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Alexisonfire
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What is a Video Game?
« on: October 21, 2013, 12:38:06 am »

This topic is exactly what it sounds like: a discussion on what is a video game. Not what is a Game. That is a less related subject that goes into centuries of psychological study about play, competition, and the unconscious pleasure humans and other animals have in achieving objectives, no matter how arbitrary. No... this is a discussion of what a Video Game is. What are the necessary elements of interactivity and agency, of sensory engagement, of gameplay depth and breadth necessary for a console, handheld, mobile, or computer based experience to be considered a Video Game.

Obviously, I'm not talking about Grand Theft Auto V or Gears of War 2 here. I'm talking about the recent releases of Proteus, Dear Esther, or Gone Home, which are media that put you in a first person perspective in a world to explore, but don't give you a clear objective. Or the The Stanley Parable, which 95% of the time is just walking through linear corridors. Or Visual Novels like the 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, where the game is little more than reading and making dialogue choices, especially in the iOS version where all of the old school adventure game style puzzles placed in between story sections are removed. Or Higurashi When They Cry, an old Japanese Sound Novel game that was recently greenlit for a Steam release that offers very little actual interactivity, relying more on the sound, backgrounds, and writing to complete the experience. Or just about anything created using Twine.

I'm asking this partially because it's interesting and leads to interesting discussions, partially because it's constantly being debated within the games industry as more and more games, partially because I've actually had to write an essay in university about this before (though my opinion has changed a lot since then), and mostly to make Stinkoman mad.

It is always interesting to have people try to define what a Video Game is and where to define those media that fall somewhere in that gray area. So I'll ask: What is a Video Game?

I'll post my answer once it's not 1 a.m. and I can think straight.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 09:23:53 pm by Devourer of Time » Logged



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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2013, 02:33:10 am »

It's only a video game if I like it. If I don't like it, it's not a videogame. And that's terrible.

If you're not a videogame, get out of my face. Being a videogame is what you all should strive towards.
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2013, 08:32:57 am »

I'm going to be that guy and bring up MS Paint Adventures.

Is MS Paint Adventures a video game? Obviously, the answer is no, it's a webcomic. But there have been people who, from the beginning, have called it a video game. Having always been in a second-person adventure game format lent itself to a camp of people who steadfastly referred to it as a "game" no matter what happened. And those people are still there.

Let's look now at the "webcomic" camp. Excepting Bard Quest, even early on there was some level of interactivity with the story, even though it was limited to a choice between two paths that both ended up at the same place so it didn't really matter, or a simple choice between dying immediately and not dying. But then when Homestuck came around, we had even more interactivity, with panels you could walk around and explore to learn about the story, and even the occasional mini-game.

But then in Act 5, we had adventure-style panels with clear and achievable goals; you simply are not done with this page until you have 'completed' everything you're supposed to do, which although it is incredibly easy, is still more within the realms of a common "game" definition than just wandering around aimlessly.

And then in Act 6, you have puzzles. Real, honest-to-goodness puzzles that you have to figure out if you want to continue reading MS Paint Adventures. This is where even the most adamant of the webcomic camp has to admit that, to some extent, MS Paint Adventures has "game elements."

So am I in the game camp? No, I already told you, I'm in the webcomic camp. Still, media is fluid, and just because something doesn't fit within 'defined boundaries' of art forms does not mean it cannot be used as an example of said art form.
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2013, 10:51:18 am »

a miserable little pile of pixels
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2013, 10:53:11 am »

thank you

i'll be here all night
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Roger Smith
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2013, 09:17:12 pm »

Half-Real, chapter 2: "A game is a rule-based system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels emotionally attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable."

I feel like a video game is a game as defined above but presented through a computer and interacted with through a screen (what about projectors hue hue). I think this is pretty generous since it even includes crap like adventure games, which are pretty much visual novels that don't want to be read.

Bonus Topic: If it's digital but doesn't mesh with the stolen definition above I'll let you call it art so have fun with that. I don't think games are art and I even less think video games are art. This never used to be a question; I don't know why putting things on a screen suddenly confused everybody.

Playing games might be art; that would be cool.

I've always thought of MSPA as a webcomic in such a way that people don't recognize it as such. I once read somebody's comparison that it's like when tv shows first started being made, they were much like radio plays or whatever; it took a while to really utilize the possibilities of the visual aspect of the medium. I've seen webcomics dabble in the infinite canvas before, it's just that MSPA (homestuck in particular) shattered initial conceptions of what that canvas was.

Although honestly it's hardly a comic at all since it's probably like 30,000 words per still image. zzzzzzzzzzzzz
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2013, 01:07:44 am »

a miserable little pile of pixels

I laughed.

