Posted by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

So, I was thinking about this the other day, and frequently since, as these random thoughts often do, and I had a thought about nomenclature surrounding the culture of games and how limiting it often is, as opposed to how freeing it can be.

Here's where this coalesced, I was on Youtube and watching some Bioshock Infinite discussion. I've not finished the game, I've only played a few hours, but since I'm not likely to play this game twice, I'm having fun seeing the little details on my first run through. One comment at the top of the pile caught my eye:

"I hate this glorification of bioshocks story. Yeah its cool but this is far from the first time this has been done. Maybe the first AAA title that this, but its nothing new. Its nothing revolutionary, and its no genius commentary on gaming. Its just a well written story about the parallel universe theory."

And I decided that I wanted to respond maturely. I don't usually comment on Youtube (which is how I maturely browse on any other day) but I just wanted to, despite myself. I thought about the terms "Gamer", "Triple A" and just the word game itself are limited, in the way "Adolf" is limited, in the way "democrat" is limited. There's a connotation that you can't surpass there, at least to me. TL;DR, I wanted to reply in a very generic way.

"That in itself is a first and that Ken Levine can command such respect from his audience, his peers at Irrational and Those that bankroll his projects is to be respected, I think.

As a "new" medium, products that push boundaries at all levels should be celebrated. Whether BI's narrative is unique or not, you can't argue that the story of it's creators isn't, and when there is a first, it paves the way for a second."

Movies aren't limited this way and neither are books. You are a watcher when you see a movie, you are a reader when you read a book, and you're a player when you control a game. But neither "watcher" nor "reader" feel confining as words to me. Is it because I am neither of these? Even as a part of the culture around games, the term "gamer" brings up nasty images of far-too-young children screaming curses and leaving flecks of spit on their TV, or horribly overweight men who shit in socks and just vegetate grinding daily quests.

I started to think that part of the problem was the catch-all terms we have created around games and how sticky those labels are.

I suffer from Depression. There was a moment, Christmas 2011 where I realised that I had changed. I couldn't define the difference in words because it seemed so subtle to me and I sought out help. I saw my doctor and told them what was wrong with me; I couldn't feel motivated about anything, I couldn't remember the last time I was happy or satisfied, there was a hole in my chest I could only describe metaphorically (in that there was no real hole, but I could feel something missing), I had hurt myself (which triggered my first doctors visit) and I had frequently thought about suicide. I was Depressed.

I'm mostly better now. I'm speaking to friends again, I go outside, I have a job and so on. But I still acknowledge that I have depression. I think gaming's vocabulary has helped me express this most fluidly. I see it as a modifier, a permanent Debuff I have to be aware of at all times. It doesn't always affect me, but I have to remember that the lows can be very low just as highs can be very high, like a multiplier on a sine-wave graph. I have heard from people close to me that I am limiting myself to continue to associate myself with the word Depressed but I can only disagree. I feel like it helps me keep tabs on how I'm feeling to remind myself of it occasionally as it helps me remember where the Bad Thoughts of social anxiety come from. I don't think "labels" are a bad thing, they just give me a shared vocabulary to express groups of ideas.

I feel the opposite about "gaming," however. I don't hide that I play games, but I don't call myself a gamer because I feel that word is limiting. I am a person who enjoys games and plays a lot of them and the word gamer has begun for me to remind me of the worst of the culture, almost like an insult. To me it highlights the entitlement (Mass Effect 3's Ending and more recently, Microsoft's potential adoption of a Steam-like model) that everything must conform to the nebulous mold of public opinion. The extreme cognitive dissonance that means one company must "win" E3 because that's who we've "aligned" ourselves with this year, and you can't own the other console because you'd be "stupid" to own it. The childishness of the audience that can't share their toys or have a discussion; Anita Sarkeesian is my example here: she recently posted a tumblr of responses to a comment she made via twitter, about how there were no female protagonists shown on stage at E3 (spoilers: She got called a cunt and told her opinion didn't matter because ladies in games don't sell.)

I don't want to call someone a gamer anymore. I want to be a person who plays games, and I want others to be that too. It sounds more mature and I want people to be more mature in kind. We shouldn't have popular figures like Robert "Rab" Florence or Jim Sterling embodying the negative, wildly opinionated nature of "gamers," frothing up hatred or a platform that hasn't been released or finalised yet. We need more Jeff Gerstmanns who talk about what it means and what the alternative means. I would like to see content where I can take away a talking point and a lesson or new piece of information (and ultimately that's why I pay my money for Giant Bomb).

