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Everything posted by aoanla

  1. So, working through my backlog of games I got in bundles and then never got around to playing, I spent a chunk of yesterday playing through and completing (except one secret) Gone Home. (I also played a bit of Dear Esther, for comparison). I actually really liked Gone Home: it's not a hard game, but it's not intended to be hard - the "find keys to unlock doors" mechanic serves its purpose well in enforcing narrative ordering*, and also making you explore more to discover all the indirectly relevant aspects of story (Terry's terrible SF-thriller novels, the rocky state of the marriage, and some hints about Oscar). The narrative aspects are superlatively done, both in terms of writing, and in terms of presentation (the voice actresses, especially Sam's obviously, are really good; but also the design of the house, placement of items and general set-design is superlative). As little touches, I also liked how the tooltips for interaction with items sometimes give you bleedthrough of Katie's contextualisation about a thing - Christmas Duck, her postcards home, and the two soft porn stashes she finds are all used nicely to subtly evoke additional depth to the role you're "playing". And, to tie into some conversations lately about narrative impact in games - I definitely felt something when playing it, and was definitely somewhat drawn into the role I was given. It's not a terribly happy game, but bittersweet is what it's going for, I guess. [it probably also helps that I was a teenager in the 1990s too, so a lot of the cultural references hit home perfectly**, and I definitely knew at least one girl who watched The X Files for Scully, so the whole "Sam likes X Files" hint early on was perhaps more "helpful" to me than it might have been intended to be. ] (In contrast, I'm really not sure what I think of Dear Esther yet, although I'm pretty sure it's not a "game" - it feels to me like a somewhat (deliberately?) overblown "video poem". ) * Edit: and is also nicely subverted at least twice by alternatives to that process being revealed or discovered. **Edit: oh, oh and the two functional magic eye posters on Sam's cupboard door!
  2. Let's discuss what a video game is

    It turns out we did the Wittgenstein thing a few pages back
  3. Let's discuss what a video game is

    But as you yourself note, names are important, and they contextualise how we interact with a thing. (To pick up Mangela's point from just now and also a bit ago: I can certainly think of "reading a book" in terms of a kind of "game playing", but that will colour my interaction with it and probably change the way I actually engage in reading.) I actually think this is really interesting, especially that you don't think "interactive fiction" is generally a game. I know some IF writers, and I think all of them think of IF as being games (as well a narrative fiction)!
  4. Let's discuss what a video game is

