It’s not about games

Roman dice players

I’m considering to officially join the legions who are sick of the games-as-art debate. Because I am sick of it too. But not for the same reason. I’m sick of games. I’m sick of the endless debates on how we’re supposed to achieve something deeply meaningful by making people play with puzzles or achieving fake goals by adhering to arbitrary rules. Let games be games. Let them be fun. Let them be playful. Don’t weigh them down with all sorts of demands of meaning. Let them be frivolous, meaningless, brainless fun. Please.

This is about much more than games! We have this wonderful technology, the computer. It is capable of doing so many things. And one thing it does amazingly well is serve as a medium for entirely new experiences. Interactive experiences, non-linear adventures with creatures that seem to be alive, strange lands to explore and things to discover. Making you feel like you are somebody else in another place, another time. The Holy Grail of any art form that has come before. The thing that all paintings, all poems, all architecture, all opera, all literature and all films have wanted to be for centuries!

And what do we do with this medium? We make games!
In fact, we obsess about making ever more intricate little puzzles, with ever more clever little mechanics to make people feel ever so smart when all they did was follow rules and obey commands. It’s decadent! It’s wasteful! It’s negligent! It’s a shame!

Imagine that caveman down in Lascaux finding pigment and a wall and drawing a grid on it to play tic-tac-toe! Imagine the farao’s in Egypt deciding to make Tetris instead of pyramids! Imagine Botticelli putting his canvas down on a table and move some pawns over it instead of painting The Birth of Venus! The shame! The horror!! Yet, it’s exactly what we’re doing with the interactive medium. We have this incredible technology -almost like magic-, this wonderful medium! And all we do is sit there and throw dice with it.

Let games be games. And let’s move on.

49 thoughts on “It’s not about games”

  1. Wow. I really didn’t understand this post. Hahah.

    But you know, I bet having to answer to everyone asking you about Games For Fun vs. Games As Art gets old after awhile. I can understand how you’d be sick of repeating yourself.

    Really, why does anyone with an inspired passion make what they make, or do what they do? Because it’s *fun*.

  2. I’m not sure I understand your point either, Michael. Are you sick of the pressure of having to make meaningful games? But you already do, so why rail against expectations for you to continue doing what you’ve been excelling at for a while now?

  3. The pharaoh example was kind of cool. Just imagine those larger than life bricks in the desert instead of pyramids.

    On a more serious note, what do you think of the tendency to make editors-as-games, like LittleBigPlanet or Spore: Galactic Adventures? On the one hand, it actually lets us make our own rules, and have fun doing it; on the other hand, those who will use our creations will still be playing, and obeying these rules. Does that mean that making games is good, playing games is bad?

  4. Christopher, I have the impression that the really interesting meaning in our games comes from the aspects that are the least game-like. I don’t mind using game-like interactions because they can help instruct and motivate the player. But I think it’s wasteful of the medium to stop there. I just get so sad when I hear virtually all my peers talk about how good gameplay is the goal of videogame design. It’s sad because the medium has so much more potential than that. But it will take a lot of work to discover it and make it work. And there’s so very few people who are doing this work, this research. It’s sad because I fear that this may mean that the entire medium of non-linear interactivity will disappear or remain confined within the limitations of games culture forever.
    I guess I’m still kind of traumatized by this very thing happening to the web 10 years ago. I don’t want to see another wonderful medium disappear on me.

  5. Ilya, editors are indeed crucial. Though I don’t think Little Big Planet or Spore (or Second Life for that matter) are sufficient. Because they are too limited in what a creator can make with them. As such, they are just another toy, really, and not a serious creation tool.

    If there would be better authoring tools, then, perhaps, finally, more people with true artistic talent and something interesting to say would start using this medium. So far, games technology is an engineer’s wet dream. And engineering and gaming seem to be very similar activities. So it’s a happy marriage. But the technology is capable of so much more. Only there’s hardly any tools that allow people who could, to unlock this potential.

