Ever get the feeling that the term “game” means something different to gamers?
I’m not going to debate that games aren’t technically games, because even in supposed “interactive screensavers” like Flower, there are objectives and tasks and obstacles to overcome to win. The term is obviously still accurate.
Compare soccer and pong. Not entirely dissimilar games. They can both be completed, and at the end there is a winner. But if I say “I completed Fallout 3“, it would be rare for my friend to say “did you
win?”. I suppose in one sense, I did defeat the game itself and so the fact that I won is implied, but it definitely holds a different tone than stating I won a soccer game.
Excepting games that emulate sports, a story is now expected and so it’s sometimes hard to remember that it was actually an innovation. Early games were player versus player or player versus computer with a result that was actually very similar to most sports but without the exercise. Although now the most tired and overused plot in gaming, Donkey Kong‘s “save the princess” tale broke barriers. It forever gave the term “game” a different meaning for those who played them.
So where am I going with all of this? I suppose more than anything, I’m realizing how video games might have the greatest range and greatest challenge of all modern artistic mediums. Not just because it can combine the visual and audio prowess of movies with the “playtime”, bookmarking, detail, and sometimes text of a book, but because that’s just the beginning once player interaction is factored in. And so while “game” is an accurate term, it can ironically feel inaccurate whenever I list my hobbies. It feels accurate for pure fun games like Excitebots or competitive games like NHL 07, but I think it likely gives the wrong impression when used to describe games like Shadow of the Colossus, Final Fantasy IX, and Mass Effect. I don’t want to win a book or a movie, I want to experience the story and all the of the arcs that come with it; fear, sadness, inspiration, loneliness, anger. Many games provide the same experience, so isn’t it strange to clump an emotionally powerful story-driven game into the same category as a cell phone version of Brick Breaker? While there are very different genres of movies and books, it feels like there are a number of categories of games and then genres within those categories.
I’m not looking to create a new word or start a movement to change any terminology, I’m rather looking to see of any of you agree with me or have thought similar thoughts. Are games more broad in their potential scope than other art/entertainment mediums? Does this mean they’re more powerful or more diluted? Does the term “game” ever feel wrong to you? Let me know in the comments section below!