    For the purposes of regular communication, though, I suspect that if you told someone you were "playing" then they'd probably not assume that you were reading a book. So there's a kind of default set of "things people do for enjoyment which are play" as a subset of "things that people might admit were forms of play, possibly with some reservations or heming or hawing if pressed". And, yes, I agree that some of this is about legitimised activities and the "stigma" of play.
  5. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Dragonfliet, I'm going to explain the context and origin of this thread again, just to eliminate the misapprehension you seem to be working under. The first few pages of this thread were originally posts in the "Recently Completed Video Games" thread. The very first post in this thread was my post, in the "Recently Completed Video Games" thread, commenting on Gone Home, which I had indeed, recently completed. As an aside, I compared it to my experience of Dear Esther. Immediately subsequently to this, people started trying to attack my, incidental, categorisation of Dear Esther (off topic to the "Recently Completed Video Games" thread). I tried to disengage from this twice. Eventually, that topic of conversation became a large enough part of the "Recently Completed Video Games" thread that people who actually wanted to talk about... Recently Completed Video Games... were getting annoyed. A moderator (not me!) split the related posts into a separate thread, this thread. This thread cannot, therefore, be an attack by me, as I didn't create it, and had no intention of it being created when I made that single solitary post in the "Recently Completed Video Games" thread about a game I'd recently completed. Since its origin was people taking the original host thread off topic to attack my use of the word "game", I think it's quite justifiable to categorise this thread as an attack on me. ---------------------------------- (Back on topic: your definition of structured play also seems to encompass activities like "going hiking", "reading a book" and "socialising". Sure, if you want to use a definition that wide for "play" in particular, then Dear Esther is a game. But I don't think that's what most people expect when using those words. Have you considered that maybe you disliked Dear Esther so much because you were categorising it as a game (which it is certainly bad at being), and you might have enjoyed it more casting your interaction with it in a different sense and context? Edit: also, as a data point, because I'm interested: would you consider Kinetic Novels to be games or not? Dear Esther also feels like one of them, too, from my exceptionally limited experience of the genre.)
  6. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Before I get started, I should apologise to twmac: I misremembered the author of a comment earlier in this thread and didn't double-check it, and thus implied something about him that is not true. As far as I can tell I did not (nor did I ever feel tempted or the need to) give twmac short-shift in this thread (in fact, his debating style was pretty good). Well, no: this thread is mostly you guys trying to tell me that I have to think Dear Esther is a game, as far as I can tell. If you actually wanted to know why I think Dear Esther isn't a game, you could actually have read my comments at the multiple times I've said why I think Dear Esther isn't a game in response to various people at various points in this thread. Instead, you decided to attack my use of the phrase video poem because it doesn't meet your particularly strict (and incomplete) definitions of the use of the word "poem" or "poetry". (Since we're apparently citing definitions from third-parties at in this discussion now, I might note that both Wiktionary (definition 4) and the Oxford English Dictionary (definition 6) support the sense in which I'm using "poetry" here: Wiktionary: 4. A 'poetical' quality, artistic and/or artfull, which appeals or stirs the imagination, in any medium OED: 6. a. fig. Something comparable to poetry in its beauty or emotional impact; a poetic quality of beauty and intensity of emotion; the poetic quality of something. It's pretty obvious that I must be using the figurative meaning for the OED in particular, as clearly Dear Esther isn't an actual work of literature. ) No, the object of this thread is to get you guys who want me to call Dear Esther a game to admit that I'm allowed, for valid reasons which actually reflect a common and widespread usage of the word "game", to decide that it might not be. This thread started within the "Recently Completed Video Games" thread as the result of my completely incidental note, when talking about Gone Home, that I thought that Dear Esther wasn't quite a game. Most of the argumentation since has been the result of people who are insistent that I must call Gone Home a game telling me that I'm wrong, and I'm harming society/culture/Dan Pinchbeck by not using the word "game" the way they are. (If anyone is on a crusade here, it's you guys, not me. If you read the first few replies I make, I try to disengage twice from people trying to get me to fall into this argument with them. Would a Crusader do that?) It's ironic that you choose that definition, since I agree with it, and explicitly note that I don't think Dear Esther is a game by essentially that definition earlier in this thread. (You might read back a bit and note that I do say that Dear Esther is interesting in using systems to try to prevent the interactor from actually playing games - that the interaction, in other words, is not structured play. I actually use this argument more than once in multiple ways in this thread, so it doesn't seem that my definition of "games" can be that shallow if it agrees with a definition you're happy to use!) Further, I think it would be edifying for you to look at those quotes you pulled out of Ninety-Three's little study in this context: "You can do nothing but walk and walk; there are no enigmas or riddles (I expected that), and basically you walk on a closed and forced path that eventually leads you to the end" "Not only are they actually games that require an input from a player," " The two monumental issues that plague this game however, are its linearity and the speed of progression." "However there is absolutely no interaction within this game, you walk, you can float up in some parts of deep water and you can fall off things. I don't know if this even counts as a game, it's a story where you get to move the camera around." "There is little story, and even less gameplay. You're mostly railroaded along a path, where you will hear and see things." "Dear Esther feels like less of a game, more of an experience.... I say experience more than explore. As much as you can walk around and think you're doing your own thing, you're really just on a set path that is highly detailed and winds through coastal beaches, caves and cliff sides." "In Dear Esther, you'll wander beautiful environments with no interaction or objective while listening to soothing ambient music..." You apparently claim that all of these are to do with "difficulty" or "challenge" (although you admit that some of them really don't actually talk about difficulty at all). I would argue that each and every one of them is saying that "there is no structured play". Right: so you think that we should call things games because that if we call them games they'll be able to get more money than if we don't call them games? (I note that what I said was that it was important to you that Dear Esther can be Commercially Successful, not that it will be, since you seem to repeatedly claim that calling things like this games is important to that possibility.) (You actually really don't describe what you mean by "useful", in this sense - unless you just mean that we should choose definitions that allow experiences you like to be classed as things which are not marginalised.) In any case: sure, it's hard to get arts funding. I agree. This is essentially rhetoric: "I assert that these things are games, thus, because I say they are games, they are innovative games as they are not like other games". You've already admitted in an earlier comment that almost the entirety of the "mechanics" of Dear Esther are those of virtual worlds in general, not video games, so that's a very weak argument to return to (it's even worse for Mountain, incidentally). And, again, by the definition you yourself say is useful above, Dear Esther is not a game, so it's really a bit odd that you're so insistent here. Again: you repeatedly make two claims here which are "things which are declared as not games are not capable of being commercially successful" and "things which are declared as not games are not capable of being treated 'seriously'". You would like things which you would like to be treated seriously, and be commercially successful to be declared as games. I suspect that this is actually the main reason why you want them to be treated as games, and not because you actually have a deep concept of "what a game is". It's really for you to demonstrate that this is not the case here. (By contrast, I note that I've treated Dear Esther with a certain amount of respect, and tried to analyse it within the terms of the interaction it appears to me to use. I'm not exactly saying that Dan Pinchbeck is a talentless hack here, am I?)
  7. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Dragonfliet: Firstly, I see you're perfectly happy to attack the meaning of words in a non-standard way when it comes to attempting to "ghettoize" the work of someone who disagrees with you. But Ninety-Three has already defended themselves perfectly well, so I'll stop there. On to the main points, though: You'll notice that I explicitly used the pretentious phrase that you start attacking as "meaningless drivel" in order to conform to your apparent image of me. I even told you that's what I was doing. Apparently you just don't care about being a reasonable human being in a discussion, or maybe you're just so terribly angry about my ghettoizing the poor creatives that you're not reading things properly. That said: of course it's an abstract relationship, I'm trying to create a useful metaphor for the way in which Dear Esther tries to create meaning, and the kind of meaning it tries to create. Clearly Dear Esther isn't actually written in words, but people use "poetry" in senses which don't correspond to the concept of "things written in words" ("poetry in motion", "that cake is sheer poetry" etc), so your ironically very prescriptive definition of poetry doesn't seem to be complete. Meanwhile, your definition of "game" is hilariously implementation specific. All of the properties which you've allocated to Dear Esther's gaminess are due to it being implemented as a Half-life 2 mod originally. Essentially, then, you're using the same argument that the dev of Mountain used: "This is a game because I made it in a game creation tool". I've already addressed, multiple times, why this is a shallow argument, so I'm not going to repeat myself again (other than to note that it's pretty obvious that you can make very non-game things in a game creation tool - try it!). But the core of your argument seems to be "most things which create a realised virtual world and let you navigate it are called games". Sure, it's certainly true that the overwhelming majority of video games nowadays create a three-d virtual world and implement you in it. This is because games are the most popular thing that humans engage in (regardless of the type of game), and they need a setting though, not because that's inherently "what a game is". Your argument is akin to someone arguing that the old WW2 war room boards with the little model planes on them to track enemy and friendly positions are "a game" because they have a board and little models on them, and so does chess. Sure, they do share implementation elements with boardgames, but their context is what makes them a game: using a board and pieces is a convenient way to represent the world (even inspired by boardgames in this case!), but it's what you do with them that counts. Again, Second Life (and all of the other less successful attempts at virtual-world style things inspired mostly by Snow Crash) are not games, and they just do precisely what you've said is your main reason for thinking that Dear Esther is a game. Essentially, my argument is that your argument for "Gaminess" exposes your shallow reference pools and experience of computer-mediated virtualities more than it illuminates on what a game is. This is also precisely what I mean when I've argued that your definition essentially annihilates huge swathes of other fields of work. Because you think that one of the most important thing is that Dear Esther can be commercially successful (why is this so deeply important to you? Lots of valuable things aren't, and while I'm sure Dan Pinchbeck is a lovely person, I'm not sure that anyone in particular deserves to automatically have commercial success - isn't that the whole point of Capitalism?) then we have to say that "video games" is the name for the field of work in which we make interactive virtual spaces. But there are plenty of people who have already been working in the wide field of making interactive virtual spaces who are not from the games tradition, and who don't call their work games, and your definition marginalises them. (My sarcastic use of Windows 95 wasn't drawn from anger, my emotional state was wearied at the time.) Also, on the meaning of words, since I've gotten to the end of your discussion: Sure, people are engaging with the use of the word "game" to describe Dear Esther - but those who engage are engaging to reject Dear Esther from that set. A "game that isn't a game" is not a game - it's a thing which I'm calling a game by default so I can reject it from the category directly in my sentence. That's what that negotiation means: a rejection of your "wider discourse" by direct means.
  8. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Deadpan: Firstly, I apologise for taking your use of "clear cut" to be perhaps more extreme than it may have been intended. I do still think that there's a difference between "clear-cut" as an absolute signifier, and the relative sense of "clarity" and "precise" that Gaizokubanou and I have both used. In comparison to the "maximalist" interpretation of "games/video games", I think our usage is more precise, and possibly has more clarity - but I don't think we're actually being particularly hard-edged in our classifiers either. It sounded to me like you were suggesting that our definitions of "game" would exclude a lot of common usages outside of "video games", but I don't think we do - our beef is mostly with the extension of the word "game" in the video game context, I think. I went on a bit of a side-comment about Wittgenstein which wasn't really aimed precisely at you (I think you got caught in the wash, because you were the last person of a chunk who all commented - this was more really at Dragonfliet, who I then decided deserved a fuller reply devoted to them), but I do think has some merit: in so far as I can discern it, the qualities which describe Dear Esther (and Mountain) together as examplars of "game" in the "video game" context do essentially extend the meaning of "video game" to basically all of software. I think this is pretty much maximally fuzzing "video game" within the class of things which video games is a subset. I do admit that the fuzzing of "art" started quite some time ago. Evidentially, I think there was still a strong sense of "work which produces emotional effects in the interactor, via the application of masterful skill or craft" in the 17th and 18th centuries, maybe? Definitely in the 15th. So, no, this wasn't a recent decline or anything. It may interest you that your side note actually totally convinces me that Dear Esther isn't a game. The "bits between the gunplay/action" in FPSen feel to me definitely like the bits where the FPS is trying most to be like a movie which you're immersed in, and not like a game (they're also essentially like the effect of wandering around a really well realised area in something like Second Life, which is also not trying to be a game - I'd argue that Second Life is a purer precursor to quite a lot of VR stuff being done, being that it was influenced strongly by the whole Metaverse stuff in Snow Crash.). So, if Dan Pinchbeck was going for that, he was essentially going for removing the bit of an FPS which makes it "game" , and making it into a just a really well realised virtual setting. (I'd still argue that adding the narrative element makes it something other than just a virtual setting like that, but I'm happy to accept that the effect I experienced wasn't quite what he was aiming at.)
  9. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Mangela, I do know this. I'm being light-hearted. [still, I do quite like Software Entertainment or Entertainment Software as phrases - they go along with the commonly used phrase "games and entertainments" in a natural way.]
  10. Let's discuss what a video game is

