Everything starts from an interesting article "Games with Judges" by Marlena Abraham, one of our adventure partners in Ludus. Through this article, Marlena discussed whether a game is not a "game" anymore if the winner of a game is decided subjectively. Under the article, I replied I don’t think the decision method of the winner in a game would always affect that much. I think a "game" is an "interactive experience that players pursue one or more goals under certain rules". And the idea of "win" comes from achieving SOME goal(s) of the interactive experience. However, there are some goals that might not lead players to the "win state". Hence, how to win a game might not be the whole game. Players could also get other interesting experience by pursuing other goals.
Moreover, "reaching the win state" does not mean to cause an end in some games. That is, there are some games do not use "satisfying certain winning conditions" as the ending condition. For example, in traditional "tag", players run around while "it" chases after them. We can say that "it" WOULD lose the game, and other players WOULD win the game, they are in win state currently. However, "tag" does not end when someone accomplishes some winning condition, reaching win state. Instead, traditional "tag" ends when "it" gives up chasing anyone. In this case, whether there is someone standing inside the win state will not interrupt the interactive experience of a game since ending conditions do not depend on the goals leading to win state. Therefore, again, "win" may only represent part of the game. A game will not lose its whole "game" spirit only because the varied ways to get win. That is, "how to get win" is not sufficient enough to determine whether that activity is a "game" or not. If the "win" relates less to the end of a game, the way how to choose the winner is less important in a game.
What's WIN for?
Then, what does "win" matter? I think it matters because the desire of "win" is one of the most effective ways to trigger players to be devoted in playing games. The competitions between players’ desires of win make the game more intense and push players to concentrate more. Especially when a game ends when some player reaches the win state, the conflicts between players’ desires become more obvious, and conflicts will reach the maximum when someone is close to the "win".
Some games would intentionally emphasize the maximum of coompetitions to enhance the intense atmosphere and to bring the interest curve to a higher level. For instance, calling "check" in chess and shouting out "Uno" in Uno. In Uno, the only goal is to play out all your cards in your hand. The game ends while one player has no more cards in his/her hand, and that person is the winner. It is a game whose win state extremely relates to the ending conditions. Players try their best to face the challenge of each turn and to play their cards with some kind of strategy in order to beat others and get the win state first. That has already made Uno into a highly competitive game. Moreover, the mechanism of yelling "Uno" to claim the win state stimulates the extreme intensity in the game. Other players will grab their last opportunities to hinder the player who claims to be so close to the "win state". It pushes the interest curve to a new peak and forces all the players to raise their heads from their cards and pay more attention on what other players are doing.
In conclusion, the importance of the role "win state" plays in a game is positively correlated to the relationship between the "win state" itself and "the end of the game". Even though the desires of win can drive players to be deeply devoted in the game, the idea of "win" would never completely represent a whole game.