Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

As somebody who is determined to enter the video game industry from the design side, I spend a great deal of my life thinking and talking about games. The conclusion that I have reached, which I think is a relatively common one, is that there is little agreement about what video games are. When the medium was born, it was fairly clear. A video game was a challenge completed by interaction between a player and a computer. As technology and design have become more complex we have seen some people retain this definition, but the vast majority of people who have put some thought into it have come up with rather more complex sense of what video games are. Today I intend to put my definition up for examination, and to look at the relationship between players and designers that this should ideally lead to.

My Definition of a Video Game

Pitfall is a challenge, but it is also an wilderness adventure experience. Sort of.

Well, to begin with the term “video game” is an extremely underdeveloped one. I equate it to the term movie, which really just means “moving picture.” Movies are more than moving pictures, and video games are more than electronic games. However, I really don’t see any need to develop a new term so long as we can all agree that our definition of “video game” need not be tethered to the discussion about what constitutes a “game.” It is for precisely that reason that I’m not even going to get into trying to define what a game is, a fool’s errand.

In my mind, a video game is not the actual software being run by a computer. Rather, it is the experience that said game creates in the player’s mind. This sounds strange, but we can get a clearer picture of it if we consider a game to only exist while it is being played.

Consider the lily. I mean, sorry, where was I…right, consider some RAM with a piece of software written to it. Under some definitions, that piece of software is a video game. Under my definition, that is only the software component of a video game. When a player begins interacting with that software, the game is constituted by the entire system of software, player, and the devices through which they interact.

At this point it is not unreasonable to be sceptical that I am just dealing in semantics, but I have good reason for proposing this definition. The software of a game is ultimately a set of rules. Under the early definition of video games that I mentioned earlier, a set of rules constitute a challenge and it is therefore reasonable to call the software itself a video game. The problem comes from the fact that video games now consist of things that do not have inherent meaning to the machine that they are running on, but which drastically alter the player experience. A computer does not understand the significance of something occurring in a cutscene, but the player does. Therefore, when we refer to a game has having emotional impact we are really referring to the whole experience as having an emotional impact. I do not think it’s unreasonable to propose that we consider the game to be the experience of interacting with the software, and not the software itself.

This new definition does not just encompass games that break the simple “challenge” formula. Attempting a challenge is, in itself, an experience. This is why we can have preferences for challenge-based games. If engaging a challenge were not an experience, then we would have no basis to say that we enjoyed one challenge and not another.

Responsibilities

This new definition need not change the normal way that we discuss games. It does, however, change the way that we should design and interact with them. I think that both players and designers have certain responsibilities to each other that wouldn’t necessarily be apparent when considering games as mere challenges or pieces of software.

Of the Designer

The responsibilities of the designer stem from the fact that players are, in some sense, making themselves quite emotionally vulnerable when they suspend disbelief, interact with the designer’s system, and create the video game. This is true of most art, but the interactive nature of games has the potential to take this vulnerability even further than is typical. If designers do not respect this vulnerability, then they risk violating that trust. These are not tips for making good games, these are moral responsibilities.

1. Games should never demand that the player think outside of established confines. Players need to suspend their disbelief to play a game. As such, they are deliberately choosing to filter out certain information, and sometimes solutions to puzzles. For example, in Fable 3 the player must leave the software running idly for hours if they wish to get the best ending. By forcing the player to introduce a system from outside of the software (in this case walking away for a period of time) the game destroys the experience and punishes players who are trying to play along with the designer. It is worth noting that there are no mechanics which are off-limits, but a designer cannot suddenly broaden a game’s scope to include something like real-world time unless they deliberately justify it to the player as being an acceptable way of thinking about the game.

2. Games should not “addict” the player.

If the basis of a game experience is addictive number hunting, the designer is having an unhealthy impact on the player that violates their relationship.

This one seems likely to be controversial, because many very popular games do it. Regardless, I maintain that games which literally addict the player are unethical. Take the analogy of a friend inviting you over for coffee and secretly slipping nicotine in it. I fail to see any significant difference between the two situations. Addiction in some games (such as WoW, CoD and Diablo…hi Acti-Blizzard…) is chemically similar in the brain to drug addiction. Player’s should not be expected to defend themselves from this type of permanent harm from a game designer that they have entrusted with their minds.