    1) I wasn't "yelling at the cloud" until your peers tried to prevent me from using words in the way that my peer group uses them. This thread is me defending myself from you guys. 2) All software is interactive, and is an artifact. "Software Entertainment" seems okay, though. We could use a synonym for entertainments though, and call it "software art"
  11. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Where I'm intending to go from here is to note that, given this, it's as much for the people who want to argue for "maximalist" definitions of 'game' to make good cases as it is for the "non-maximalist" people to make theirs. There's not strong evidence that the "maximalist" position is actually reflective of the dominant real-world use, but most "maximalist" arguments start from the assumption that it is. (Also: the other point is that word use is contextual - this is the use of the word "game" in the context of the community of "people who leave Steam game reviews". Firstly, this is a small subset of "all people in the World"; most of whom don't, probably, have the same use of the word "game" as people in this thread do. (As an experiment, I tried showing a few people I know Dear Esther who are not members of the "video games" community at all. It's a sample size of three, so mostly anecdote, but none of them described it as a game (I'd carefully avoided using any specific descriptors for it - just described it as a "thing I'd like their thoughts on") when asked about their thoughts. (To be fair, none of them described it as a poem, either, so...)). Secondly, as Ninety-Three notes, there's a strong social tendency for people to "use a known bad word" to refer to a thing in a conversation if that's the first word used for that thing. If Bob comes along with a microwave oven and says "My TV is isn't working", you would probably unconsciously reply "That TV isn't a TV, it's a microwave.". This is especially true if there's not an immediately good word that comes to mind to use instead - Dear Esther is certainly hard to apply an existing software-thing word to, other than maybe the most generic ones. People will tend to use a more specific feeling word in preference to a very generic feeling one, if given a suggestion of such a word, even if it isn't actually the best fit for their own conception. So, we get a lot of people saying "This game isn't a game" in the reviews, because the first "game" is them engaging in the language-game as above - applying a token or label because it's the one that's been suggested to them, and the second "game" is them asserting their own conceptual meaning. This is all classic Wittgenstein, by the way, and the process of negotiation in language-games that he talks about makes it fairly clear what's going on here - these assertions are all people negotiating over the meaning of the word "game" (and declaring that Dear Esther doesn't fit it). )
  12. Let's discuss what a video game is

