(Note: There is a difference between what we perceive (of the universe around us), the information of this, and how we represent such information to allow communication between us. Language is ONLY an application of the latter - any consideration of mathematics being defined as and by the former information and perception, automatically means it has nothing to do with language, directly, at all. Unfortunately, some still like to confuse them.)
Programming languages are applications of both mathematics and logic, whilst often using additional elements of another language, (to make them easier to read by humans), in order to allow computers to function, by transferring the information they require to do so. (Calling them languages is consistent with what language is/how languages function, and not a problem.)
Puzzle = interacting with stories being told
Game = competing by writing your own stories (in a structured/rules-based environment)
Story = an account of things that happen created and stored inside (a person's) memory (bank (see: account)).
We have a FAR more fundamental problem underpinning everything else within the English language (at least):
The (most) basic rule(s) of English grammar are not even fully recognised and understood in the first place. If the STUDY of (our) language is not fully consistent with its USE, that is then used as the basis of its TEACHING - how can we expect people to use it consistently if not being taught any better?
Since the most basic rule of English grammar forms the basis and context for everything else - (from parts of speech (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Part_of_speech) to punctuation, tense and plurality etc.) - to exist, without understanding this, we're merely causing more problems instead of solving them.
The reason for the problem is extremely simple - we're basing our perception and understanding of (this) language upon its study - the act of studying it - rather than its use - (the act of using it).
(p.s. how do you get italics? (I hate having to use caps all the time
Types of games are ONLY defined by two things: The medium/media used, and the type of story that can be written.
The pen and paper are a medium, but merely form a TYPE of RPG, rather than a type of game in general. The RULES, systems and mechanics of a game, in and for themselves, are SUBJECTIVE, and cannot be used to define a type of game at all - merely supporting the identity of an individual game based on their application. The type of written story they ENABLE, CAN be used to define a TYPE of game, but that's NOT what has happened here, and is why we're having problems.
It's the act of a PERSON PLAYING THE ROLE OF A CHARACTER (in conjunction with and ADDITION TO any other media, such as dice/pen and paper and whatever systems and mechanisms, such as the D20 system etc.), that defines such an activity as a TYPE of game, based on such a MEDIUM being used.
But such a label is not being perceived, recognised or understood in a manner that is consistent with such use and definitions of types of games in general - which is why it is now used inconsistently and incorrectly, and is causing so many problems. Based on its use outside of computers - the term RPG, should only have a very limited use and meaning for computer games - since computers CANNOT enable such role-play by themselves - they're not powerful enough, yet - which leaves multi-player games using computers as the medium to enable such role-playing BETWEEN PEOPLE as the only possible method by which computer-based RPG's can consistently exist - replacing the pen and paper with the computer.
Unfortunately, by confusing a medium for mechanics, systems and rules, and then trying to shoehorn it into a type of written story that isn't suitable for such a label, a lot of the power, scope and potential of computer games is not being fully recognised and understood. I can define furniture as being only made out of wood all I like - but that doesn't mean I'll be correct in relation to how the rest of the language is used. Unfortunately, if everyone then only starts recognising furniture if it's made out of wood, and not metal, plastic or glass, we're going to lose something...
Furniture is defined by it's function, not the materials or process used to make it.
Games are defined by the behaviour they are designed to enable - which IS their function - not the rules or media used to enable it in the first place.
Although types of furniture can be LABELLED by such materials, and types of games can be LABELLED by the media being used - they have no impact on their definitions AS furniture or games in general, which is why such terms are used in ADDITION to, in COMBINATION WITH, the words game and furniture themselves, optionally, based on their subjective application.
As I said - it all comes back to the same, underlying problem - the (collective) lack of recognition and understanding of games - what it is the word game itself represents, based on its use (in general) - BOTH in isolation, and in relation to the rest of the language.
This is therefore a matter, (and failure), of LINGUISTICS, that then causes a problem of semantics.
I have a blog on gamasutra to talk about this problem - but since it's merely symptom of a deeper problem within the language, dealing with how the basics of the language is recognised and understood (ultimately because of how it is taught, which is why it's a matter of linguistics)), is the real underlying problem. (Which is why I have to wade through quite a few things to describe the problem itself for how it is related to the language in general).
In short, the problems with the word game exist because people are not applying the basic rules of English grammar consistently when describing what other words in the language represent based on how they are used - specifically the TYPES of concept/information they are used to represent, further represented by the words NOUN, VERB & ADJECTIVE. (It appears that there's a bit of a problem with adverbs too, but I haven't really looked at them yet).
The problems with the word game, are mainly a symptom of not describing nouns and verbs consistently in RELATION to each other.
It depends on how you define the term RPG in relation to computers and computer games, (rather than P&P etc. - (since, no, they're not used the same way to represent the same thing)).
The problem we have is that a lot of what people perceive as having to do with the label 'Role-playing game' has actually very little to do with what such a label describes - because of people's inconsistent, subjective perceptions of what the word game itself represents in the first place. This is then affecting how such games are designed and made, usually at the expense of the game itself, which is why most games now are merely the basic types of game - FPS/RT(TB)S/Action-adventure/Driving/Beat'em'up etc. dressed up.
