the scope of what the word game represents even more.  There are two main types of event, which can be described and represented bythe words activity and action repectively.

The word game is used in a manner that is consistent with what the word activity represents, and not action, which matters for its description.  A competition, a puzzle and art itself are also similar.


Part 2: Descriptions of behaviour

So, since I’ll be looking at each word in isolation in a separate post for each after this one, in which we’ll hopefully be able to describe and define each word in their entirety – the only part of such descriptions that matters for now, is the basic behaviour these words – or at least most of them – (a couple of uses of the word competition won’t quite fit in the same way as the others) – happen to represent applications of.

EDIT: Since we're looking at describing activities, and not an individual action, we therefore need to describe a type of behaviour the activity contains, rather than any individual action it may contain.  This is another problem that can be found in many other descriptions - including some form those on this site.

The most basic behaviour these words could be recognised as representing is almost, if not the most, basic behaviour of all:

Things that happen to people (or other entities).

Things that people (or other entities) do.

So, you would think, and hope, that recognising such behaviour would be so basic and simple, (that if recognising such behaviour is not innate, then it would be fairly close to it), that any of these words that represent such behaviour/things that happen, wouldn’t have any trouble at all of being recognised as such, and therefore described as such a thing, yes?

Unfortunately, no.  The main reason for this, is that people get mistaken – (especially game developers it seems) – about the people, person or entity such behaviour applies to.  As I’ve explained, how such words are described isn’t helping.

Obviously, none of these words are described in such an exact manner as I’ve used here – in any dictionary or encyclopaedia, at least directly.  However, such behaviour is not quite specific enough for what all these words represent.  The reason for this, is that some of these words make a distinction between:

Things people do for themselves

Things people do for others.

Now, again, such methods of describing such words, isn’t very good, and not really very accurate - basic and as simple as they might be.

For this reason, such descriptions of words use different words or methods of describing such behaviour – (such as the word expression in the previous definition of art).

Unfortunately, the descriptions of such words, and such behaviour they represent applications of, are, again, always in isolation, without any consistent foundation by which they can be related or more consistently recognised and understood.

So, as I said before, we therefore need a consistent, objective foundation, upon which the descriptions of such words can be built, and anchored to within the language itself – an objective representation of a person/entity etc. – that such behaviour can then be described in relation to, so that a person’s own subjective perceptions no longer have any place to affect or replace such a description, as it can at present.


Part 3: An Objective Representation of People/Entities

So, if this is what we need, then how can it work?  The reason for the problem we have at present, is that, by leaving out any subject/objects taking part in such behaviour, and without the context of the use of the words themselves naturally adding them in, people’s own subjective perceptions of such people and entities taking part in such behaviour are naturally used instead.  By introducing an objective representation of such people or entities within their definitions themselves, such problems should hopefully be minimised to such situations where such a thing is useful, rather than harmful as it is at present.

So, the question is – how do we do such a thing?  How do we use, or even find such a word representing such a thing – assuming one exists?

Since the problem we have, is with subjective representations of people especially, merely using another representation of a person or people in themselves probably isn’t going to work – it’ll just be replaced by more subjective representations instead, based on each individual's perception as it is a present.  We therefore need another method by which such things can be described, along with such behaviour.


What if there was something each person or entity has, or even can be merely perceived as having that is affected by such behaviour in a consistent manner?

What if the English language has a word that is used in a manner that is consistent with it representing such a thing, and in a consistent, objective manner, independently of any subjective representations?

And what if people use words in combination with this thing, that can be used to represent the behaviour we are trying to describe?

(And what if this word was so simple and basic that we can, and do, teach it to little children?)

But we have a problem.  Precisely because of the manner in which we teach the word, it is not perceived for what it represents in a manner that is consistent with how the word is used.

Again, we have a word that has, to my knowledge, always been defined not just for what it represents, but also by how it is applied.

And yet the word we use to describe such an application is naturally used in combination in common speech in order to give this thing such an application to begin with!  Just as we don’t describe birds as animals that are flying, or doors as things that are open, this word shouldn’t be described by such an application either.  But it appears to always have been – due to people learning about such a thing by such an application itself.

And yet the old (now obsolete) definition of this word in the large multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary (2nd Edition) – is inconsistent with the very examples printed next to it – for this word has never been used in a manner as representing such an application.

The word representing the thing we have, that can be used to represent a person or entities, to and by which their basic behaviour can be described in a consistent objective manner – is:


The word story, within the English language, is used as representing a noun of the first type – a thing, or, more precisely, an intangible thing – a form or arrangement of information.

The problem with the word story is that it is, and always has been, defined, described and perceived as representing a form or arrangement of information that is told.  But of course, we have always used the word tell in combination with the word story to give it just such an application in the first place – therefore they exist separately and independently within the language itself, and have no place in defining each other.

In short – the word story exists without telling, similarly to good/bad or short/long etc..

So the questions now are:

1. What ‘thing’ does the word story represent?

2. How, if or where does such a thing exist independently of such an application?

The word story represents a form or arrangement of information – about or of a series of events, either real or imaginary.

The key to understanding where such a thing can exist independently of any application, state or quality, in a manner that is consistent with how the word is used, is that last word above – imaginary.

The only place imaginary information can exist in such manner – without being told – and after being created itself, (‘imagined’), is, of course, memory.

So the word story is used as representing the information of events stored in our memories.  Of course, one of the reasons why the word story is more suitable for this problem, instead of other words – (such as memories/experiences) – is that it can also exist elsewhere in different forms, and be referenced to as such – memory is merely the only place they can exist independently of such states and applications.

The word story can therefore be used to represent a record of such behaviour we are trying to describe here – but not only in the past tense - also present and future tense, without problem.

So we can therefore describe story itself as:

Story n (1). An account of events, either real or imaginary, (created and stored inside (a person’s) memory).

I’m using the word account here, because it describes what the word story represents in a simple, minimal way.  (To understand why it is applicable – have you ever heard of a memory bank?).  The parentheses are there because they only matter when the word is used/treated in isolation, and are therefore optional.


Part 4: Objective Descriptions Of Basic Behaviour

So, now we have our objective representation of a person, we need to know why it’s suitable – how we can use it to describe the behaviour of such words in a consistent, objective manner.

It is, of course, simple:

Things that happen to people are stories they are told.

Things that people do for themselves are stories they write.

Things that people do for others are stories they tell.


Being able to describe the behaviour in this manner, is already far more precise in many respects compared to either what we had before, or how the dictionary describes such words.

Of course, all that remains now is to identify both the application and the behaviour these words represent, and then describe them in such a manner that then shows how they are related to and by this thing we call story.

However, before then, I’d like to just look at a few other words that are relevant to this problem too.

Because the word story has become confused with its application, the words which the language has that represent such a thing and it’s application are not fully recognised by such a relationship either.  But we can fix that now, too:

narrate v. to tell a story/tell the story of

narration n (2). the act of telling a story/stories

narrator n (1). one who tells a story

narrative n (2). a story that has been, or is being told  adj. the property of telling a story.

Part 3: Defining The Word Game

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