    I make no secret of the fact that I don't consider the author to be the sole arbiter of the context or purpose or classification of their work. (But neither should you: the point of referencing The Waste Land is that Eliot considered it a poem. Even if the rest of the world all considered it a novel, by the arguments of some in this thread, we should still consider it a poem because Eliot said so. I am pretty sure that that's not how meaning in words actually happens, and you seem to actually agree with me (when it suits you).) No. Dear Esther is like a poem because it has characteristics deeply associated with the purpose and artist expression of poetry. It's a work that mostly leverages imagery, explicit and implicit, to achieve emotional states in those interacting with it, if you insist on trying to force me to be a reductive parody of the person you think I am. But it's a poem because it feels like a poem to me, and because using that word seems to be a good way to express what the creators were intending (via family-resemblances, if we're going to be all Wittgenstein). The resemblances Dear Esther has to video games are, on the other hand, not deep resemblances, in my opinion. There's a control scheme - but of course there is, everything we interact with on a computer has a control scheme - checkpoints are used to trigger audio - but of course there are, everything we interact with on a computer uses events to trigger actions. This is all window-dressing being mistaken for deep resemblance - accidentals, to use a pretentious term just to fit with your mental image of me. If you'd bothered to read my argument about what people would think of Dear Esther if it was a physical experience, not in a computer, then you'd understand that. I agree, and that's not what anyone here is doing. Ahh, conflating value judgements with categorical distinction. You'll notice, of course, that no-one in this thread has ever made the implicit value judgement you're asserting we have. Are categories useful for consumer purposes? Absolutely. This, by the way, is why Dear Esther and Mountain get categorised as "video games", so they can be added to Steam without putting them in "Software". Good job I'm not doing that then, isn't it. (Please actually read things I've written, rather than assuming that because I disagree with you about some members of a category that I'm some easy to attack strawman. This is why twmac got short shrift from me too.) It isn't. Please actually read what I'm saying. The problem with your rhetorical position is that it doesn't actually allow anyone to disagree with a positive assertion. If I say "Microsoft Windows 95 is a video game", then anyone disagreeing with me is automatically an evil, petty and foolish human who is driving only to destroy the beautiful socially constructed and fluffy world of language (and probably hates kittens). This is true even if there's no actual relevant connection I want to make, or if there are good reasons to disagree with me. While, obviously, we shouldn't exclude things from categories for trivial or political reasons, the converse is also true: we shouldn't add things to categories for trivial or political reasons. Both approaches are equally bad. (The maximalist approach that you and twmac want to use is just reducing word categorisation to a value judgements - "This is X" means "This is good", rather than "This is X".) Of course, as you yourself argue, the meaning of words is primarily socially constructed. This means that actually, neither approach is really relevant - what's relevant is the empirically determined scope of a word (which can be different in different communities). Again, if you actually cared about this, rather than pursuing an agenda based around crypto-cultural value judgements, you'd have paid attention to Ninety-Three's empirical study of Steam reviews of Dear Esther. (It appears that the use of the word "game" to describe Dear Esther is shaky, amongst even the set of people who positively reviewed Dear Esther on Steam.) Just as I don't get to say Dear Esther isn't a game if the World disagrees with me (at least, without stating my reasons and context), you also don't get to say it is (if the World disagrees with you).
  13. Let's discuss what a video game is

    (Also, since we're all using Wittgenstein, and his approach to meaning is empirical, it's important to actually gather real world data before asserting that an example is actually an exemplar of a word. One of the frustrating things about this discussion has been the refusal of the maximalist side to engage with counter examples which suggest that, say, Proteus, is not actually considered a game by a significant set of people. Ninety-Three did some analysis on Steam reviews of Dear Esther a few pages back which anyone adopting a maximalist approach should probably actually read before asserting that their favorite example is actually a good example in reality of common usage.)
  14. Let's discuss what a video game is