    I believe we need to think of tools like Quest3D, Unity, Max MSP, DP, vvvv and perhaps even Blender’s game engine as a new layer of abstraction in programming. Much like C++ expanded the potential of the technology over Assembly by adding a layer of abstraction, so will new tools that offer another layer of abstraction on top of C++ allow us to make things that we didn’t even think were possible.

    Of course the design of these tools is a very serious project. It’s not about having fun while make cute things. It’s about getting things done, about making things that have never been made before.

  6. Michaël,

    I share your worry concerning my peers at my study Gamedesign; whilst they find story important the thing that still entices them are explosions and impressionables. But I don’t share your worry concerning the medium as a whole.

    For a while now when discussing my work with people who don’t know anything about games, family or on dates, I’ve stopped citing the Wii or similar as example but mention The Graveyard or The Path, or other art games such as Gravity Bone or (from now on) Dear Esther — and contrary to my peers, who oft seem interested but ill enthused, these other people light up hearing about a game in which you feel the weight of being an old woman at a graveyard. And when I tell them that games can be that as well, something serious rather than something frivolous, they often want to know more — admittedly rarely to the point of them going to _play_ these games, but I do get that warm feeling of finding someone who could share that passion.

    Of course you’re worried about games as a whole but I’ve given up the separatist movement – there is no worse marketing around the ill-informed than talking about ‘interactive storytelling’ it seems. Even I get a small shudder. No, rather I’d say we (or _you_ for the time being, that is, until I graduate!) fend for having our own corner in games. Like film can be action or nay, games can be frivolous or nay. And even with gameplay, Beyond Good & Evil is beautiful, like an opera; those are so very often about the very same wizards and wise men as well. What the witch is to the opera hitting people with sticks is to games. I don’t always like it in either!

    The goal of gamedesign for me is to transfer an artistic property; to evoke a feeling, give wisdom, beauty, or show connections… And that goal for me didn’t come out of thin air but grew on me after I realised The Path had somehow told me a view on maturation that is still nestled in my head – in the same way that Hemingway or Ayn Rand have shown me things in a way that was mature enough to be taken serious.

    What people in this region of gamedesign need to do is realise that if we make games the way we want them to be, that will be our victory. If you make a game that you think is art, and if I think you have made a game that is art, then that means you did something meaningful. The more one worries about what people as a whole will think, _especially_ before people have thought it, the less free you will be. And if one worries all the time one may make a good game but it will never have the confidence of Ayn Rand or Hemingway in intellectuality. And intellectuality is what I want to make during _my_ lifespan.

    Perhaps this entire message was social and philosophical talk whereas I should address one point that I only realise now you made: that there are so few people in this field.
    Well. I am in this field and I care as well. And when I myself worry about this very same thing, it gives me great confidence to know that there are many people, amongst which yourself, who are also in this field, and care also about this field.


  7. the big problem is that there’s no market for such things yet… but that would be needed, in my opinion, cause without it, nobody would have enough motivation to really push things forward and try harder… the computer is still a very difficult medium to master, compared to the old, direct ones, like painting, music, text…, and it’s not as much “fun” to create things out of pure self-motivation, imho. more often, it’s just damn hard work to make interactive software work in a solid way…

    the gaming market has its own values (gameplay/fun/tech features), so, something like “interactive art” has no place there yet… gamers simply wouldn’t accept such “products”, unless they would speak the language they already understand… that’s also the only way i would see to push things forward in that direction… a sub-market in the downloadable gaming area, adopting many well-known and accepted gaming values, like shiny 3d graphics, cinematic soundtracks, interesting controls and so on, all just without a normal game around them (no goals/challenge)… just using the game tech “material” for other kinds of expressions (like in ‘the Graveyard’).

