Alright, guys and gals, here’s a post where I need your input. I need it because I am getting more than a little annoyed at the endless barrage of statements about what is and isn’t a game. The bulk of this is focused on a game (that I do believe is a game) called Gone Home. This game seems to be the focal point of a lot of this kind of criticism. This is the go-to thing for the criticism – that’s not even a real game! This bugs me, because of just how nebulous this is. I mean, how do we define a game? By its mechanics? Does it have to have shooting? Does it have to have things to kill? What makes a game? That’s not rhetorical. I want you all’s input. I want each and every one of you to tell me, from where you sit – what does and does not make a game?
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am hooked on an episodic game series called Life is Strange. The characters all seem rich and interesting. The mystery is compelling. The time powers are fun, and just keep getting more fun. For a story-seeker like me, a rich narrative that I can help craft is just the thing. It makes the game that much better. But is this a game? You don’t shoot anyone. Well, you have the choice to try and shoot someone, but the gun is out of bullets, so you don’t hurt the guy you’re shooting. You don’t kill anyone. In reality, aside from the choice elements, and the bits where you move and explore, it’s very much like an interactive movie. So was Telltale’s The Walking Dead and a game that is very much in the same vein as Gone Home, Dear Esther. Are these non-games? I’m having a hard time seeing the line between what does and doesn’t separate these things. For real, I don’t mod comments. If you want to come on and tell me that I’m a dumbass and that the only real games are Call of Duty and Battlefield, you have the space to do that. But this is getting annoying.
Let’s look at another game I love, Journey, and its predecessor, Flower. Both games tell abstract narratives, and neither one has the ability to fail. Much like Heavy Rain and another game I love Beyond: Two Souls. All of these games are about the art of the game and the stories they are telling. The former are more about the expression, but the latter are still invested in making the most of their medium. Especially in Beyond, where I am watching the gorgeous Ellen Page (who, I admit, does WAY too much crying in that game. For real, the scenes get old. If you read my reviews, I said that that game has flaws. As does its predecessor) and her phantom pal do stuff. The bummer, for me, is that I didn’t get to do more with the soldier aspect. If only Quantic Dreams had done some DLC with that. It would have been awesome. Oh well.
This is getting a little annoying. I love video games. I love them because they tell me stories. I am a story-seeker, in whatever form it can come in. Perhaps that’s why I gravitate towards some of these abstract games, that are unconventional. What is the line? I think people’s problem is that Gone Home got a flawless rating, from virtually every major gaming outlet. I agree that that is a problem. It wasn’t a perfect game. The mechanics were a little simplistic, and it did feel a little short. But it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t as emotionally engaging as Dear Esther. That game was able to supplement the short length and lack of stuff to do with compelling visuals and a rich story, being told as letters before the protagonist’s death.
Part of me thinks that the problem with modern gaming is that games are pushing boundaries. We are long since the days of the 2D platformer. What place do games have to really experiment with narrative? If the expectation is that all games will fall into a mold, then what place do games like Life is Strange have?
You know what another part of the problem is, from where I’m sitting – games like Depression Quest. If someone where to say that that isn’t a game, I would actually entertain the argument. It’s really not. It’s basically a choose-your-adventure story. Does it deserve to be on Steam? Probably not. See, there’s the place where the argument means something, to me. But when you have a fully digitally rendered world, that the main character can interact with, then how does that not make it a game? I need some answers, because the more I read on sites like Tech Raptor about how something is a non-game, then it makes me realize that there needs to be some real discussion here.
As I said, I don’t mod comments. I have to approve new people commenting, but I will. Don’t believe me? Check back not long after you post your comment, and you’ll see it there. Once I approve you, you are approved forever. I want there to be a discussion about this, because the argument about what does or doesn’t make a game is so nebulous. Somebody give me an idea.
Until next time, a quote,
“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” -Nelson Mandela