    I think that an interesting phenomenon I've noticed in this thread is that "video game maximalists" (those who want video games/ games to mean as big a thing as possible) often assume or assert that people who disagree with them are using "clear-cut" definitions, or trying to bound words by strict sets of adjectives which must apply to all uses of the word. I think it's actually fairly evident from the actual responses of those people who aren't "video game maximalists" that this is not actually the case. For example: I already stated (and I know Ninety-Three, at least, agrees with me, and I suspect Gaizokubanou does too) that I do think Solitaire is a game. It's important to remember that Wittgenstein was writing in a context where the dominant theory of language was purely based on hard, strict boundaries on words, applied almost to platonic forms of concepts (which were then considered to be approximated by reality). When he argues that we should be adopting a "fuzzier" view of meaning, he is contrasting that to those very hard, prescriptive, definitional approaches. What he never says is that words are always improved by making them fuzzier over time. [in fact, he doesn't really prescribe how we should encourage language to develop, he's describing, mostly, how language is actually used.] It's actually fairly obvious that there's an optimal fuzziness for word meaning which is less than total - if all words were as fuzzy as possible, then all words would refer to everything equally; they'd all lose meaning. (It's also usually the case that, while you can't find a single strict definition of a word which fits all exemplars and cases, you can usually produce a cloud of qualities of which all examples will partake subsets. In the case of mind games, for example, it's clear that there's some sense of a contest or struggle being applied to this use of games - and "contest/competition" turns up as a rather common property in a lot of the looser "game" examples.) I think my issue with "video game maximalism" is not just that the proposed additional exemplars (things like Mountain, Dear Esther) make the word too fuzzy to be useful (and also impinge on other words and cultures which already exist and deal with those concepts), but also that the "additional quality" which people seem to be attributing to those exemplars is "has value to me". (In this, it's very much like the problem with "art" which Gaizokubanou mentions - "art" has slowly become a word which basically means "I quite like this thing and think it has value". I think "video game" is rapidly becoming "I like this software" for the same reasons.)
  15. Let's discuss what a video game is