    some people from the demoscene are also trying to do things in that direction, maybe you already saw it:

    when players accept such things more and more, and different minded people start to take the computer more serious, i just hope there will be more possibilities to make things also with lower tech specs on the pc, cause the technical features will not be the main motivation to try them out… just because i think, that it is very hard to make something convincing without these high-end game values, right now… and a solid idea, of course :)

    at the end it’s directly comparable the technically also very difficult medium: film. to make a good artistic film without cutting down the initial vision because of the technical limitations, it needs huge amount of money. and taking that risk, often leads to much less innovative/radical/interesting/… ideas, just to reach a broader audience, and get more acceptance. so there’s that indie-VS-industry divide as well. small underdogs doing their own stuff in the underground, and big stereotypic productions for the masses… – but, compared to that, the interactive software medium has the advantage that it’s theoretically possible to get produced on the same machines on which it gets planned, created, mass-distributed, displayed, and reviewed… so hopefully, that difference will make indie “games” much stronger in the future…..

  8. Thank you, Jeroen, for the encouraging words. And for being in there with us. It’s easy to feel lonely here.
    (but we always had the feeling that we needed to wait for the post-Pac Man generation to grow up!… 😉 )

    Your observation that people outside of gaming can be very excited by certain types of interactive experiences is the very reason why we are doing this. We are, actually, people like that. The only difference is that we try and find these experiences in existing games. Which is a lot of work and often very disappointing. Because the “stupid game” always gets in the way. Which is why the people you’re talking about don’t want to play. It’s just too much trouble for too little satisfaction.

    One of the things that we are worried about is that games will actually disappear. Because they are such a monoculture with no interest in anything outside of itself and very little room for expansion. Gamer culture continues to insist that everyone should just adapt to their rules and start gaming. And everybody else continues to refuse. As a result, at best, games will become a marginal culture phenomenon. Perhaps a bit like comic strips. While they could have changed the world and human culture on a level that hasn’t been witnessed in history.

    This technology has the potential to give humankind the art form that can teach us a lot of very important things about ourselves, that can lift humanity to a new level of civilisation. But all we do with it is make games. Inaccessible, nerdy games that are only of interest to a bunch of teenage boys and stunted adults.
    (I guess they’re not entirely useless then: it’s good to keep this part of the population quiet and busy with something harmless.)

  9. 0rel, I think, somehow, we need to find a way to access the large audience outside of the gamers market. Gamers are already a small subset of the population and among them, only a small group is interested in new interactive experiences. Relatively speaking, of course, because this group still consists of thousands if not tens of thousands, maybe hundreds, of people. But even if outside of the gaming culture, the interest in such new experiences is only the same in proportion (which I think is a gross underestimation), the real potential audience is several times larger than the entire gaming market!

    Staying within games may feel like a safe bet at the moment. But you run the risk of never accessing your true audience.

    I would love to be hopeful regarding indie games, but frankly I don’t see much difference. There’s great artists in both commercial and independent circles, in equal amounts. But most developers in either are interested exclusively in goal-based, rules-based challenge-reward-structured experiences. But maybe the post-Pac-Man generation will change that! :)

  10. I believe it’s all about definition honestly. What is a videogame now? That’s the question that’s EASIER to answer than what art is.

    Because games as we knew before ‘Pong’ or the earliest videogames were difficult to define. They were toys or sport, maybe something else.

    But now we have something to convey complex experiences. And that a creator can use to express a location very vividly. The problem is of course it’s locations only at the moment, that every developer is good at.

    I understand you’re upset, and why though. I think ‘gameplay’ is one of the most confusing oxymorons in our industry . One implies objectives and rules. The other implies taking a role or expressing yourself or something new casually.

    The fact is that at it’s basis all videogames are delivering on this ‘play’, because play will be in every interactive experience. It will always be play, like it is in theater. That is when we all get the opportunity to experience these abstract worlds.

    This is more a disagreement conceptually than a disagreement with your concern in this post.

    Because I do agree there is very little effort elsewhere outside of the indie games scene. As 0rel mentioned because it’s a corporate business outside of indie games. And any exploration into anything different, will cost money.

