As I write this we are only 2 days away from the release of Grand Theft Auto V, arguably the largest game release this year. A huge game filled with hours upon hours of content and tons of game-play mechanics. I really don't think anyone can argue that Grand Theft Auto V is not a game, which seems like a weird thing to argue.
But, Gone Home, Dear Esther, The Stanley Parable, and Proteus don't seem to be so easy for some to call "video games". People have pointed to these titles as examples of video games being a legitimate art form. Others disagree, even stating these titles are more experience than game. I'm not here to get into that debate. I'm here to ask 2 questions.
- Do we need to define what a video game is?
- If we do, then what are the basic "things" they must have and or do?
The reality is that people on both sides of the "Are these games or not" argument present valid and fair points.Those in favor of calling Gone Home a game point to puzzles,hidden notes, and traversal of the house as game play mechanics. Sure they might be basic and not numerous, but how is this different from earlier games on the NES, Atari 2600 etc. These are simple games with deep stories and ideas, something those older games were often lacking.
Opponents argue that video games need to have deeper game play or in the case of "Dear Esther" any real game play at all. Walking around a deserted spooky beach, while neat, is not really a game. Sure it might look pretty, but it has a lot in common with using Google Street View.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of Gone Home, but I can see why some would feel it was more movie or interactive story then game. But in fairness aren't most games interactive stories? It seems "experimental" gets tacked onto the front of some of these games, but I always felt that made them sound like they were just trying something crazy or strange. Truth is most of these titles are just trying to tell a story.
Do we really need to define what a "video game" is? Maybe.If so what is an agreed upon criteria that all games need?
-Direct control or input over the character(s)
-A series of enemies or hazards
-Numerous mechanics that the player can use
When you try and list what makes up a game, and what something needs to have to BE a game, you immediately run into issues. The small list I made up there is filled with exceptions (I easily bet you could name a game or two or more that breaks these rules.)
The weirdest part of this conversation of "Game or not a game" is that movies almost never have this is issue. Movies can be 2 hours, 1 hour, 4 hours and people will still call them movies. A movie can have no spoken dialogue or be black and white, and no one will call it out as a "non" film. Hell movies can be boring and dull, yet they are still called "movies".
Maybe the real issue is that gaming is still relatively young in comparison to the film industry, and many of us are just not use to this new type of game. What if some gamers are just not used to or enjoy the idea of games becoming so basic and simple that anyone can play them? That to them a game is something like Portal 2, Mega Man, Call of Duty, or Super Mario Brothers. So when something like "The Stanley Parable" appears they shun it or argue its not a game.
But if you are so certain that "Proteus" is not a game, then answer this: What does that mean? Does it suddenly stop being fun or engaging for those who played it? And if we let games like "Gone Home" stay classified as "games" does that hurt the industry in anyway? Honestly, I'm curious as to why someone is so against the idea of calling "Proteus" a game. What does that mean to you?
Regardless games are changing in many ways. As we move forward I think the healthiest solution is to quit trying to define games, and instead be proud that our beloved medium is able to produce such differing and unique experiences. Stop attacking something for being different and instead look at how many amazing choices gamers have today.