Back when I wrote my popular ‘are video games art?‘ post, I hinted at a future post in which I would attempt to tackle the definition of ‘video game.’ To quote myself: “And coming soon, my even more foolish attempt to answer the question ‘what is a video game?’” That, of course, was a joke. I never actually planned on writing that post.
Wikipedia says a video game is “an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device.” That definition requires that the phrase ‘electronic game’ be defined. Clicking on that link gives us the ‘electronic game’ entry. An ‘electronic game’ is defined as “a game that employs electronics to create an interactive system with which a player can play.” From here, we’ll need to define both ‘game’ and ‘play.’
Suddenly, I’ve lost interest.
Seriously, why bother? These are video games. They’re supposed to be fun, so why spend so much brainpower on being formal and academic?
(Author’s note: some might point out that Wikipedia is considered a less-than-reputable source, but it’s pretty much the only thing I ever quote or link to on my blog. Why? Convenience. Wikipedia’s written by people, same as everything else. What makes one group more reputable than another? Credentials? Experience? References? Don’t be naïve. Like any media, the Internet is full of bullshitters. You have to use your own filters, your own judgment, to find the signal in that massive collective of noise that is today’s media. Don’t just trust the first person who comes along and claims to be the signal. “Trust me,” they seem to say. Fuck that, I say. So I simply stick with what’s convenient, since it likely contains just as much truth as anything else.)
I’ve argued that video games should be considered art, or rather, they should not be considered not art. I would make a similar argument for anything someone wants to label as not a game. If someone calls something a video game (like, say, its creator), what exactly does the world lose if they’re allowed to call it a video game? Does it really diminish the other video games in existence if we let something that doesn’t fit your exacting definition be called a ‘video game?’ If anything, we should be excited and intrigued by something that comes along and challenges our personal definitions. Besides, much like art, no one seems to know what a video game is anyway. They only seem to know what isn’t a video game. I think that’s kind of special, don’t you?
Above all, I don’t think there’s any benefit to having a formal definition of video games for anyone, including people that make them. Video games have been around for a long time, longer than most people think. We’ve come this far without a universally-accepted definition, and if someone does happen to come up with one, I seriously doubt games will suddenly get better because of it. Let’s just move past it.
This post effectively ends my “I want to make video games” series. I am making a video game. What will it be? Who knows. It’ll likely be a one-man show, and my goal with it is to create something fun and engaging where NO ONE gets shot.
Think that’s crazy? I’ve been called worse.