    I am not concerned though, I think the technology needs to become a standard, and that’s inevitable. I think ignorant authorities/generations will need to pass on. And a generation of starry eyed creatives who have been brought into the medium from a young age need to be introduced. And it will happen, it just needs time, and for Nintendo not to rock the boat so much that, everyone loses faith in this complex experience driven design.


    ( gunpowder )

  11. I like the post. I’m a little sick of the games as art debate too.

    You kind of contradict yourself though:

    “Let them be fun and trivial.”

    Then a paragraph later:

    “It’s a shameful waste of the medium for them to be so trivial!”

    Relax. There are people pushing the medium in all kinds of directions (yourself for example). The direction that has traditionally made the most money is the most dominate one. Big surprise.

    Games aren’t as ubiquitous as books, movies or TV because of the costs (hardware and ease-of-use). When powerful 3d hardware is easily available to a large number of people I think we’ll see an explosion of new uses for it. The iPhone is just the tip of the ice berg.

    I don’t think a cave man would have minded a game of tic tac toe now and then. :)

  12. Whoops. Nevermind, you didn’t contradict yourself. You meant that it was a shameful that the medium is wasted on something trivial like games. My mistake.

    I guess I can see that point. The gamer culture may pull the whole medium down with it into something like the comic ghetto.

    Though, even with comics, there are some critically acclaimed works, so I don’t think it’s entirely hopeless.

  13. Games are not, and needn’t be, brainless in order to be fun, however. Choosing how to place a tile in Carcassonne is a simpler but also more intense, less drawn out way of thinking than writing an essay, for example, as well as one with less serious consequences: all of which contributes to making it fun, at least for someone whose work mostly involves writing essays.

    From writing this I now realise why I thought for a long time that I didn’t like games but have recently been thinking about little else: it’s not that I don’t like thinking in a simple, goal-oriented/game way, appreciating the technical beauty of systems, nor in an emotive/aesthetic way, appreciating the creation of an explorable environment as art, but that I didn’t like one getting in the way of the way of the other – as they did in series like The Legend of Zelda and Baten Kaitos (a Dragon Quest/Final Fantasy-like game) – as my brain can’t take thinking in both ways simultaneously (that’s too much like the real life I’m trying to take a break from) and neither do I like being forced to alternate between them. Seemingly all my friends still play such single-player video games and are able to think both ways simultaneously but, judging by how many more people watch films, look at paintings, read books etc. and play board games but don’t play single-player video games, I may for once not be in the minority in the larger scheme of things.

  14. Well, you know, I just found it a shame that most of people consider video games as a simple pastime. But well… Actually, I’ve just the impression that it is a simple pastime, the impression that l waste my time with playing games. The thing I always searched in video games is an “experience”, something that can change you, your perception of life. I think the word “game” isn’t compatible with it.

  15. So these interactive experiences, usually called games, just need a new highfalutin description.

    Like graphic novel instead of comic book.
    Film instead of movie.
    Action figure instead of doll.

    Since some of them might not really *be* games, a different label might be a more accurate description.

  16. I think there must be enough space for both kind of experiences without the pressure towards either side of the fence, be it “this isn’t a game” or “why isn’t this game artsier”? I mean, there shouldn’t be a fence at all, people should know right away what they’re about to experience when they play something – as long as it doesn’t detract from the intended experience, naturally :)

  17. At the moment, there’s only once fence, Jigu. It’s a fence that surrounds game culture. And that fence works in two directions. It prevents anything else than games from being made with this technology and it prevents any other audience than gamers to access them.

    But I’m happy to hear the trust the some people have in the future. It makes me feel hopeful.

  18. Hi !!

    I just discovered “The Path” this week end and I think it’s great ! It gives me that piece of fresh air I needed in a world of games governed by the laws of market and too often by stupid, non original ideas that are repeated again and again because they sell a lot. That gives us sequels to sequels of similar gameplay, backgrounds, sometimes scenarios… All because players always want the same.

