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Physical Games


Disciplines > Game Design > Types of Game > Physical Games

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Physical games are played using the body and may require attributes such as:

  • Physical strength, to lift, throw or strike things, or to push or hit other people.
  • Running speed, to reach places faster than others.
  • Stamina, to keep going through endurance activities.
  • Response time, to react to events fast enough.
  • Dexterity, to smoothly move the body in complex ways.
  • Flexibility, to bend the body into assorted shapes.
  • Hand-eye (or foot-eye) coordination, for example to hit or kick balls in the right direction with the right force.

These use of physical ability may vary across the game, with peaks in periods such as trying to score or defending against intensified opponent attacks. For both players and observers, these can be particularly exciting moments.

Physical games may be played individually, though often they are in competition with individual other people or with teams playing against one another.


Athletic sports include a wide range of physical activities such as running, jumping and throwing.

A dance competition may be designed as a physical game, with winners and losers.

Treasure hunts and other games that require movement are also physical.


Skills vary between people and can provide pleasure for those who are less able or less interested in other areas such as intellectual games.

Few games are purely physical as they often require intelligence in strategy and tactics. In sports where the prime requirement is physical ability, this decision-making role may be taken by managers, coaches or captains. 

Physical games play to the need for arousal as the visceral qualities of action and opiate neurotransmitters that are produced can create legal enjoyment such as the 'runner's high'.

Interestingly, physical games make good spectator sports as people who are perhaps less physically able gain vicarious pleasure in seeing others exert themselves. Many games simulate fighting, which is still a deep instinct for many of us. Watching others fight gives a safe way to experience this thrill.

A good physical game design includes clear objectives and periods of intensified, thrilling physicality. Regulations also need to protect players from harm as much as possible, as can be seen in rules about personal fouls and the use of drugs.

See also



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