What is a videogames?

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Kapol
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Kapol » 20 Jun 2014, 23:42

ch3m1kal wrote:Once again, I find that the easiest way to think about this is "Am I objectively getting more out of this experience by playing it myself over watching a let's play?"
If the answer is yes, then it's probably safe to call it a game though, of course, that should generally not be the only criteria.


Again, my problem with that is that it's entirely subjective. That kind of rules out story-based games for people like me who have that is the most important factor. I likely would never have played Telltale's The Walking Dead, or Heavy Rain if I had seen a Let's Play of them first. There'd be nothing more for me at that point. The only games that doesn't extend to are games with almost no story. Your Mario games and the like. That's why I still haven't watched Kathleen play through The Stick of Truth. Because once I do, I won't want to play the game anymore, even if there are branching paths.

JackSlack wrote:Maybe we should just go with the Extra Credits opinion: The question is wrong.


The idea that trying to label things as a 'game' is a bad idea was kind of what I was trying to get at earlier. That's why I tried to use a fairly all-encompassing definition for what a 'game' is, as well as brought up the fact that the term 'video games' is also hurting the medium overall. I feel like a point that was brought up is why people get so annoyed about the subject. Calling something 'not a game' is basically a lot of peoples' ways of just dismissing it (note: I say a lot of peoples' because it, like everything, is not true of everyone who shares that opinion). They shouldn't have to worry about it because it's not part of their medium. But that creates a friction that doesn't end up helping anyone.

I do like the term interactive experiences. Though I feel as though people who want to continue this argument would then try to go into 'what does it mean to be interactive.' Using examples like Dear Esther with the argument that, due to the nature of their gameplay, they aren't really 'interactive' in a definitive sense. But that's speculation on my part, I admit. That just seems like people will do the same and try to twist it to put out things they do like and try to limit all over again.

EDIT: Thinking about it, the worry I have with the idea of 'interactive experience' is that it seems like it's too broad overall. Like... pretty much anything can be considered an interactive experience.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby My pseudonym is Ix » 21 Jun 2014, 00:19

In defining games generally, not specifically videogames, the gaming sphere is often likened to a piece of string. Each portion of the string encompasses many different strands, and strands may run for great distances along it, connecting different parts of the string (in much the same way as some themes are consistent in many different games). However, no strand runs the entire length of the piece of string, connecting every part of it, and similarly no single feature can be said to connect every game in the world. All we can say is that there are certain things that are definitely not games (breathing, for example), but attempting to define a single element of what a game 'is' is impossible.

It's only a theory, but a relevant one I feel.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby AdmiralMemo » 21 Jun 2014, 02:23

Jumping off of what Ix said, you come to the question of "Why do people want to ask the question 'What is a game?'" I think the answer to that is simple: we have so many other forms of art that we can look at and easily tell what they are at first glance, and we want to do the same for "games."

If you look at something, you can say "This is a book." You can say "This is a painting." "This is a sculpture." "This is a movie." "This is a TV show."

Despite the wide variations in content and style in each of those types of things I've put names you, you can automatically get a very general sense of what a thing is from naming it that thing. When I say "This is a TV show," you know what it is, even if you don't know how long it runs, what genre it is, who stars in it, who produced it, where it's airing, etc.

So why is it so hard for us to just be able to point to something and say "This is a game" when we can so easily do it for other types of art, media, and entertainment?
I think that's the fundamental desire for the people who genuinely ask that question. (Not the ones who want to dismiss something by calling it "not a game.")
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby romangoro » 21 Jun 2014, 05:47

AdmiralMemo wrote:So why is it so hard for us to just be able to point to something and say "This is a game" (...)?


The question here is why is it hard to say "this is a video game". If the question is just about 'game', the answer is easy: the word 'game' had meaning before video games, so we don't want to dissolve the meaning with whatever we interact with on a computer.

I think a good parallel to videogames vs games in general is electronic music. Many people don't consider electronic music music, or at least, don't consider people that press a few buttons to sort some sounds, musicians[*].

So the problem, I believe, is that we (i.e. humanity) are creating new things and using old words to describe them, and that creates a conflict, which is not easy to solve.

And now I think of the ExtraCredits about Minecraft a few weeks ago, and I'm thinking that the Minecraft generation they talk about may also have a different definition of 'game' than we do.

So, after rambling a little, a "conclusion": definitions appear after meanings, and right now, the meaning of 'videogame', and 'game' are changing, growing, so the established definitions don't fit anymore.

