We’ve had our fair share of discussions around the term “game” on this blog. Often inspired by the fact that it was problematic to categorize our work as games. Up until now, our answer has always been that we are trying to expand the meaning of the word “game”. But perhaps something else is (also) going on.
Before videogames, the word game could be used for many things. And it still is used like that by people outside of the gamer elite. Basically anything whimsical, childish or silly was a candidate to be called a game. Game was even used as a term to denounce certain practices, as in “that politician is playing a dirty game” or “she was playing games with my feelings”.
Videogames, possibly because they are made with computers, have formalized games into something that is perhaps a lot stricter than what a game used to be. As games continue to become an economically important industry, this formalization only gets more extreme. I clearly remember as a turning point somebody from Activision saying, in 2004, that they “make games for gamers”. Up until then, there was still some doubt about what videogames could be. And ambitions about reaching new audiences. But since then, videogames overall seem to have become increasingly “gamey”.
The success of Nintendo has of course altered this course somewhat. But not to the point where the word “game” is being redefined -or given back its former meaning. Nowadays, we’re simply getting more and more comfortable with the idea of playing “non-games”.
Like watching non-movies and reading non-books. It seems rather silly.