I've been writing this for a while now and it's all very stream of consciousness. I don't really feel like editing very much as I'm just happy to have it out of me for the moment. Long story short, I feel like having labels is good, but I think how we use them is going a bit overboard and picking up meaning that it shouldn't represent thanks to the way they're used and the people who are using them.

#1 Posted by Video_Game_King (36271 posts) -

I'd say all of this is because of the social stigma that is attached to the word "gamer" itself. For the longest time, it has held those awful connotations, and going back to before video games in general doesn't help much.

Actually, on that subject, I'd say that a lot of the connotations we malign so much can be directly tied to the origins of the medium. That's why other mediums don't have this problem: literature evolved from....I'm guessing poetry? Wherever it came from, literature carried the connotation of sophistication and class and general intelligence. Same goes for movies, since they can trace their origins to theater. Video games, though? They evolved from sports and carnival games and other such things. Activities for children. Activities that are ultimately in preparation for something else. Because of that, video games are treated like they are for children, and anybody who plays them is labeled as such, those traits that support this notion being held up as definitive traits of the entire group.

Then again, I could just be pulling all this out of my ass. Personally, I'd prefer if we moved on from the term "video game" altogether, because that suggests fun and enjoyment, two aspects that don't have to be in games (or at least shouldn't have to be in games) in order for them to be good.

#2 Edited by TheManWithNoPlan (6103 posts) -

The negative social connotations attached to games are still fairly prevalent in today's society. Gaming is still going through demonization from political groups and has yet to prove it's worth to modern culture in the same way movies and literature has. Much of this is due to it's infancy and certain trends attached to games. There has still been a prevalent violent overtone in mainstream games, since that sells. While there's nothing inherently wrong with that and while we know there's a broad spectrum of themes and content besides violent ones in the indie scene, the broader public is unaware of this. The labels we attach to gaming culture, such as "Gamer" and "Triple A" are simply an embodiment of our want to recognize ourselves and our hobby as something more than the stereotypes the mainstream audience give us. Games are very involving and demand a lot of our attention and time. Most gamers are very opinionated and very critical towards games because of the large investment they have in them.

I believe that Narrative's have simply evolved over time and gaming is simply the most current form of that evolution. First there was literature, then plays, followed by films and now the interactive iteration of those past narrative formats, Video Games. I do agree that a lot of the negative or less than desirable perceptions of this medium came from the environment it developed in. Games are fairly different from their early counterparts. While they still have key elements from the past, they've become something much more sophisticated as technology has gotten better. Unfortunately, the ones who didn't grow up with this medium and didn't see that gradual evolution, still hold the same perceptions they did 20 or 30 years ago. Fortunately, they won't be the ones who decide the future of this medium, we will.

#3 Posted by Demoskinos (15300 posts) -

@video_game_king: What might you suggest they are called then? There are still enough "game" games out there with win and fail states. It does start to get weird when you call stuff like Dear Esther a "game" but I can't think of really any good solution other than people just need to quit being so damn ignorant. And realize its a broad medium capable of many kinds of experiences.

#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (36271 posts) -


Interactive narratives? I'm not entirely sure. It's a problem that's unique to the medium, so it's hard to look to others for any sort of solution. I just want to move away from simply "fun and games" toward something broader and inclusive.

#5 Posted by geirr (2757 posts) -

Videogames are dope.

#6 Posted by Demoskinos (15300 posts) -

@video_game_king: And see that's where we differ cause Im a mechanics guy. I like solid mechanics before any sort of narrative or story. Which I think "Interactive Narrative" can't really address those kind of games. And it just seems weird to make a big split and call them both something different.

#7 Posted by Video_Game_King (36271 posts) -

I like solid mechanics before any sort of narrative or story.

Only phrased far less dickishly.

Which I think "Interactive Narrative" can't really address those kind of games. And it just seems weird to make a big split and call them both something different.

I know. That's why I wasn't entirely confident in the term I just pulled out of my ass. We need a term that can cover both, and while I think using the phrase "experience" in said term would address that, it would do so in a vague and dumb manner.

#8 Posted by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

@demoskinos: @video_game_king: pictures are still, movies move, interactives are interactive. I like its simplicity and how it doesn't disclude a focus either mechanics of Call of Duty while holding a place for the likes of Proteus and Dear Esther.