(That's a lot of words and no answer, isn't it? Welcome to academia, y'all)

[*]Disclaimer: I personally I'm on the latter camp, but accept what they do as music.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby ch3m1kal » 21 Jun 2014, 07:17

Kapol wrote:
ch3m1kal wrote:Once again, I find that the easiest way to think about this is "Am I objectively getting more out of this experience by playing it myself over watching a let's play?"
If the answer is yes, then it's probably safe to call it a game though, of course, that should generally not be the only criteria.


Again, my problem with that is that it's entirely subjective. That kind of rules out story-based games for people like me who have that is the most important factor. I likely would never have played Telltale's The Walking Dead, or Heavy Rain if I had seen a Let's Play of them first. There'd be nothing more for me at that point. The only games that doesn't extend to are games with almost no story. Your Mario games and the like. That's why I still haven't watched Kathleen play through The Stick of Truth. Because once I do, I won't want to play the game anymore, even if there are branching paths.


That's why I said "objectively". I mean maybe you personally wouldn't care to play either of those again, but surely you can agree that there is value in playing The Walking Dead over watching someone else do it, since that game is heavily into the feels you get over making various decisions, and you just can't get that from a video.

I'm not not sure about Heavy Rain, as I've never played it, but from what I do know of it, it's kind of the same situation.

And that's without even going into the branching paths argument.



We should probably include Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons into the discussion, as the perfect antithesis of the games that are all story and no real gameplay.
I picked up Brothers after Totalbiscuit made it his game of year. TB is a man I greatly respect and whose opinions on games generally tend to coincide with my own.

Now in case you're unfamiliar with it, the thing about Brothers is that you are controlling 2 characters at once, one mapped to each analog stick and you have to guide them through a quest to find a cure for their sick father. You're basically playing co-op with yourself.
Now the catch is that the game is very narrative focused, however it does not feature a single line of dialogue (well rather there IS dialogue, but it's all in gibberish). All the story is told through the environment and the interactions of the characters.

Now while I personally did not particularly enjoy Brothers, mostly because I called the story pretty much from the start so it did not really surprise me in any way, I appreciate the hell out of HOW it went about telling it. There are no prompts to do anything, no pages of lost lore to find, no narrator, you're just presented with a lovely fairy-tale inspired area, given your characters and left on your own to navigate the environment and solve puzzle, and somehow when you get to the end of each particular area, you realize that you've been told another piece of the story without anyone actually holding you down and ramming narrative down your throat.

Basically my point is that this is a game that uses the medium it's presented in to actually tell the story, rather than use devices from other media like film or books. This is what video games should strive to, they need to stop trying to be other media and embrace their own uniqueness and their own strengths.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby romangoro » 21 Jun 2014, 10:53

Yes, but that's not an easy thing to do. Look at early films, it took a while for that medium to find they own legs. Old westerns take lots of tropes from wild west roadshows, the early comedys take a lot from vaudeville, circus and theater, and so on. Even today sometimes you see inept adaptation from musical to film (the latest version of The Producers, Les Miserables) that fail in part due to misusing the medium.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby korvys » 22 Jun 2014, 19:17

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKIiUsbOO24

The most relevant quote:
You cannot be bad at reading a book.
You cannot be bad at listening to an album.
But you can be bad at playing a video game. And the video game will punish you, and deny you access to the rest of the video game.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Master Gunner » 23 Jun 2014, 03:28

One can also be bad at football, or at Monopoly, and so on. That is generally one of the intrinsic parts of being a "game" - you can lose, or at least, you can stop moving forward.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby My pseudonym is Ix » 23 Jun 2014, 03:33

True, but Monopoly rarely makes a case to be considered art.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Master Gunner » 23 Jun 2014, 04:00

Ah, I've only being skimming the thread, and hadn't realized we were getting into the "Are video games art" discussion.

I would argue that one can be just as bad at reading a book as one can be bad at playing a video game. They both require skillsets that have to be practiced over time to reach any degree of competence, and if you lack those skillsets, you are denied further access to the piece.

For the vast majority of human history, most humans were illiterate. Even today, almost half of the province where I live is functionally illiterate. Even beyond that, reading comprehension is considered a separate skill from pure literacy, and is also required. It has also being put forth that books, particularly those considered "art", do require active engagement and interpretation by the reader to get the full experience of the piece. Related to that is the amount of background knowledge required. Books are full of analogies and references to other works (primarily biblical and Shakespearean, but plenty of other works have also contributed to English literary canon), and if you lack the background to understand those references, you will also be denied access to the whole experience intended by the author (while most native speakers understand these references through pop-cultural osmosis, it is a noted stumbling block for non-native speakers).