    So, hopefully you guys aren't surprised that I (almost) entirely agree with you. When I say "Reading a book is not a game", I was being a little loose - I hope you understood that what I intended was that there's nothing inherent about reading a book which makes it always a game. (Obviously, you can play a game around reading a book, and some books encourage you to do so, either very explicitly (in the case of, say, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, or books with puzzles or cryptograms built into the text) or less so.) I hope you noticed that I've been quite careful to use the word "game" and not "video game" when talking about if (say) Dear Esther is a game. This is because (as should also be evident in my last reply to Tycho), I am pretty sure I might agree with ihavefivehats regarding the expansion of the term "video game" to be a cultural thing which includes a lot of modes of expression which aren't "games". (I do dislike this happening, because it means that people shortening "video game" to "game" unconsciously tend to get Very Angry at people who aren't because they have a lot of Emotions tied up with cultural membership; and it also leads to the phenomenon of the Dear Esther reviews that Ninety-Three pointed out, where people write stuff like "The thing about games like Dear Esther is that they aren't really games", which is just awful to parse and will probably result in the coming of Big Dog when we point AI natural language parsers at it.) I do also genuinely worry that this expansion of video game culture as a phrase/idea is marginalising, further, all the pre-existing software and digital art people who don't get to hang their work on the Giant video game Culture Train (just like Literary Writers Who Dabble In SF get the Privilege (in the "male privilege" sense) in mainstream culture that SF Writers don't (Iain Banks, notably, consciously rejected this privilege, and all credit to him for that)) that. But that's an aside to the whole "what's a game/what's a video game" thing, I guess. I think that my one wrinkle/extra point is that I am not saying that you cannot play a game with Dear Esther. It seems reasonable to recognise that, within the kinda loose meaning of game we're working with here, there are some pieces of software (or other media) which "encourage you to play a game", or actively provide explicit or implicit contexts in which to play a game with them. (So, boardgames and sports come with rules, etc). Obviously, as well as choosing to play the game that they come with expectations around, you can play other games (for example, with a chessboard, you can play different chess variants, or drafts, or something completely different to those things). There's software which comes with the same kind of context baked into it - arcade games clearly expect you to contextualise your "game" in terms of the rules encoded via collision detection, scoring and so on. There's nothing stopping you from playing a different game (say, playing Tetris, but aiming to make the tallest, narrowest tower, or make patterns in the play area), but software games are somewhat unique in that they often strongly enforce their version of the rules (trying to make a really tall tower in Tetris quickly results in a game-over, trying to be hit by every third shot in a shmup results in you losing all your lives), so there's a sense in which they "are" the game they come with. [The equivalent, I guess, is having really grumpy referees in a sports game, who tell everyone to go home because they're picking up the soccer ball and running with it, or a similarly grumpy GM in a pen-and-paper RPG] (People use pretentious terms like ludonarrative dissonance to talk about the problem where the "game that the software wants you to play" is at odds with other signals that the software is giving you - for example, narrative cues. Tomb Raider has a lot of this. Undertale, by contrast, gets critically lauded because the game it wants you to play is deeply intertwined with the narrative and artistic vision it wants you to experience. Tomb Raider is like a big budget AAA Blockbuster, in that its artistic vision is inherently compromised by the priorities of the Producers and their lack of deep concern for integration of the experience. Undertale is like an indie movie where everything is carefully rolled together into one whole which is bigger than its parts.) Because people want to play around and play their own games with software contexts, people have tried various ways to break out of the "game context" which these things come with - so, you get mods and hacks of existing games, things like Kaizo Mario, etc. And, given that people will play with anything, people even started playing games with the tools you can use to make software - Garry's Mod, for example - or virtual worlds (Minecraft:Creative Mode is more popular than Minecraft: Survival Mode precisely because it isn't inherently a game - it leaves the user free to decide what context they want to interact with the world in, which can involve playing a game, but can also involve other collaborative or creative activities which are not games). Now, because this side of the evolution of "things you can interact with without having it be a game, necessarily" has started from "video games", I agree that people tend to contextualise them as "video games" too. My point is that there are also things which reached precisely the same position, from different starting points - there have been computer simulations used for non-game purposes for as long as there have been computers, for example; and there have been people coming from the artistic tradition who have been creating digital art since computers existed as well. If Dear Esther, or Mountain, had been made by either of those traditions, then no-one would call it a game (or a video game, for that matter). Dear Esther is not, inherently, a game, in the same sense that Minecraft: Creative Mode is not a game, and the same sense in which Asteroids, say, is a game. (Although, actually, Dear Esther appears to actively and intentionally try to limit the ways in which you can interact with it in order to get you to experience it as a narrative, so I think the scope of "games you could play with Dear Esther" is much narrower and less interesting than the scope of "games you could play with Minecraft:Creative Mode - hence why I want to call it a "poem", rather than a "toy"/"tool" like Minecraft: Creative Mode is. That is: Dear Esther does not appear to want you to play games with it, Minecraft actively encourages you to (it just doesn't try to tell you which game to play).)
  16. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Well, because that would make reading a book a game.
  17. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Ninety-Three has made an excellent job of explaining why your tautological dismissal of a request for evidence was rather obtuse, Tycho, so I'll limit myself to replying to other issues with your comments. Firstly, yes, I am willing to concede that (re. Wittgenstein, as you so helpfully introduced first, so that I couldn't be accused of being pretentious, as brkl did implicitly when I used the term "ludic") the noun phrase "video game" may now be so broad as to include things that are not "games". I think this is one potential resolution to the current unsatisfactory state of affairs, and it is not without precedent for a noun phrase like this to diverge from the meaning of the original root noun. Secondly, I suggest you reread my comments about cultural appropriation, note the use of the word "unconscious" to classify it, and reflect on how, if a process is unconscious, you are probably not consciously aware you're doing it. Thirdly, I suggest you reread my sentence where I use the word "taboo". I don't claim that "language is taboo", I claim that a particular contextual use of a given word is taboo. The last time I checked, the word "taboo" could be used to mean "an action which is prohibited or strongly inhibited due to moral or cultural constraints". Given how intensely vehement you are about the use of the word game, at a level which feels to me as an outsider to be deep-seated and based on reactions concerning your cultural identity, I think I would not be totally out of place to describe this as related to common reactions to "taboo" behaviour. You may, of course, disagree. (In general, though, you're wrong anyway - words are frequently described as taboo - see, eg ) Fourthly, it's odd that you seem confused by the Tomb Raider example, despite my making it quite clear what I mean by the word "game", by using it in the context of "gameplay". Let me try a different example, with some more descriptive prose to try to make this a bit clearer for you: Accepting Wittgenstein (and, to be fair, not everyone does, but I do quite like his theory of language-games, so I'm happy to go along with it), one of the obvious generalisations and extensions of his approach is that different communities or cultures may use words in different ways. This is quite obvious, actually, since if meaning is negotiated, then meaning is also dependant on who you are negotiating with (and potentially the context in which you are negotiating). My assertion is that the word "game" is currently used differently in the culture self-defining as "video games culture" as compared to the rest of English-speaking culture. [i further assert that the meaning of "game" in the self-defined "video games culture" is essentially incoherent, but that's not actually important to this part of the discussion.] To help you see this, consider a thought experiment: Imagine an art installation, a large area of land landscaped with various dramatic scenery and items strewn around. The path you can walk in this art installation is tightly constrained (perhaps there's a glass tunnel which you walk through, or a rope which you are expected to follow). As you pass particular parts of the installation, hidden speakers broadcast (semirandom) prose fragments, intended to appear as if they are parts of a letter written by single individual. Eventually, you get to a high place in the art installation, where a hidden mechanism tips you into the darkness (and then you land on cushions, and it's all okay). I submit that no-one who experienced this art installation would talk about it in terms other than art. I further submit that no-one, in particular, would refer to it as a "game". As you will have already noticed, Dear Esther bears a tremendous resemblance to the given art installation, with the only difference being that it is implemented in software, rather than in real life. You assert, vociferously, that Dear Esther is a game, however. This indicates that your use of the word "game" is, apparently, contingent on a mere matter of medium, rather than the actual intrinsic nature of the experience. I assert, then, that you are using "game" differently to the general population (non-members of the "video games culture"). Using "game" in the manner that the non-video game culture has arrived at, generally, we tend to mean things that "have gameplay". Again, nodding to Wittgenstein, I can only give examples of what people tend to think of as "gameplay", but it's something that sports, boardgames and role-playing games have, but movies, music and poetry tend not to. It is not narrative (to echo your own statements with some tautology of my own: narrative is narrative, so gameplay can't be.) Now, take Tomb Raider (2015). It clearly has a narrative - there's a sequential series of events which occur, which tie together with all the aspects and paraphernalia that people generally expect will make up a "story". It also clearly has gameplay - there's definitely aspects of it which you could use adjectives commonly used to describe the "essence" of sporting, boardgame and role-playing game endeavours. I assert that these aspects make up a "game" in the sense understood by non-members of the "video games culture". So, because I'm using "game" in this sense, which you no longer have access to, apparently, I can talk about Tomb Raider being both a story and a game. Now I have these handy nouns I can use, I can also say things like "Tomb Raider, as a story, has aims that are not always supported by Tomb Raider as a game.". For you, this is presumably incoherent.
  18. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Tycho: Firstly, I'd like to echo Ninety-Three's request for actual data or evidence on your claim re: the common use of the word "game". Explicitly, "game", not "video game", I note. - With that over, I have some thoughts and clarifications in more detail on your post. I'll start by noting that, indeed, as should be obvious from everything I have written in this thread, I think that GamerGate and the morons who think that Dear Esther has no value because it has no gameplay elements are caustic to creative software culture. No-one should ever be allowed to make value judgements on a thing purely because it is not to their tastes, or is not a genre they don't like, or attempt to remove it from existence. (This also applies to, say, people castigating SF, or Romance novels, wrt "literary fiction", and so on.) However, I actually think that the backlash against morons saying that Dear Esther is not a game and therefore has no value is what caused this massive and quixotic inflation of the term "game" to mean "anything basically I say it is, if it's software". In my opinion, the reaction to people saying "this isn't X, and therefore has no value" should have been "you're right, it's not X. But it's actually really valuable, and your cultural and genre limits make you look like a dick". Instead, what self-defined "video games culture" did was to say "oh, no, it definitely has value, so I guess we have to argue that it is X". (This is part of the generally toxic effects that GamerGate has in a whole lot of "video games culture" contexts, of course.) This has the sad effect that, in the context of "video games" only, the word "game" now can't be used with the same meaning or precision it has in all other contexts. I think that this is sad, limiting to culture and generally a bad thing. To deal with the cognitive dissonance this develops in people, we've had an inflation of pretentious terminology (people using ludic a lot more) and people "talking around" the area which the word "game" would naturally be used in other contexts (using "gameplay elements" and other circumlocutions to mean what people would say "game" about in other contexts). In fact, I would argue that the insistence on using "game" in such a bloated way in specifically "Video game culture" contexts is actually toxic to existing fields of cultural expression, via unconscious cultural appropriation. Taking the example of the interactive video / art installation Way To Go, as linked by clyde earlier in the thread; this is just one example of a large, preexisting field of digital and software art which has existed ever since we've had computers available to the public. None of these artists consider what they are creating to be games, as they come from a tradition in which it is understood that interactivity is a component of artistic projects without any pejorative. By inflating the noun "game" in "Video game culture" so aggressively, you are essentially trying to swallow all of digital and software art into the genre and baliwick of "video games". I don't think that software and digital artists would like this to happen (and, actually, I've talked to some who were quite upset about being "demoted" to a subsidiary part of a different genre as a result of this kind of aggression). I submit that the examples of "things which claim to be games so they can be video games" are almost all created by people who are primarily already part of Video game culture, and are not aware of the preexisting fields of software art. So, there's definitely an unconscious issue here of people trying to create without being aware of the creative context in which they are now working. (By analogy, this is very much like what happens when writers who are not part of a given genre's cultural or social circle write something which (unwittingly) enters into that genre's tradition. Often, the genre which is imposed on is Science Fiction or Fantasy, and often, those writers from a literary tradition are aggressively dismissive of attempts to include their work in that genre, often claiming that the genre in question is generally worthless or hokey.) Certainly, this seems to be the case with Mountain, as the author's understanding of "games" seemed to be that "anything made with a game creation tool [in this case, Unity] is a game"; I submit that this reveals more about the shallowness of the author's understanding of tools and their limits within genre than it does about games and whether Mountain is one or not. It should be clear that, given the multiple non-game things made with Unity (including, for example, data visualisation tools: ), this argument is not sufficient. (Similarly, for example, one can use Celtx, or other Scriptwriting software to write things other than movie scripts. If Cormac McCarthy had published The Road and claimed it was a movie script, most people would have asked him to justify that statement. The response that "well, I wrote it in Celtx, which is a script writing tool, so that makes it a script" would have been openly mocked, I suspect.) But, as well as being harmful to preexisting fields of digital culture, this is also harmful to "video games culture" in itself. As the meaning of "video games" and "games as a shorthand for the nounphrase video games" expands, the meaning of the word "game" in contexts outside software is slowly erased in "Video game" contexts. As I tried to point out with my Tomb Raider (2015) example, this means that it is now very hard to talk about the different aspects of "video games" with narrative, artistic and gameplay elements, because using the word "game" to mean "the work considered in its gameplay aspects" is now taboo. I dislike taboos, especially when they shut down reasonable or precise critical discussion. If you don't think it is useful to be able to speak about the "game" and "story" aspects of Tomb Raider, and how they support and antagonise each other, then that's clearly your choice. I submit that the world is poorer for that lack. So, as you can see, I realise that the opposition in this thread is using "game" in a sense which I don't agree with. However, I disagree both that this is a general use (I think it's limited to "Video game culture" only) and that this has been a natural evolution. Further, it should be obvious from the tone of my submissions that part of my intent is to rehabilitate the more precise (not accurate) use of the word game in "Video game" contexts. I am aware of how you're using it, I wish to convince you to use it more precisely and in a way which does not unconsciously perform cultural appropriation of existing fields of expression.
  19. Let's discuss what a video game is