But seriously though. I think it's less about what a video game is and more an issue of what a video game has, if you catch my meaning.

In my opinion, a game must have the following, What it should have is an entirely different discussion.

1. A digital world or environment that changes or is altered by player input. Whether a game has a story or not, it should evoke a narrative of navigation - the act of interacting should be akin to some kind of act of storytelling that unfolds as you progress.

2. A set of rules or conventions, either formally stated or entirely unspoken, that govern the limits and confines of the game's world - a language that the player understands immediately or gradually through interaction with the game's systems.

3. An avatar or representational icon onscreen that serves as a conduit between the player and the game world, even if the POV is designed to mimic the intricacies of the human eye or human perspective. The user, acting through the avatar, facilitates the navigation (#1), while remaining consistent with the rules (#2) of the game.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2013, 01:21:12 am by Depressio » Logged

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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2013, 08:13:21 pm »

Can you toggle anything? It's probably a video game if you can toggle something.
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2013, 06:46:49 am »

I laughed.

But seriously though. I think it's less about what a video game is and more an issue of what a video game has, if you catch my meaning.

In my opinion, a game must have the following, What it should have is an entirely different discussion.

1. A digital world or environment that changes or is altered by player input. Whether a game has a story or not, it should evoke a narrative of navigation - the act of interacting should be akin to some kind of act of storytelling that unfolds as you progress.

2. A set of rules or conventions, either formally stated or entirely unspoken, that govern the limits and confines of the game's world - a language that the player understands immediately or gradually through interaction with the game's systems.

3. An avatar or representational icon onscreen that serves as a conduit between the player and the game world, even if the POV is designed to mimic the intricacies of the human eye or human perspective. The user, acting through the avatar, facilitates the navigation (#1), while remaining consistent with the rules (#2) of the game.

This is what I think of when I defend the Ace Attorney series as a video game. Ace Attorney Investigations is easier to defend as a game because you actually see Edgeworth and you can move him around the screen, whereas the main Ace Attorney series is all done from 1st person POV. But there's still a sense of exploring in the vein of Myst (although obviously not as intricate) and choices, and it IS possible to fail (which is another dead giveaway of it being a game). And Heavy Rain is definitely a game because your choices completely change the nature of the game.

Also, and there is no arguing with me on this so don't try. Pokemon Channel, despite appearances, is NOT a video game.
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2014, 05:10:58 pm »

Having now played all of them, I am going to tell you which of the following are video games.

Heavy spoilers for all.


PROTEUS

Proteus is like minecraft, except instead of being able to do literally everything you can do literally nothing. Well, you can move around and look at stuff. There's plenty to look at: cabins, ruined towers, big ol' trees, statues of monster dudes. Looking at the things makes you wonder about the things. "What's inside that house? Why can I hear a cat meowing whenever I approach it? What's with the weird staticy music that plays around the towers?" At times the island seems to hold more unanswered riddles than the one from LOST.

The main (read: only) mode of gameplay in Proteus is exploration. The island is randomly generated each time you begin playing so its always a surprise to see where things have popped up - but it seems to be the same things each time. There are no quest markers, no journal logs, no narrator telling you to do anything whatsoever, so what few secrets there are there to discover can feel rewarding when you figure it out. I had two great moments in this game: the first time, at night, when I started running around one of the stonehenge like outcroppings and discovered I could change the seasons, and towards the end of the game when I began floating into heaven, presumably dead forever.

Is it a game? The music is pretty chill, but its more like a relaxation simulator than a game. Y'know when Strong Bad runs a program on his computer that just has a guy feeding ducks? That's Proteus. You're not really doing anything but its a good way to unwind for 20 minutes.


DEAR ESTHER

Dear Esther is a step up from Proteus in that there is a narrator regaling a story to you as you go along, but a step down in that the world is both linear and preset. You walk around, sure, but there's always a path for you to follow and its always the same path. The quips the narrator says can change on subsequent playthroughs, allowing you to get a different take on the overall story, but that is it in terms of 'replay value.' The story is far from clear cut, and I've seen many different interpretations of what the game is about.

Is it a game? Of all the ones listed here, I think Dear Esther would be easiest to transfer into an audiobook or movie format. It is an enjoyable experience, but there is no pretext of player choice or interactivity.