Of the Player

The player has only one responsibility: to submit to the game designer and engage with the software. If they do not do this, then the designer can no longer be held responsible for the player’s experience. This is why designers need not spend much time reigning in players who are deliberately breaking their experience. If Video Games are the interactive experience, and not just the software, then the designer and player must work together to produce a good one.

To take that high level concept to something more manageable, here are a few ways that the player is responsible for engaging with the software.

1. Players should approach all games in a “mechanical vacuum.”

Game players are often guilty of not enjoying games because they expect them to be something that they were never intended to be. While a gamer cannot be expected to wipe themselves clean before they start every new game, they are at least responsible for approaching each game as an individual set of components that can and should behave differently from other games. If a game does not include a common mechanic, or introduces a weird one, the player should not simply dismiss it without observing the entire system in motion. For example, many people complained about how players could not use both a gun and a flashlight at the same time in Doom 3. This was a problem of players projecting what they expected the game to and not considering what it was trying to be. If players assume that a game is going to behave a certain way, designers are limited in what they can do to provide a new and engaging experience.

2. Players should not approach all games as “play to win” experiences.

Many, if not most, modern games are designed to make the player feel like they are doing something. If the player spends all of their time trying to find the most effective route through the game, they risk missing the more rewarding experience that the designer has tried to create. The onus is on the designer to ensure that the player knows how to get the best experience out of the game, but they can only open the door. The player must walk through it.

3. Before regarding a game as “bad” the player should consider how the pieces fit together.

Even though I do not like Bioshock, I would never refer to it as a bad game. This is because all of the pieces fit together in an intellectually compelling way, and it is possible to imagine somebody enjoying the experience (as many people obviously do). Simply understanding that it was well put together made the experience more enjoyable. Different people will react to games in different ways, and it is unreasonable to expect that any game will provide all players with a great experience.

There are certainly more responsibilities along these lines that are created by the “designer>software>interface>player” chain which constitutes a video game. My goal here is simply to introduce the way that I think about video games as a whole, not to exhaustively express it.

Thankyou for your time

Adrian Hall

#1 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

As somebody who is determined to enter the video game industry from the design side, I spend a great deal of my life thinking and talking about games. The conclusion that I have reached, which I think is a relatively common one, is that there is little agreement about what video games are. When the medium was born, it was fairly clear. A video game was a challenge completed by interaction between a player and a computer. As technology and design have become more complex we have seen some people retain this definition, but the vast majority of people who have put some thought into it have come up with rather more complex sense of what video games are. Today I intend to put my definition up for examination, and to look at the relationship between players and designers that this should ideally lead to.

My Definition of a Video Game

Pitfall is a challenge, but it is also an wilderness adventure experience. Sort of.

Well, to begin with the term “video game” is an extremely underdeveloped one. I equate it to the term movie, which really just means “moving picture.” Movies are more than moving pictures, and video games are more than electronic games. However, I really don’t see any need to develop a new term so long as we can all agree that our definition of “video game” need not be tethered to the discussion about what constitutes a “game.” It is for precisely that reason that I’m not even going to get into trying to define what a game is, a fool’s errand.

In my mind, a video game is not the actual software being run by a computer. Rather, it is the experience that said game creates in the player’s mind. This sounds strange, but we can get a clearer picture of it if we consider a game to only exist while it is being played.

Consider the lily. I mean, sorry, where was I…right, consider some RAM with a piece of software written to it. Under some definitions, that piece of software is a video game. Under my definition, that is only the software component of a video game. When a player begins interacting with that software, the game is constituted by the entire system of software, player, and the devices through which they interact.

At this point it is not unreasonable to be sceptical that I am just dealing in semantics, but I have good reason for proposing this definition. The software of a game is ultimately a set of rules. Under the early definition of video games that I mentioned earlier, a set of rules constitute a challenge and it is therefore reasonable to call the software itself a video game. The problem comes from the fact that video games now consist of things that do not have inherent meaning to the machine that they are running on, but which drastically alter the player experience. A computer does not understand the significance of something occurring in a cutscene, but the player does. Therefore, when we refer to a game has having emotional impact we are really referring to the whole experience as having an emotional impact. I do not think it’s unreasonable to propose that we consider the game to be the experience of interacting with the software, and not the software itself.