"Interactives" is a bit long though. Maybe it'd get shortened to actives in time.

#9 Edited by Video_Game_King (36271 posts) -
#10 Edited by Sin4profit (3027 posts) -

@video_game_king: What might you suggest they are called then? There are still enough "game" games out there with win and fail states. It does start to get weird when you call stuff like Dear Esther a "game" but I can't think of really any good solution other than people just need to quit being so damn ignorant. And realize its a broad medium capable of many kinds of experiences.

"Virtual Instillation"

#11 Edited by Reisz (1547 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

Personally, I'd prefer if we moved on from the term "video game" altogether,

I'm kind of ready for this transition as well, not that I expect it would have any significant or lasting effect on the medium by itself, just that the move away from such established ideas could lead to non-enthusiasts thinking about the medium differently. Hopefully having the effect of more original ideas and different games.

I'm coming up just as blank for a new designation though, if I think through film, television and records they're all based on the original technology that each medium was delivered on to the mass market, by that logic all I can come up with is carts.

Which admittedly, I'm kind of cool with.

Maybe it will sort itself out, all we need are enough developers making fresh enough titles that people will open their minds to the idea of this as just another medium like the others I mentioned. Although that starts to sound like a "chicken or the egg" dilemma at some point.

Screw it, I've come back around to video games.

@evercaptor: Interactives isn't bad, it also paves the way for our cyberpunk future where the technoyouth can refer to them as "Intacts" or something equally ridiculous/great

#12 Edited by Video_Game_King (36271 posts) -

Unfortunately, I do not believe that this alone will bring about the change we desire. The games are already there; either they are not advertised on the intellectual level or people simply to acknowledge that they have this dimension to them. I'd ask when films began to be taken seriously, but that's not the only path video games can take. Both cartoons and comic books are about as recent as film, but haven't really shed their "for kids/not to be taken seriously" view, at least not entirely.

And now I feel I'm rambling.

#13 Edited by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

@video_game_king: I feel like we need Leigh Alexander or Ben Kuchera to have this thought or post this blog, then include the renaming to "interactives" there to give this any grounding. Or find a large Developer (maybe a Double Fine) to rename their output.

#14 Posted by Video_Game_King (36271 posts) -


I'd say that it worked for ludonarrative dissonance, but that's a term you only see in enthusiast circles like ours, and even then, its presence is viewed with much suspicion.

#15 Posted by rebgav (1429 posts) -

I don't know that videogames need a new name to seem all grown up, maybe just some obnoxious formatting instead? We could just write videogames when we want them to seem important and videogames when we want them to seem sophisticated or mysterious. For special occasions; videogames.

#16 Edited by Evercaptor (391 posts) -


I'm not sure formatting will help me forget how entitled the culture appears to be. And without a WYSIWYG, formatting is a pain. My point is that he word doesn't get any better whether you write it Adolf, Adolf or Adolf. It's about the connotations the word has beyond it's obvious intent.


Ludonarritive dissonance is something specific to the format, and so it's understandable why you only see it here, plus it's only really a concern when you're talking at a high-concept level, like diegetic sounds in movies and metonymy in literature.

I definitely see your point though.

#17 Posted by rebgav (1429 posts) -


I'm not sure formatting will help me forget how entitled the culture appears to be.

You're right, everyone else should change the name they use to refer to the medium so that you don't have to think about how "entitled" they all are. :p

#18 Posted by Evercaptor (391 posts) -

@rebgav: I'm not serious about actually changing people, but a "brand refresh" would help shift public opinion I think. Or at least help it feel more palatable in a wider context. Games feels far too childish to be associated with Ludonarrative dissonance. Just like "Talkies" don't seem deserving of a giant award show.

#19 Posted by Video_Game_King (36271 posts) -

Just like "Talkies" don't seem deserving of a giant award show.

This just reflects shifting connotations to some extent. As you said before (I think; I know somebody said it), the word "movie" doesn't come from some obscure Latin word used by Pliny the Elder that one time, or a specific piece of equipment for brightening up film negatives; people say moving pictures and thought, "Hey, look at that movie picture dealy". Sounds dumb when you think of the actual logic behind it, but connotations trump all. Although that may be because "move" is itself a neutral term; "game" carries all types of connotations that we probably don't want associated with our hobby (I don't even like that I used the term "hobby" here), meaning we'd have to change the connotations of that word in order to change those of video games. A new term is only slightly easier.