    brkl - as a question, then: An often discussed source of dissonance for people playing the 2015 remake of Tomb Raider is that the gameplay and the narrative are at odds. The narrative describes a young woman slowly learning to survive and battle against huge odds, with much made of her first kill and the psychological effect it has on her. The gameplay is mostly involved with killing relatively large groups of hostile humans (and non-humans). Rhianna Pratchett has talked about how the narrative aspects of Tomb Raider were generally considered subservient to the gameplay aspects, which led to this issue. Firstly: I might use the term "story" to refer to the narrative aspects of Tomb Raider. Why can't I use the term "game" to refer to the gameplay aspects of Tomb Raider? Secondly, an analogy has been drawn between the issues of narrative in AAA video entertainment like Tomb Raider, and the issues of narrative in AAA Blockbuster movies. In the case of the movies, the tension is between narrative and special effects choreography - a lot of the audience for AAA blockbusters is held to come for the big special effects choreographic sequences, so often the narrative suffers as a result. It's generally accepted that movies which downplay, or remove entirely, expensive special effects choreography are able to spend more effort on narrative, and produce better stories as a result. Of course, as AAA Blockbusters are defined by their expensive choreography, movies which do away with that aspect are generally not considered to be part of that genre. Fans of AAA Blockbusters sometimes denigrate movies in other genres (like pure Romance) because they are missing those expensive choreographed sequences. They claim that they're boring, or have too much talky stuff or various other complaints, all of which really speak to the fact that they're simply not part of the genre that those people value. Those other genres still have value, are still reviewed by film reviewers, and are still discussed by large communities. Similarly, some creative software places gameplay as subservient to narrative or artistic aspects, or removes gameplay completely. If we're allowed to describe the aspect of a creative software work which comprises the gameplay elements, the "game", then surely software lacking gameplay can be accurately described as "not being a game". Fans of software with strong gameplay elements denigrate entertainment software in other genres (like pure narrative or art) because they are missing those gameplay features. They say that they're boring, or "not even a game", all of which really speaks to the fact that they're simply not part of the genre those people value. Those other genres still have value, are still reviewed by film reviewers, and are still discussed by large communities. Where am I wrong here? What about this analogy breaks down and makes it the case that using game in this sense threatens to ghettoise creative software without gameplay elements?
  20. Let's discuss what a video game is