The REAL problem, which we can solve, is understanding how to MANAGE complexity properly - or rather, how to give the player the tools to do so themselves. Some games can do this in a limited manner or to a limited degree - (driving games with options going from 'simulation' to 'arcade' etc.) - but the scope for using such mechanisms for all types of games, and especially the one, main element we should REALLY be looking at here - (user-defined) gameplay DEVELOPMENT - is MASSIVE.
The reason for the problems with the term 'gamification' go a lot deeper than anyone probably realises.
For this reason, most people, such as Mr Bogost or Jon Radoff, don't understand the nature of the problem itself, and instead concentrate on dealing it's symptoms, rather than understanding the cause.
Here's my reply to Job Radoff's blog (corrected for spelling - oops):
I'm sorry Mr Radoff, but in this particular case, you are wrong.
This problem goes far deeper than it may at first appear...
The problem with the word 'gamification' is ENTIRELY due to its label, which is based on an inconsistent use of the the word game, which is the built on its inconsistent and not fully recognised and understood definition, which is based on an lack of recognition of how it is used, which is then, further, based on a lack of recognition and understanding of part of the basic rules of English grammar - WHAT concepts types of words are used to represent, in conjunction with HOW they are used.
The actual root of this problem lies with the inconsistent definitions of the words noun and verb (in RELATION to each other).
The term gamification is used as an application of game-theory. The problem with game-theory, is that it's about far more than just GAMES. It's really about mathematical models of COMPETITIVE behaviour in a structured environment.
But competition is NOT the behaviour the word game ultimately represents. Competition, is instead, merely part of the application of the behaviour the word game happens to represent. Since this type of noun is not fully recognised as representing applications of behaviour, (things that happen), we have problems.
Competition is, of course, the same type of word - representing an application of compete. Unlike the word game, however, what competition represents does NOT have to be created by humanity in order to exist. For this reason, applying game theory in order to model, promote and enable competition and competitive behaviour, has nothing to do with the word game in itself. For this reason, the term 'gamification' that is used to label such a thing, is a complete misnomer - and THAT is the cause of the problem you (and Ian) have.
Interactive Narratives are NOT games in the first place - they're PUZZLES - mazes in literary/video form! (Take a choose-your-own-adventure book - cut out all the parts of text and lay them down in order, then draw lines between them representing the choices and paths the reader can take - what do we have? A MAZE.)
If you want to get REALLY fundamental - the basic games are:
Competitive throwing/movement for accuracy/precision, distance/time (duration).
Game = a structured activity (rules) in which people compete by doing something for themselves - (writing their OWN stories!).
The problem underpinning ALL of these kinds of arguments is extremely simple though:
Games are NOT fully recognised and understood for what they are, at this time: WHAT the word game itself represents, according to its 'current' USE, is NOT consistently recognised nor understood. (Most definitions of the word game are still based on a perception of the word game that was only ever consistent with some of its use centuries ago - with a meaning that is consistent/identical with the word play (when used as a noun). Since games can be played for work, this is now inconsistent with its current use and therefore definition)).
But the problem with the word game, is actually a SYMPTOM of a deeper problem within the English language - a failure to recognise and understand half of the basic rules of English grammar - WHAT words (especially types thereof) represent, (ideas/concepts), in combination with HOW the words are used. The TYPE of noun the word game belongs to is not fully recognised or understood... (Nouns in general are not fully recognised or understood for what they represent, and verbs and adjectives have problems too - (I've not looked at adverbs yet)).
I'm going to be coming back to all this later on in my blog, but I've covered the basics required for the word game, (and related words, such as competition and puzzle - (am working on the post for art) - so far, (along with word story - which many people seem to have problems with, (that is one of the reasons I'll be revisiting the basics of English grammar later)):
The reason WHY people are complaining about games these days is simple - as you said - they're NOT being made/created/designed consistently AS games in the first place! If you're not doing that, then how can you hope to make the best possible game that people then want to play for a long time?
But that's why getting it sorted out as a matter of LINGUISTICS matters first!
Yes, you're right in general, BUT, game theory has become so encompassing, that parts of it are purely a matter of psychology - and that is the part we're looking at here - NOT the mathematical side at all. (When you get down to it the entire universe is just maths, but such a perspective isn't always useful).
Nothing in what I read in your post above was specific to games - and that's the point I am making - even the implementation you try to speak of above can involve puzzles or competitions. To be honest, some MMO's also interleave games with elements of competitions and puzzles as-well - but then people don't fully understand the difference and the relationship between them, so...
And this is the point I'm making - 'gamification' in general is NOT about games. Although it can involve games, because the basis of it is merely competition and competitive behaviour - it can also involve puzzles, competitions, and even (competitive) play or work. Without fully recognising and understanding what ALL of these words represent, both in isolation, and in relation to each other, the term 'gamification' will, and IS causing problems for games in general - just like 'game' theory which it is applied from.
But none of what you're talking about is specific to just games - some of it can be merely part of work or play in general, puzzles or competitions...