GONE HOME

I admittedly went into Gone Home with certain ideas about the game already; I was under the impression it was a) a mystery and b) contained horror elements. So my initial playthrough of the game may have been coloured by that. "Uh, she's OBVIOUSLY a lesbian. Was this supposed to be the big secret??" I think, in retrospect, it wasn't; nothing was particularly hidden from you and everything could be pieced together easily. It was often emotional. In addition to sympathizing with Sam's plight, I felt bad for the struggling writer dad and uncomfortable at the implications that mom was having an affair at work. A few times the game dipped a little dangerously into "heavy handed pretentiousness" territory but on the whole I still rate it a positive experience.

Is it a game? Despite the fact that the story is as unwavering as Dear Esther, it does require the player to actually do things to actively work towards accomplishing these goals. It feels like an old point-and-click adventure game, though the tone is mellow and the stakes aren't all that high.


THE STANLEY PARABLE

The Stanley Parable is a game about games. You play a game in which the protagonist of a game tries to escape being in a game while constantly being tormented by a guy who plays games. In terms of gameplay, there isn't much setting it apart from Dear Esther; but in terms of narrative and tone, it is easily the most 'definitely a game' a game has ever been. Games are so securely at the core of its DNA that as much as I'd love the same concept in a movie, if video games didn't exist there quite simply could not be a Stanley Parable.

Is it a game? "Fear me mortal. I am the essence of divine art. Others but you cannot read this text. Know that when you die I will personally carry your spirit across the river Blxwxn, into my garden built within the emotions of a flower. There we will live together, we will dance and eat and sin and you will do improv comedy based on suggestions from me for all eternity. This is your reward for your work here today. Go now. Live your normal human existence and await me in the life that follows this one. I love you."
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2014, 09:31:59 pm »

Geez, thank you so much for giving me lots of new ideas of what I should be playing next, as well as giving me even more reasons to want to play Stanley Parable even more madly than before. You should be quoted there in some promotional trailer. That would get me dishing out some bacon right there on the spot. "Definitely a game a game has ever been" is some of the most perfect uses of rhetoric that ever has been in the gaming world.

Does anybody have any opinions on whether things like Yume Nikki or Lisa the First counts as a game? I'm working very slowly through Yume Nikki, and I haven't worked up the guts to play Lisa the First beyond watching my friend at school play it. Regardless of whether or not it's a game, it's a rather tricky experience, playing through it. I feel this simultaneous compulsion to stop playing because it's making me so disoriented AND to continue playing because of just... the mystery and allurement of... something being out there in the empty, looping abyss.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 09:34:52 pm by HomeStarRunnerTron » Logged

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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2014, 09:40:21 pm »

Not only is Tetris A video game, Tetris is THE video game.

Congratulations, now we don't have to discuss this anymore.
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Alexisonfire
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2014, 01:06:00 pm »

You know what ISN'T a video game?

Dungeon Keeper Mobile.
« Last Edit: February 02, 2014, 01:06:21 pm by Devourer of Time » Logged



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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2014, 03:31:18 pm »

From what I can tell, all video games must involve swearing at people you are competing against.

Therefore, it is not a video game if it doesn't have multiplayer. Wait, is it "videogame" or "video game"?
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Re: What is a Video Game?
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2014, 11:27:48 am »

From what I can tell, all video games must involve swearing at people you are competing against.

Therefore, it is not a video game if it doesn't have multiplayer. Wait, is it "videogame" or "video game"?


Video Game.

Also, that touched, inadvertently, on my thoughts on the whole thing: the word "game" is a problem, a loaded word that sets people's expectations in the wrong direction.

Which is pretty like basic stuff. Any introduction video game design or development course worth its salt will immediately tackle how hard it is to define what a "video game" is once you put it under a microscope. Game has been used for centuries for a single, competitive purpose and initial video games were literally as advertised: traditional idea of a game grafted onto a television.

But we've outgrown that definition to the point where most "video games" released nowadays don't fit under that definition. Maybe they're like Proteus and don't have competition or goals or points or whatever. Maybe they're like Johann Sebastian Joust and don't use a television to play them. Maybe they're like Shadow of the Colossus and don't fit the definition of a "video game" while meeting our expectations for a video game.

Its like if, in some stupid, hypothetical alternate reality, books were so ingrained into the definition of film at its creation that people debate whether silent films or films without words are actually considered films.

I feel that every title mentioned in this thread belongs to the same form of media, but right now we are so set on using the term "video game" as our catch-all term that we can't/won't work towards establishing a better definition. Part of me wish everyone still called video games "Nintendos" just so we could remove our connection to the ideas, rules, and expectations of what a "game" is that was established well before these interactive experiences could even be fathomed.

Basically, I feel like the term "Video Game" has become just as clear and well defined at describing this form of media as "Metroidvania" and "Roguelike" have become at describing their respective genres.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2014, 04:13:11 pm by Devourer of Time » Logged



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