    Even if the “Little Red Riding Hood” tale has already been revisited a lot, “The Path” stays quite original in its way. It reminded me some cool David Lynch movies, especially inside the grand mother’s house. It’s also the first game I play that isn’t actually a “game”. It’s quite weird… but awesome !

    What I say is that people are always afraid of innovation. FPS and RPG are fun as they are. So why inventing strange stuff as “The Path” ? Well… What I think is we have to “force” the players to be interested in real new concepts and stop them being surrounded by commercial products.

    I’d say I’m sick of the “games as art” debate too. But more because game designers, artists, producers and even developpers all believe they make “art” when they are just satisfying the needs of a big enough part of the population that will bring them back enough money to continue… the same thing…

    Let’s change this !

  19. Michaël, I agree: both kinds of experience should not be mutually exclusive. We don’t have to live in a world of bald space marines, fetch quests and such – sure, there will always be room for those, since it does have its audience.

  20. Games are more than art. Which probes deeper into the heart of human nature? Whistler’s Mother or The Prisoner’s Dilemma?

  21. I feel like games can have the typical rule-mechanic structure without being trivial. Mechanics and rules can be designed to produce certain feelings rather than just a sense of intellectual accomplishment.

  22. And I feel that games shouldn’t be bothered with that. Just let games be games. And designers who do want to work with content shouldn’t hold on to game rules and mechanics so much. The medium does not require them. Use them when they help express your content. Abandon them when they’re getting in the way. Don’t force game rules to express your content. There is no need for such strictness (or simplification). And games suffer as games from these attempts.

  23. You and a a lot of game developers and fans, Xanadu. But nobody can apparently prove it. All I can see is a bunch of dogs chasing their own tails. How much longer?

    Maybe “art games” is “art for gamers”. But what about the rest of us? Should we just adapt? Or can we please change the machine a little so people don’t have to?
    I understand you like these games. But most people don’t. They can’t even play them because they’re too hard. Can we please try and make something nice for those other people (who are happy enough with games being fun but who need something else to find depth and meaning and even amusement)? Why insist that people change when you could simply make a different type of software? Why this stubborn clinging to the game format?

  24. “Which probes deeper into the heart of human nature? Whistler’s Mother or The Prisoner’s Dilemma?”

    I can do one better. Which probes deeper into the heart of human nature? Whistler’s Mother or the Milgram Experiment?

  25. Why are games less valid than art? You seem to be implying that the experience of a good game of Chess or a fun game of Scrabble with friends or family is less meaningful than the experience of looking at a JPEG you hotlinked from the website of my local art gallery…

  26. I wouldn’t say that games are less valid than art. I’m considering the notion that games-as-art are less valid than games-as-games.
    And subsequently wondering if it’s such a good idea for art made with interactive media to be structured like a game.

  27. Can “pop” not be art?

    Classical Music vs Britney Spears
    Simple humming vs. the hardest intricate instrument to play

    I think everybody agrees that the medium has a lot of potential. Realistically though, the technology at the moment has its limitations, and only time will slowly erode at those limitations.

    If “interactive storytelling” hasn’t quite taken off yet its because its not ready. People everywhere are trying though (including you)

    At the end of the day, don’t forget that its just humans trying to match what nature has done in 4.5 billion years.

  28. To be honest, I’m just barely starting to get into game design, reading the literature, taking a class, and closing the surprisingly narrow gap between my Psychology degree and Game Design. So I do have an interest in this.

