What distinguishes a game from a non-game?
The most obvious characteristic would be that of fun. If something is called just a game, then perhaps it is being described as not being serious. It is as if real life is a serious matter, but games are a frolic. However, the game metaphor does not focus on the fun aspect, for it recognizes that organized games are played typically in full seriousness.
How do we account for the non-sporting world?
Consider the close connection between games and arguments: so close is the connection that one might hesitate to consider that games constitute the basic term in any equation between the two. The reduction of arguments to games can easily be reversed by considering games as arguments....
Maybe the game metaphor itself doesn't work, is too limiting?
The problem with using the game metaphor to understand social rules is that the metaphor only deals with one aspect of rules: their acceptance. It does not deal with the creation of rules.... The game and its rules are only comprehensible because there is more to social life than rule-following. Inevitably the metaphor of the game, by restricting itself to one aspect of social life and by treating this one aspect as a metaphor for the whole, produces a restricted image of the person. This is a person who essentially accepts the rules of life without question, although complaining about their application in particular situations.
It could be said that for rules to exist, there must be more than rule-following.
Conversation as a game?
If there is a resemblance between arguments and games, then also arguments can resemble games which never quite get played. It is as if two captains are picking sides in a playground before playing a game to settle an argument. However, they cannot agree how to pick the sides, and therefore they decided to play a second game, the winner of which can decide how to pick the sides for the first game. The second game requires that sides be picked, and that provokes a further row, which is to be settled by a third game. And, thus, there looms the prospect of infinite disagreement about the rules.
[ M. Billig, Arguing and Thinking
, 1987 ]