The Video Game
July 3, 2014
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You thought the debate between console superiority was crazy, there is one which still debatable and attempts to define the gaming industry outside or within the entertainment genre. What constitutes a video game? This in many forms has sparked many opinions about what qualifies as a video game. Many are in depth, setting parameters which define most but not all video games to date. While the others grasp on the notion of a video game on principles of entertainment to define them as mere entertainment, which skirts the very purpose of the question.
Lets break it down simply, the noun itself; “video game”. Video being an electronic medium; TV, computers, anything with a visual display which can generate images. With an emerging tech industry, video is going beyond flat images and even innovating on it’s own medium. Holographic and 3D technology is slowly coming to fruition but will be awhile before it is accepted as common medium for all our commercial uses. “Game”; a form of play or sport. If it is competitive then it’s played with a rule set which luck, strength or skill is a determining factor for a victory state. Now we are going somewhere; we can now say games are a sport and a form of play. Take that mainstream media for calling it child’s play! Suck it hard and savour it! Regardless of either play or sport, if there is a competitive element it must have winning condition based on those 3 attributes. So poker is a game since it’s a bit of luck and skill. Soccer is a sport since it’s all skill. FIFA 2014 is a sport because it requires skill to win. Starcraft? Definitely sport since the win condition requires skill; same with most strategy and shooters, though shooters are sometimes more of all the three than just the one. What if the “game” does not possess a competitive or sport component? Is it still a game?
Now we have to understand what exactly is “play” to understand what is defined as a “game”. Like sport, play is set in two camps, structured and unstructured. Structured being a clear set of rules enforced while unstructured where none are existent or clearly enforced. Under this all video games are games; games with no clear goal and those with one are all defined as play, in turn maintain their game status. Even sports can be play if rules or victory conditions aren’t observed. The National Institute of Play (apparently it is a thing), goes beyond the two camps to describe types of play. Attunement play is to make interactions with other beings or persons to socially connect to them. Body play involves human movement; jumping, reaching, rolling and anything you can do with your body. Object play is the manipulation the environment; skipping stones to moving your dear companion cube, this would constitute as object play. In it’s complexity, social play gets into involving a group into an activity; whether the group is one more person or a crowd. Imaginative play or pretend play would sit nicely under this type; this form is more creative where you make up your own little world or place in your mind. Narrative play; in short, storytelling can be considered play since it allows us to convey our experiences and stories onto others. Creative play, somewhat like the jazz music of play; where we build upon our own or other ideas which can help us understand complex thought in simple terms. All video games would fall under at least one of these categories regardless if there is a victory condition or not. Some can even go to say they may be two or more of these types. A game is both competitive and non-competitive with or without a end or victory condition.
As humans, we tend define the world as we see it. We qualify and quantify to the exact measurements for our satisfaction but in the end exactitude can lead to exclusion; what we can exclude, we could learn more about. Perhaps the question is more than to define what a video game is, perhaps it’s an exercise in humility. Regardless of the genres of games out in the world, video games is just another bit of our existence; a subset within a subset within another subset in the totality of human experience.