This new definition does not just encompass games that break the simple “challenge” formula. Attempting a challenge is, in itself, an experience. This is why we can have preferences for challenge-based games. If engaging a challenge were not an experience, then we would have no basis to say that we enjoyed one challenge and not another.

Responsibilities

This new definition need not change the normal way that we discuss games. It does, however, change the way that we should design and interact with them. I think that both players and designers have certain responsibilities to each other that wouldn’t necessarily be apparent when considering games as mere challenges or pieces of software.

Of the Designer

The responsibilities of the designer stem from the fact that players are, in some sense, making themselves quite emotionally vulnerable when they suspend disbelief, interact with the designer’s system, and create the video game. This is true of most art, but the interactive nature of games has the potential to take this vulnerability even further than is typical. If designers do not respect this vulnerability, then they risk violating that trust. These are not tips for making good games, these are moral responsibilities.

1. Games should never demand that the player think outside of established confines. Players need to suspend their disbelief to play a game. As such, they are deliberately choosing to filter out certain information, and sometimes solutions to puzzles. For example, in Fable 3 the player must leave the software running idly for hours if they wish to get the best ending. By forcing the player to introduce a system from outside of the software (in this case walking away for a period of time) the game destroys the experience and punishes players who are trying to play along with the designer. It is worth noting that there are no mechanics which are off-limits, but a designer cannot suddenly broaden a game’s scope to include something like real-world time unless they deliberately justify it to the player as being an acceptable way of thinking about the game.

2. Games should not “addict” the player.

If the basis of a game experience is addictive number hunting, the designer is having an unhealthy impact on the player that violates their relationship.

This one seems likely to be controversial, because many very popular games do it. Regardless, I maintain that games which literally addict the player are unethical. Take the analogy of a friend inviting you over for coffee and secretly slipping nicotine in it. I fail to see any significant difference between the two situations. Addiction in some games (such as WoW, CoD and Diablo…hi Acti-Blizzard…) is chemically similar in the brain to drug addiction. Player’s should not be expected to defend themselves from this type of permanent harm from a game designer that they have entrusted with their minds.

Of the Player

The player has only one responsibility: to submit to the game designer and engage with the software. If they do not do this, then the designer can no longer be held responsible for the player’s experience. This is why designers need not spend much time reigning in players who are deliberately breaking their experience. If Video Games are the interactive experience, and not just the software, then the designer and player must work together to produce a good one.

To take that high level concept to something more manageable, here are a few ways that the player is responsible for engaging with the software.

1. Players should approach all games in a “mechanical vacuum.”

Game players are often guilty of not enjoying games because they expect them to be something that they were never intended to be. While a gamer cannot be expected to wipe themselves clean before they start every new game, they are at least responsible for approaching each game as an individual set of components that can and should behave differently from other games. If a game does not include a common mechanic, or introduces a weird one, the player should not simply dismiss it without observing the entire system in motion. For example, many people complained about how players could not use both a gun and a flashlight at the same time in Doom 3. This was a problem of players projecting what they expected the game to and not considering what it was trying to be. If players assume that a game is going to behave a certain way, designers are limited in what they can do to provide a new and engaging experience.

2. Players should not approach all games as “play to win” experiences.

Many, if not most, modern games are designed to make the player feel like they are doing something. If the player spends all of their time trying to find the most effective route through the game, they risk missing the more rewarding experience that the designer has tried to create. The onus is on the designer to ensure that the player knows how to get the best experience out of the game, but they can only open the door. The player must walk through it.

3. Before regarding a game as “bad” the player should consider how the pieces fit together.

Even though I do not like Bioshock, I would never refer to it as a bad game. This is because all of the pieces fit together in an intellectually compelling way, and it is possible to imagine somebody enjoying the experience (as many people obviously do). Simply understanding that it was well put together made the experience more enjoyable. Different people will react to games in different ways, and it is unreasonable to expect that any game will provide all players with a great experience.

There are certainly more responsibilities along these lines that are created by the “designer>software>interface>player” chain which constitutes a video game. My goal here is simply to introduce the way that I think about video games as a whole, not to exhaustively express it.

Thankyou for your time

Adrian Hall

#2 Posted by Brodehouse (9778 posts) -

Habitual reinforcement is not chemical addiction and should never be compared to as such.
 
The part about 'playing with the designer' is accurate though.  I remember being frustrated by Patrick's description of The Stanley Parable, which attempts to conflate design with non-interactivity.

