Since I can't store lists, should I add a column to my table called owned games and then just keep a long string like "game1, game2..."?

Or should I add another table called something like ownership and every row represents the fact that a user is linked to a game...


  - gameID
  - owner
  - dateAdded
  • 3
    Look for a "many to many" relationship in relational databases, you will find lots of examples. Basically you need 3 tables: User, Game and GameByUser (or Ownership). This last one links the previous 2 together so a user can have many games and a game can be owned by many users. – EzLo Mar 25 '19 at 16:11

You first need to decide: can a game be owned by more than one person? (consider also if the answer might possibly be yes in the future).

If yes) Then you have a many-to-many relationship and as you described the only way to do this is to use an intermediary table with atleast these three columns:

  • ID
  • Game_ID (foreign key referencing the primary key in the Game table)
  • Owner_ID (foreign key referencing the primary key in the Owners table)

The naming convention for an intermediary table is normally a combination of the two tables you are connecting. So in your case it would probably be 'Game_Owner'.

If no) You have a one-to-many relationship and no intermediary table is required. In the Game table include a column called 'Owner_ID' which is a foreign key.

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I think the answer will hinge on what you mean by a "collection of games". So you must first ask yourself the following:

Do the records in my game table represent games in the real world or just the idea of a game?

This will all depend on what you will use your database for. For example, suppose you want to build a game night advertising service and every host must register what games they own. In that case, you only need the idea of a game since multiple people could "own" Donkey Kong. However, if you want to do a lending library then you'll need to treat each record as a physical game in the real world. Otherwise how would you know to whom you should return the game when you are done borrowing it?

Anyway, if its a physical game in the real world, then there can really only be one owner at a time. You just need a one-to-many relationship from game to owner, so you can use a foreign key reference from game to owner.


Then if you want to see all the games someone owns you do:

WHERE userID = <id of someone>

However, if you mean the idea of a game, then the same game record could be owned by many different people. You should do a many-to-many relationship with a 3rd table to model the concept of "ownership" - exactly like you said.

Then if you want to see all the games someone owns you do:

SELECT game.* FROM game 
JOIN gameOwnership ON game.id = gameOwnership.gameID 
WHERE gameOwnership.userID = <id of Art3mis>

You can also reverse it and see all the people who own a certain game:

SELECT user.* FROM user 
JOIN gameOwnership ON user.id = gameOwnership.userID 
WHERE gameOwnership.gameID = <id of Donkey Kong>
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