What’s a Game II: Second Impact

Would you consider a visual novel a game? A David Cage/Telltale game an actual game? Why or why not?

Visual novels, no, not usually. Prof Layton and Phoenix Wright are exception, but they’re puzzles, which I don’t think are really like games most of the time.

David Cage: They have QTEs, so I guess sort of. You’re not exactly pursuing success with them frequently, just different storylines, so it’s hard to really say.

TellTale: I played TWD ep 1 and the entire sam and max trilogy. TWD, nah. There’s only different storylines, it’s not about success or failure, just branching paths. Sam & Max is puzzles, which I’ve said I’m iffy on calling games.

To add on to my “is this a game” question, what about simulation games like The Sims or Animal Crossing?

I used to think they were, but I was convinced in an argument with aleksander from GYP that it didn’t really make sense to classify them as games. They’re just undirected simulations where things happen, and there’s no gradient between success or failure imposed on the system unless you come up with rules for yourself. So unlike visual novels, they have systems that can be leveraged for games (which is part of why I initially was in favor of categorizing them as games), but innately they are not games. The designers have not given you a game to play with these systems, they’ve simply created a complex system, and the onus is on you to find a game to play with it, or to simply play idly.

I probably should have included these in earlier posts citing things that are digital spatial simulations without being games. Thanks for pointing this out.

What about an adventure game? Like say a point and click. They have puzzles to solve with story bits, but is that really a game?

Adventure games are basically VNs, except represented differently. The puzzles can slide them into puzzle territory more, which I noted with Sam & Max, Prof Layton, and Phoenix Wright, but it depends on individual implementation.

Does this shit of whether it’s a game or not really matter? They are what they are. Isn’t that good enough?

It’s important to know what a thing is. So we can identify categories of things and describe things. Semantics are not useless. If you do not have a game category, then it becomes harder to talk about games. The discussion of gameplay is already deprecated among critics, we should not encourage it further.

I would say David Cage are much like visual novel games with QTES (actual games). You wouldn’t call a DVD menu (or a non-game equivalent if) screen a game if it had games in it.

Pretty much. Weird borderline territory of hybrid media.

I don’t know how much I buy that. You can still talk about stuff like a David Cage game without having to categorize it as a game or not. On the contrary, it might deviate having to even bother classifying it as such and the other person might not even agree with your statement, getting nowhere.

Sure. We can talk about nearly anything without talking about its classification, like about a car without classifying it as a car, or a tv show without classifying it as a show, but we still have identifiers for those categories because not identifying those categories still makes it more difficult to

I mean, why do we have game genres? Why can’t we just talk about games without classifying them into genres? Why identify what anything is? Why not just treat everything as a collection of specific traits without any overall category? Why make up archetypes for categories that we arbitrarily separate instead of letting everything stew in one big pot?

Here’s an obvious answer, because if we do that for games then the scope changes. Narrowing the scope allows us to be more specific about the traits of objects in a category, especially with regards to qualitative analysis of media objects.

Sure, you can unveil a sculpture and ask people to rate your new mixtape, but at best they’ll look at you like they’re confused.

The thing here is, the definition of game is essential to an entire conceptual category of system that has been important throughout human history. This definition allows us to identify and create a specific type of construct. If we do not have a word for that thing, then our ability to talk about that thing is hampered. If we lump in all the non-games, then we suddenly have a weird disconnect between video games and board games. If we lump in all the non-games then we can’t unify traits across the category or create a media theory for the category that is all-encompassing, we need to create weird exception clauses that don’t add up, and a lot of the game design theory I regularly talk about tends to get pushed out the window in that scenario, which has already happened.

People enjoy games. Different people enjoy exclusively games from those that enjoy digital toys or whatever you want to call them. We need a word to identify this thing that people enjoy, the core aspect of what is enjoyable about it. If we lose this word, this identifier for a concept, then our ability to describe things becomes weaker. We may lose sense of that concept to begin with even (this has not happened yet, people still understand the word game and match it to that concept on an intuitive level). Words shape our understanding of the world. If you do not have the word to describe something, it may be difficult to understand that thing is even there.

That’s why I made a glossary, that’s why I recommend people read Game Feel. Because without words to describe what you need to describe, you cannot understand all the things you are perceiving. People experience this effect when they learn to draw for the first time. They saw the world before, but they did not truly see it. We are at risk for losing this type of understanding of a concept essential to human growth if we continue to generify the term “game”. This should not happen.

You might be blowing my question out of proportion. I’m not saying we shouldn’t classify it or remove genres, of course we need a categorical structure and vocabulary to describe things, but then you have weird outliers like Katamari Damacy, that is hard to classify, and describing it with multiple genres devalues what it actually is. We sometimes don’t have a specific genre to describe such things since its concept is either new or its characteristics to broad. Inventing one is quite frustrating if it’s a one of a kind product. We do need a system for this, I don’t disagree with that. But it’s hard when not everyone can come to an agreement over the semantics or traits of a genre or even a word. I mean hell, people still contest what an RPG is (bad example since it’s so broad and we have more specific subgenres of it). Sorry that this is in parts. I’m on mobile right now and got lazy to put this in a pastebin. My points might be disjointed so feel free to call me out on any inconsistencies.

Whoa. I was just making a comparison. I was not suggesting that you said that we should remove genres. I just meant that classifications are important and we shouldn’t throw them away, even if we can generally function well enough without them in many cases. Genres are a way more arbitrary than whether something is a game or not, even if there’s obvious inbetween cases like the ones you mentioned.


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