#3 Edited by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@Brodehouse: I'm talking about the chemical reactions in the brain that manifest as addictive desire. I once had the chance to talk with a psychologist working on addiction issues, and I confirmed that video game addiction of the kind that causes people to make bad decisions (such as staying up until 5:00 every night or not feeding their kids) is often extremely chemically similar to drug addiction. Even if it weren't, game designers are not less responsible for soliciting addictive reactions from players.

#4 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

You equate "video games" as the experience you have while playing them. This could be applied to any medium. A painting is just canvas with different pigments splashed on it until a person views it and gives it meaning and value. You could say the same thing about a sandwich. It's just bread and meat and cheese and whatever else, until a person eats it and tastes the delicious flavor. Of course games are more than just software, and game designers have always treated them as such.

I agree with your role of the player only in that they approach a game with an open mind. If they go in with preconceived thoughts that they're not going to like it, they most likely won't. I disagree though, with you saying the player must submit to the designer. Some people don't like to follow a predetermined path that the designers expected them to follow. Sometimes they like to make their own fun. After all that is the only real responsibility of the player; to have fun. If the designers really cared that much about it, they would make it so that the player could not miss whatever it is they wanted the player to see. If they make a game with open-ended objectives then they are relinquishing that control. There is no "right" way of playing a video game.

Also, why is it bad to want a game to adopt positive game innovations. You talk about approaching games in a vacuum. Well that doesn't happen. You play games and experience new ways of playing, and may like that new way. When you play something that seems more primitive, it's going to stick out. If the rest of the game is good, the player will likely overlook this shortcoming. I agree that new mechanics should be explored and not dismissed. If after trying them out you still don't like them, you can't really blame yourself. You can't completely suppress personal bias and you can't account for everyone's unique taste.

I completely agree with you about not dismissing a game as "bad" just because you don't like it. Although I think most people that do that on forums, are doing it to be inflammatory. There are several games I personally don't care much for, but acknowledge the good qualities of. Like I said before, everybody has unique taste.

Overall I disagree with your opinion that there are certain responsibilities that must be followed when making and playing games. People play and make games for different reasons. Bottom line, the only responsibility a game designer has is to make their creation fun. If they don't then they fail.

#5 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@upwarDBound: I don't have time to respond to all of those points, but I want to expand on the difference between a game and a painting. A painting is a physical object. you can point at it and say "that is the painting. There is nothing more to that painting than itself" (and perhaps the story of the painting). A video game DOES NOT EXIST unless somebody is playing it. The idea of it might exist, but the game itself is defined by the interaction. The nature of the game is also defined by that interaction. Hence, I claim that the video game is the interaction itself and not the physical object that holds the software. Another way to think about this difference is that we commonly refer to "watching a person play a game" not "watching a game that is or is not being played by a person"

That said, there is no reason that you cannot think about a painting as producing certain reactions in the person observing it. It's just that the painting does literally exist outside of the person viewing it.

#6 Posted by Deusx (1903 posts) -

@Stingraymond said:

Possibility the most retarded post I've ever read, I feel like someone has raped my eyes and brain with tentacles that could rival the Kraken. I pray you never end up in video game design.

Wow, I just flagged your post. People like you don't even deserve to have opinions on this matter.

@nintendoeats: Great article my friend. Although I think you're overthinking things already implied when it comes to the act of design. You've said many great points any designer should take into account whenever creating something. Not just video game developers. The interaction between the user/observer and the designer should be one of bigger value.

#7 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@Deusx: Thanks for the backup :)

I suppose that as a visual designer you probably use short-handy versions of many of the principles that I'm working through. I'm a philosophy major, so over-thinking things is pretty much my MO. Many great game designers have followed similar paths, so I'm hopeful that it will work out. Anyway, when some designer says "why do/don't we do this?" I will do my best to be the man with the answer.

#8 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

@nintendoeats: You could easily say the same thing about a video game. Like it or not, like a painting a video game does in fact exist as a physical object. I am arguing that if you want to say video games are purely an abstract experience you could apply that same logic to numerous other things. Furthermore your definition of a video game doesn't really have any bearing on the rest of your statement. I am certain that game designers already consider the experience players will have with their games, and not because of your definition, but to make games fun for the player.