A ten-year-old child can play through plenty of video games and get the experience intended (or a good chunk of it, at least - while they might not understand the story, they are not denied access to it). At the same time, they are only starting to be able to access the majority of literature that we might take for granted.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby romangoro » 23 Jun 2014, 07:59

There are harder books the same way there are harder games, and then again, there are books that are hard because you need to be older to get them. Albert Camus' L'Etranger comes to mind, I had to read it at 17 and though I could read all of it, being as I am a pretty hardcore reader, I didn't get anything of what's going on there, not having any of the life experience needed. So yes, with books you need to be able to read *and* sometimes have enough "life skills" to actually get the content. Same can be said for movies, theatre and probably visual arts. Maybe music too, but that's another discussion.

But that's not the point, books don't punish you for being unskilled in the way games do. Games tell you explicitly, with red letters, that you've made a mistake and cannot advance, while with other mediums it's you who has to realize that you aren't getting it.

Moreover, and I think this is the main difference, that difficulty can actually be the content, or at least a part of it. I know that, for various reasons, I'll never be able to play, say, the Devil May Cry games on the higher difficulties, and many fans will tell you that you're missing the depth of the game on the lower difficulties. No other medium has that.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Master Gunner » 23 Jun 2014, 09:02

Such is the nature of the medium, and as one guy once put it "The medium is the message". The requirement of constant interaction to progress, and the potential to stop progressing, is what makes games a separate genre of art.

Thinking of the "Two Souls" GPLP, Graham and Paul remarked several times on how it was creeping closer to being a movie rather than a game, precisely because it lacked failure conditions, and sequences would continue even without user input.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby ch3m1kal » 23 Jun 2014, 10:41

I think the whole what is art discussion is far too abstract an pointless, since there's no real, clear definition.

I mean if we use the dictionary definition
"art : ärt noun
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.."


Then yes most, though I would say not all, video games are art however that has no impact on the current discussion.

Beyond Two Souls is a good borderline example, since there is some gameplay in it, it even has multiple endings based on your decisions, however it sacrifices a lot of what would have made it a better game just because it's trying so hard to be a movie.
IMO that is precisely the wrong and backwards way of going about things. Games should embrace and use their own medium rather keep trying to emulate film, because let's face it for the time being they're not going to look as good as a film, the vast majority of them aren't written anywhere near the level of a decent film, and mocap is not yet at the level where a game character can act as well as a real live actor.
And even if the technology and writing was there, what would be the point? You're just making an animated film, and we've had those for quite a few years now.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby romangoro » 23 Jun 2014, 11:52

One of my dreams is making a game were a story happens, and you may or may not be a participant of it. You can either try to be the main character and (say) end up as king of the world or be a blacksmith and have a small life on a town and be somehow unnafected by what happens or maybe be anything in between. You'll start with a random background (royal family, peasant, stablemaster, rival noble, soldier, etc.) and the fun would hopefully be to replay the story many times and see what happens if you do this or that.

Unfortunately I don't even know where to start with that.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Alex Steacy » 24 Jun 2014, 09:24

EC has pretty neatly summed up exactly how I feel about the question. What is a game? Mu.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Prospero101 » 24 Jun 2014, 09:39

Alex Steacy wrote:EC has pretty neatly summed up exactly how I feel about the question. What is a game? Mu.


We really need an upvoting system.

(For those of you who aren't students of obscure Zen philosophy, "mu" roughly translates to "Unask the question, stupid.")
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby AdmiralMemo » 24 Jun 2014, 16:59

So then, would "What is a painting?" "What is a book?" "What is a poem?" have Mu answers as well?
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby empath » 24 Jun 2014, 17:21

More like "What is a story?" or "What is fun?"
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby ch3m1kal » 24 Jun 2014, 17:41

No, that is not the question at all.

The "What is an x" in Memo's post actually gave me a perfect analogy.

There is a very clear distinction made between films, training videos, music videos or just random youtube stuff. The fact that they are all using the same medium does not mean they are all the same and should all be treated the same way. And those of you that though, "but games have genres" should remember that so do movies, TV shows and pretty much everything else.

Books are different from magazines, or a pamphlet or a newspaper, despite the fact that they are all essentially use the same media.

So why is it that just because something runs in a game engine, or flash or whatever does it automatically get to be called a game?
The "mu" argument and the whole "interactive experience" thing puts me massively on tilt because it's just "No fuck you, I don't have an actual reason but you're wrong". That entire episode of Extra Credits in fact is complete trash, because it fails to address the issue and basically contradicts itself right in the middle when it starts talking about how games should be their own thing and not imitate other media.


Just because you say something is a thing does not make it so and I just don't understand why this resistance to criticizing "interactive experiences" and calling out their bullshit. Every other form of media and entertainment has already dealt with and overcome these issues, why the eff is gaming being so backwards?
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby korvys » 24 Jun 2014, 20:06

ch3m1kal wrote:There is a very clear distinction made between films, training videos, music videos or just random youtube stuff. The fact that they are all using the same medium does not mean they are all the same and should all be treated the same way.

