Structural Elements of Games


1. Purpose of the game; aim or goal, intent, the raison d' etre.

Checkmate one's opponent (chess).

Bid and make a contract (bridge).

Complete the course in as few strokes as possible (golf).

2. Results or pay-of]; values assigned to the outcome of the action.

Money (black-jack).

A kiss (spin-the-bottle).

A gold medal (relay race).

3. Number of required participants; stated minimum or maximum number of persons needed for action to take place. N.B. Sometimes minimum and maximum are identical.

Minimum of two required, no stated maximum (hide-and-go­seek).

Eleven men required for each team, minimum and maximum of twenty-two (American football).

4. Roles of participants; indicated functions and status. N.B. Role and power function may differ for each participant or may be the same.

Goalkeeper, center, others. Each player has a different role (hockey).

Each player has no more or less power than the others, and each functions in the same way (backgammon).

5. Rules governing action; fixed principles that determine conduct and standards for behavior. N.B. Some games have very few rules, others have such elaborate sets of rules as to require a non-participant to keep track of infringement of the rules or to enforce the rules.

Go back where you were, you didn't say, "May I?" (Giant Steps).

Regulations regarding weight and types of blows which may be employed. Panel of judges and referee determine infringement of rules, and have responsibility for enforcing rules (boxing).


6. Abilities and skills required for action; aspects of the three behavioral domains utilized in a given activity.

(a) Cognitive domain includes figural, symbolic, semantic, and behavioral informational content; and operational processes, such as cognition, memory, divergent and convergent production, and evaluation.

(b) Sensory-motor domain includes-bodily movement, manipulative motor skills, coordination, sequences and patterns of movement, endurance factors, sight, hearing, etc.

(c) Affective domain includes semiotic factors which stimulate emotions, i.e. - anger, joy, affection, disgust, hate, etc. Offers opportunities for object-ties, transference, identification.



Remembering which cards have been played and from which suits, in order to play the best card (hearts).



Grasping the ball, walking to the foul line, releasing the ball, etc (bowling).



Having one's disc knocked off the court (extension of self) requires affective control to continue the game (shuffleboard).

7. Physical setting and environmental requirements:

(a) Physical setting: man-made or natural facility in which action takes places.

(b) Environmental requirements: natural circumstances which are indispensable or obligatory. N.B. This element may not always be present.


Four-walled court (squash).

No special setting (charades).

Swimming Pool (water polo).

No special environment (dominoes).

8. Required equipment: man-made or natural artifacts employed in the course of action. N.B. This element may not always be present.

Rackets, bird, net (badminton).

No equipment (Botticelli).

9. Procedure for action; specific operations, required courses of action, method of play.

Roll dice, move counter in c1ockwise direction around board, the number of spaces indicated on dice. Act in manner indicated by last space on which counter lands, i.e., take a chance, pay rent, go to jail, etc. (Monopoly).

Stand in box, toss two successive shoes at far stake, travel to that stake with opponent, tally score, pitch back to first stake (horse­shoes) .


Click here to return to the Saint Augustine page.

Last update December 21, 2009