#9 Edited by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@upwarDBound: The trick is, you have your terms backwards. Fun is just one experience that you can have with a video game.

If you want to argue that games exist without a player, then what are they? The disc? The software? The abstract notion of their rules? Those seem like far less useful and descriptive definitions than the one that I am arguing for.

#10 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

@nintendoeats: I think of fun as a catch-all term for all the feelings you experience while enjoying something. Excitement, humor, fear, as long as you're enjoying it, it is fun.

@nintendoeats said:

@upwarDBound:

If you want to argue that games exist without a player, then what are they? The disc? The software? The abstract notion of their rules? Those seem like far less useful and descriptive definitions than the one that I cam arguing for.

What is a movie? The celluloid? What is a painting? The canvas? The paint? Do you see how your definition also fits those things? Why does a game have to be played in order to exist? Does the game of tag exist only when people are playing it?

#11 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@upwarDBound: Ok, but then you are just using fun as a term term to mean exactly what I am saying. The player experience, whatever that may be. So we really don't have any quarrels there.

Yes, a movie is the celluloid. Yes, the painting is the canvas. No, tag does not exist unless it is being played. It can exist AS A CONCEPT. As a set of rules. It does not manifest until a group of people produce a set of circumstances that can be referred to as a version of tag.

The key point is that you could set a painting on a wall, or start a film rolling, and just leave. They would keep on existing without being observed. A game does not go one without people interacting with it. If the software is left to it's own devices, then all that is produced is a CG movie of whatever the program does without input. It doesn't become a video game until a human being interacts with it.

#12 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

@nintendoeats: A movie is only as good as a video game's attract mode when nobody is watching it. It is only when someone experiences the movie by watching it does it gain any value. Just as a video game is only good so long as somebody is playing it or watching it being played. You could set a computer to play the whole game and leave it running on a display with no one watching, and it would be no different than that film running with nobody to watch it.

#13 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@upwarDBound: The movie still exists, regardless of whether or not it has value. The game does not. How would you set your computer to play the whole game? If you had AI fill the roll of the player then we are back to simply having a CG movie, not a game.

#14 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

You believe a game does not exist unless someone is playing it. I'm not going to argue with you anymore over this. I don't agree with you, but I'm not going to convince you otherwise. I would agree with you if you said the experience of the video game did not exist unless you played it. The thing is the word "video game" can refer to a real tangible object, whereas your definition solely refers to the abstract experience of playing a game. If you can come up with a better word than "video game" to define that experience, I'll go along with you.

What do you think of watching somebody else play a game? Does the game not exist because you are not playing it? Or does that become a movie and not a game because you are not playing it?

#15 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

@upwarDBound: You are watching a human being interacting with a system, and therefore you are watching somebody play a game. It's not a movie, because there is an interaction between a human (admittedly just an organic computer) and the software.

#16 Posted by upwarDBound (654 posts) -

@nintendoeats: And watching a computer do it means it wouldn't be a game? Why not? What does the human interaction have to do with you the viewer who has no interaction?

#17 Posted by Gamer_152 (14065 posts) -

I don't have a ton of time here to read through all the comments so I apologise if I repeat anything that has already been said. Firstly, I don't quite agree with your original definition of what a video game was, "a challenge completed by interaction between a player and a computer". By this definition more or less any operation on a computer could have been classified as a video game, although the thing which most comes to mind is that this definition means that basically all computer programming would have been a video game. Secondly, I think the argument here about video games being an experience rather than a physical thing can be applied to any entertainment medium. You could say that with a movie there are actually images which you can see or say that with music there are specific notes you can hear and identify as being the entertainment itself, while video games only exist as binary on a disc somewhere that has to be interpreted, but all of this has to be interpreted by a human at some level. Without a human coming along and translating it into something meaningful images are just light energy, music is just air reverberating.
 
From what I've seen, it's already the norm for designers to think about game design with regards to the experience itself. When I started reading about game design one of the first things I read was that the whole point was the experience the player has with the piece of entertainment you provide and that this is where the focus should be. In fact this seems to be the case for all entertainment, surely almost every creator is on some level aware that the entertainment they make is only a means towards someone having an experience.
 