Except there isn't a clear distinction. The medium separates them from books or paintings, but within the medium the lines blur. What is the difference between a documentary and a film? Where do docudramas fit in? What's the difference between a film and an episode of a TV series? Where do the Futurama movies fit in? What's the difference between a music video and a film? What about Interstella 5555?

Sure, you can say, this thing is a film, and this thing is a music video, and most things will fit into these neat pigeon holes, but then there's some stuff that doesn't.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby AdmiralMemo » 24 Jun 2014, 20:07

So, does this get into a similar argument that "Is John Cage's 4′33″ actually music? Is it a song?" does?
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby korvys » 24 Jun 2014, 20:26

The dispute seems to be linguistic. There are films that aren't on film, or even 'filmed'. There is music that is not musical. And there are video games that aren't games (and even those that don't use video).
The names we use for these mediums is just inaccurate.
Calling something a film isn't a claim that that thing is on film (though there are pedants who will refuse to call something a film if it's not), and calling something a video game isn't a claim that that thing is a game.
I see nothing wrong with saying that Dear Ester isn't a Game, but is a Video Game (I mean, its truth is debatable, but the sentence isn't a contradiction as far as I'm concerned).
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby romangoro » 25 Jun 2014, 05:12

I'm going to desagree both with Alex/EC/Prospero and with ch3m1kal here.

There is nothing wrong with 'interactive experiences', nothing wrong with saying "I call this is a game, and I don't care if you think it isn't", even less wrong with enjoying those products. Nothing wrong with disliking them either. They don't affect the rest of gaming, they don't affect anyone's point of view about gaming. It's a free world.

But, I don't think mu, at least as Prospero explains it, is a good answer either. The question is not stupid and should be asked. It's an academic question, yes, as I said in the previous paragraph, no one's opinion, no matter how authoritative, can actually affect your personal enjoyment/opinion/whatever.

The same discussion has happened in all the arts, and exploring the question "What is X" is one of the points of all the artistic vanguards. Looking for the boundaries of the medium shows you where to push.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Alex Steacy » 25 Jun 2014, 07:17

What I don't get is why people insist on forcing things into particular boxes and filing systems. You know we made all those distinctions up, right? It's just for general reference. The actual difference between all these things is a gradient and not a binary, but certain people can't stand to not be able to draw a designating line somewhere. It sometimes just feels like a debate about semantics rather than attributes.

Are people trying to "win" somehow by getting to stamp a particular label on something? What do you get from "winning"?

IS DEBATING GAMES A GAME!?

ps: "interactive experiences" is quite frankly just a clumsy mouthful of words. I'm going to continue calling them games.
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Re: What is a videogames?

Postby Alex Steacy » 25 Jun 2014, 07:44

Like, think about this:

We call Duck Hunt a video game. You play it with a zapper on a NES, you blast ducks and complete it when the marsh runs out of birds for you to shoot.

We call Game of Thrones a TV show. You watch episodes of people fighting and screwing a lot and cannot change the outcome no matter how bitterly you plead to George R.R. Martin.

In the 80s, there was a show called Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. It was a sci-fi TV show, BUT! You could get an electronic zapper gun just for the show that you should shoot at the screen when certain characters showed up. No, seriously.

So Captain Power is *mostly* a TV show, but it's also a video game. It's an area on a spectrum.

Dragon's Lair is basically an animated short with QTEs that let you continue watching the story. You used to be able to play it on a Laserdisc player! It's kind of equal parts cartoon and game. Another region on a spectrum.

Beyond: Two Souls (irrespective of its percieved quality) is a video game where you have a reasonable degree of interaction with a storyline. You play it with a controller and can move Ellen Page around, but it's an awful lot like a movie or TV show. Spectrum area.

I feel like these spectrum regions are what make certain people short circuit. We have a limited vocabulary with which to assign meaning, and some of us get profoundly uncomfortable if they can't assign something one label or another. The reason the question "what is a game" is wrong is because you can't point to somewhere on that spectrum and say HA! here's where it becomes a game, and here's where it becomes a movie or TV show or whatever. But we do. For the sake of reference. And I guess I'm just the kind of person who sees shades of grey where others might perceive black and white. It's maybe not as simple, but I feel that it's more accurate.

Also, ch3m1kal, dismissing that whole episode as 'complete trash' really throws a boat anchor on your credibity. Your opposing perspective is welcome, but please don't do that.

One last note: Saying something is a thing does make it so. Why? Because we made up every single one of these terms. We did. Humans. We invented words and what they mean, and all we're talking about is how we don't always agree on what the words we made up mean.
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