    ...brkl, you are clearly misinterpreting my intent, and I'm really not sure what I've done to make you misunderstand me so fundamentally. Let's try this again, from the top. I think that Mountain, Dear Esther, Proteus, (The Beginners Guide) etc are all valuable and interesting creative works. I think that people should talk about them, and I think they should talk about them in contexts which you are referring to as "video games contexts". I disagree with you that they are games. I disagree with you that saying "Dear Esther is not a game [it is software poetry/software theatre]" is a terrible thing to say about Dear Esther. I disagree with you that saying "Mountain is not a game, it's a software art piece/software desk plant" is a terrible thing to say about Mountain. I disagree with you that saying that The Beginners Guide is most valuably interpreted in terms of it's narrative and artistic qualities than in terms of "game" phenomena is somehow striking deeply at Davey Wreden and consigning him to an impoverished existence where no-one talks aobut his work. (I think you're deliberately misinterpreting me, particularly, if you think I have ever said that Mountain should not have been released. I think that it's a valuable creation in the software medium. I do, however, think that its creator's understanding of the genre politics was extremely shallow, and that his arguments about his self-classification were similarly shallow. That doesn't mean I don't think Mountain is an interesting piece of software art!) I think that the existence of Mountain, Dear Esther, The Beginner's Guide (and Minecraft (creative mode), and the early Maxis Sim* software toys, and Way To Go and all those other things) enriches our understanding of the potential expressiveness of the medium of software in a creative manner. I think they all benefit from not trying to be "games", and I think it's harmful to think of them in terms of "games" in other media. Let me be clear here: I think that the creators of these products are underselling and misselling themselves by artificially constraining themselves to talk about their creative works as "games". I disagree with you very strongly that this is not the correct space to talk about creative works in software, and I think I have historical backing for this (Computer Entertainment magazines reviewed, as I noted, Maxis' SimEarth, despite it being categorised by Maxis as "not a game", the computer press has covered Digital Art, Demoscene and all these other creative expressions in software in various contexts over decades). I realise that you believe that deciding that interactive software products are not all games is risking ghettoizing those products into cultural insignificance. I am not as pessimistic about humanity as you are. I believe that enriching our language by using "game" in a sense which it applies in other media, and freeing ourselves to talk about Mountain, say, in terms more suited to what it is apparently trying to do is an ultimately positive act. I believe that it also helps us talk about creative software which partakes of both game and non-game genre expressions - most RPG type video games are inherently a fusion of game and collaborative narrative, just as the pen-and-paper RPGs they descend from are. (I am particularly concerned that you seem to be against categorisation as a political act, as refusing categorisation is just as political an act, and just as culturally dangerous.)
  21. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Fortuitously for this discussion, this was published in The Guardian today. I... mostly agree with it (although I actually think there's slightly more to it than just agency).
  22. Let's discuss what a video game is

    Okay, so as an analogous thought experiment: how would you react to my stating that T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland was a novel?
  23. Let's discuss what a video game is

    I actually used Sleep No More as an example because the Thumbs all seem to like it a lot and keep mentioning it on the podcast
  24. Downwell! Gun Boots! Treasure Collecting! Falling!

    I've been looking forward to this arriving on a platform I can use it on ever since the Embed With... which covered it (
  25. Let's discuss what a video game is

    To be fair, I agree that both those things are games [although, perhaps "games with videos" and "electronic games"] (and that you can write games in Excel), so...