With all things that grow and expand, divisions take form and become established. As the gaming industry comes to terms with the new technological advances and a new audience (casual gamers), it seems natural that the current gaming community has already begun re-defining the term “Video Game”.

And it seems I too have come to this crossroad. What is a video game? What elements are needed to qualify a “franchise” as either a video game or a video gimmick? A fellow Bitmob member poised this question to me when he proposed the idea that gaming is not just a set of button pressing for instant fulfilment but rather a set of complex experiences that pushed the player to “think deeper”.

 

In the UK (and most likely Europe) a huge franchise titled “Football Manager” and “Championship Manager” fight for supremacy over the genre of sport management games. I must admit; I am a huge fan of the “Football Manager” sim.

Yet, when I examine the concept closely, it is nothing more than numbers on a page; statistics that you calculate to maximise your chance of winning a match. It looks and sounds extremely boring but I have spent countless hours pouring over and preparing for my next cup match, playing for promotion, transferring players etc.

Which then leads me to EA’s huge franchise “The Sims”. Is that a video game or a video gimmick? My partner is a huge Sims fan. One day I said “sweety, are you playing a game or are you just proliferating our consumer tendencies – all you do is make money to buy more stuff – it’s not really a game is it?”

She got really pissed at me and argued that it was a game because games are about escapism. She then argued that I do the same with my football manager game. And she was right.

Then I started to examine my pet peeve with Multi-player and its lack of structure to gear towards a cooperative experience. I realised that I, like many others, see FPS as a game. In fact, none of us would say “Call of Duty (or any FPS) is not a game”.

But when you really examine the FPS genre, there is no depth to it either. Just a group of people playing the traditional Cowboy vs Indian game that we mimicked when we still wore diapers. The only difference is that we have a processor to convey the image and results as opposed to our imagination.

The problem is, a lot of games in the market are reflex games as opposed to rich and complex emotional experiences. If we move towards a developer who attempts such a feat, the franchise then falls away form the traditional sense of gaming. Does it then become Video Art?

Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 4 was questioned regarding its extensive cut scenes. Some argued that it took us away from the immersion and made the experience passive as opposed to interactive.

What about “flower” by Jenova Chen and thatgamecompany? is it a game, a tech demo or video art? Or is it possible for developers to transcend all these categories to create a new genre?

If a game is meant to be interactive, than surely games such as “Rockband” and the upcoming “DJ Hero” all fall into the category?

There’s a level of dexterity and/or skill required to play the game even though there is no story or plot (just like the online multiplayer mechanic of an FPS). And the games are immersive and fun, even if they are perceived by some as shallow or gimmicky because of the new controls.

Does a videogame need strategy? Monopoly the board game is a game all of us would have grown up with. Another favourite is “Risk”. If you consider these traditional games, it may be right to say that Civilisation and other strategy video games evolved from these board games.

A degree of manipulation and thinking without story plot exists between the player and the experience. If that is the case, surely games such as “flower” or tower defence games have more precedence to the title “videogame” then any of the aforementioned genres.

But when you transfer monopoly over to the videogame format, we all go “WTF? I’d rather just play monopoly on the board.”

Is a “videogame” a unique experience that cannot be found in any other medium? Or an experience that allows us to achieve things that would not be possible in the real world?

Is that why games such as “Trivial Pursuit” and “Monopoly” fail as a videogame because we can achieve the same results in reality? These concepts as videogames fail to do one thing; they fail to force the player to “learn”.

Videogames under any genre, be it First person shooters, Racing games, Sports games, Strategy games etc all require the player to master a level of competency before they can actually gain anything spectacular from the game. It’s more then just rolling the dice, pressing a button or and swinging a controller.

A “Video Game” in essence, is a product that forces the player to wrestle with the “controls” in order to master the game. In all Video games (and old platform games are a classic example) there is always a “move” or a “trick” that must be learnt to progress.

If we define the word “videogame” as an experience that can only be accessed after acquiring the skill then gaming is not necessarily about story and depth or immersion and fulfilment. But rather a videogame is “escapism” achieved by learning to overcome a level of difficulty and advance (be it story, level, or rank).

A videogame should force the player to master a set of rules, controls or combination of both to progress and ultimately triumph as no.1.

did you get the highest score?