You say that video games now "consist of things that do not have inherent meaning to the machine that they are running on" but this has always been the case for any piece of software running on any computer. A computer just doesn't "understand" in the way we'd apply that word to a human. Take a game as old and simple as Pong. The computer doesn't understand that it's running a game or what it means for something to be a game, the computer doesn't understand how the player inputs data, the computer doesn't understand the goal the player is trying to achieve and the computer doesn't even understand that the game represents a table tennis match. These are all things which exist solely in the mind of the player.
 
When it comes to the emotional vulnerability of the player, I don't think the issue is that video games make the player more emotionally vulnerable full stop, but more that they make them vulnerable in certain ways. When we talk about the designer making sure the player doesn't have to use anything outside of the software, we run into the problem that all video games require players to do something outside of the software. Basically every video game requires interaction with a physical controller but even when it doesn't there are all sorts of other actions external to a game that a player might have to exhibit. What about motion controls? Is it immoral for a designer to implement them? What about 3DS games which require you to use the camera? What about a game like Boktai where the player has to physically be in sunlight to power up?
 
When it comes to game addiction, addiction is often an overused term and most people say addiction when they should be saying compulsion, but sadly it's not a binary thing. For everything in the world someone is going to become addicted or compelled to it, human beings can develop the most bizarre of fixations and if we just wiped everything that people have ever become addicted too off the planet we'd soon start to see a major problem. I think the real issue is working out how to measure how compelling or addictive a game is and working out where we draw the line, but of course that's a very difficult and debatable thing.
 
I agree with your points about players not hating on games just for breaking mechanical conventions and that players should consider games as a whole although I do have a couple of minor points to make there. Firstly, some people are going to be more comfortable with new and different mechanics than others, and just because a person complains about a game not having or having certain mechanics doesn't mean they haven't thought about the game. Secondly, with the case of Doom 3 it may not have only been that the game broke conventions which angered some players, but I think some may have also felt genuinely restricted by the flashlight/gun mechanic of the game. As for treating a game as a "play to win" experience I think almost all games are built to be play-to-win experiences. I think my message would be more that players should go with the flow of what the designer gives them as opposed to trying to strive towards the most enjoyable outcome in a way that it seems like the designer never intended for, at least for a first play-through.
 
Anyway, I thought it was a well-written article and I apologise for the length of this response, don't feel any rush to reply to it.

Moderator
#18 Posted by Lunar_Aura (2779 posts) -

You forgot some critical things like "A videogame is a responsible babysitter, enough so to ensure that my child does not talk back to me, shoot up the school, or kill his bullies."

#19 Edited by RagingLion (1365 posts) -

Very happy to see you back blogging Adrian. I enjoy reading your thoughts.

I'm hearing your meaning and understanding what you're expressing with your altered video game definition that includes the player but I'm clearly not 'seeing' what you are in why it's necessary to bring this into the definition to mark games apart. Surely other media like film, music and books (particularly books - the reader does a lot of the work there) are completely reliant on the person participating with them to make them what they are.

I agree with pretty much all your points which follow on from that including the moral responsibility for not using addictive methods to suck a player into them. These methods have often been seen to be just good design with making something fun that the player wants to do continuously and compulsively (haven't expressed that perfectly). Some things that fall under that category are fine and other go to far.

I found this an interesting comment: "This is why designers need not spend much time reigning in players who are deliberately breaking their experience". It's an interesting one and I was like "oh yeahh, I guess that's true" but I'm wondering about the fact that even 'well-behaved' gamers will poke at the games systems from another angle over the course of a many hours game just to see what happens and should the game be able to deal with some of these and react to it?

Edit: Ok, and now I've read the comments. I at least think I know what you're trying to get across with your definiton now after: "A video game DOES NOT EXIST unless somebody is playing it. The idea of it might exist, but the game itself is defined by the interaction. The nature of the game is also defined by that interaction. Hence, I claim that the video game is the interaction itself and not the physical object that holds the software." I'm still not sure I agree though and I'm sympathetic to where brodehouse was coming from. If it's a 3D game then that 3D environment already exists on the software, waiting for the player to explore it/move through it/etc. because it's been set up by the designer hopefully knowing how the player will react (less the case with games that rely on emergence more or are sandboxes). I get the difference that nothing happens unless the player does something, but the game is all there in it's mechanics, environments and inter-relations on the software just waiting for the player just as much as a book might be. Hmm - I'm arguing this back and forth in my head. There is a difference but is the difference itself that important, that different.