    Notice that I did not discuss what games ARE: Rather, I discussed what Games CAN BE. Yes, at the present point in time, the majority of games are very complicated simulations, or power fantasies (With several noticeable exceptions). However, if the majority of movies were mindless action movies, that would not make movies as a whole not be art. The popularity of Gangsta Rap and Brittany Spears doesn’t make music cease to be art. Games are, if anything, rooted into the human psyche on an even more basic level then books, music, and movies combined. Perhaps it is so tightly connected to our self-awareness, that it is hardest to shed the violent urges. We look at the world, and create a construct of it in order to understand it. And this formal system we try to apply to our surroundings is the essence of a game. It is the very heart of how we, as human beings, are capable of renewing our perspective on things. Things like, “The Path” show that a game is every bit as capable as any other medium in holding up a mirror to the human condition. And regardless of the judgment value you assign to it, “The Path” IS beautiful art AND it is a game. It’s marginalizing a game as being capable of only trivial things that prevents the medium from maturation. And its happened with every artistic medium ever. I’m sure that at the dawn of civilization, there was a guy scratching figures on the wall of his cave, and another guy behind him calling his scrawling trivial. Games are capable of many things, and having trivial, fun time wasters does not eliminate the possibility of more. We will continue to have the Peggle’s and Zuma’s, but I promise you that unless we insist on games being trivial things, we will also have Gamings Shakespeare.

    Looking at the influx of games like “The Path” “Braid” and so on, I argue that games ARE just being games. And that includes being so, so much more then being trivial.

  29. I am interested in what you plan on doing in the future in light of this post. Are you planning on creating something with game design tools that simply allows people to explore and enjoy a largre virtual environment, for example? Personally, I’d love something like that, but it may just amount to a frivolous, virutal escape. I guess someone could somehow put meaning into it, but that is also probably going into “imposing-meaning-on-games” territory.

    I know that The Endless Forest allows people to simply enjoy the environment, but even that program imposes rules for social interaction to enjoy the full experience.

    Maybe I’m totally missing the point.

  30. This post doesn’t mean any sort of change for Tale of Tales. I was just bemoaning the narrow confines of most discussions on “games as art”. I think Tale of Tales is doing a fine job at least trying to escape out of those confines. But we’d enjoy a bit more company. Especially since there’s so much work to be done.

  31. I think you are confusing game design and the actual playing of a game. No medium is more free than game design. Other mediums only dream about being unlimited in their creation of art. In game design you truly are. There is not a vision that can’t be translated into a game.

    Game play on the other hand is different. The player is limited by what he can do and accomplish, but only as limited as the game designer allows him/her to be. However when compared to the art:observer relationship of other art forms, games are still the most free by far.

    A game actually allows the observer to decide what happen if not to a limited degree. Someone watching a movie has no say what so ever. Their is no other art form that lets the listener play with the notes or decide how the protagonist solves obstacles. So what if it is limited. The limited freedom games give is still unique.

  32. I think it’s good that you’re exploring some of this deeper thought about games.
    Some of us just enjoy being able to create a game out of own delights, inspirations and ideas.
    If you want to make a revolutionary game that doesn’t follow any of the conventions of a typical video game, go for it.
    However there are some of us who enjoy a quick competitive game, even if deep down the gameplay is just an overused cliche.

  33. This appears, in line with your comments on Braid, to be a wholly semantic, if slightly pompous, disagreement more than anything else. For some unclear reason you feel compelled to adhere to the traditional, and now outdated definition of games, when most gamers and developers in this sphere apply the same term to all slot machines, video games, and interactive experiences etc because of their context. Until there is a word or term to replace it, I’m sorry to inform you that The Graveyard, for example, is a game.

    I see where you’re coming from, nobody calls interactive modern art installations games. However the meanings of words change over time, and this argument and bemoaning only seems like an immature huff about the nomenclature, and its past associations, of your chosen medium.

  34. Games, especially computer and console games, are generally welcomed by a very specific crowd of people.
    Computer Software on the other hand opens up a much wider range of users.
    A process or way of learning;to learn, and then suddenly, hopefully you have the entire human race.

    My point is how simple words limit possibilities (or vice versa). And people like simple. It allows them to quickly interpet what something is even though, this may cause the intent of the subject to be lost… Therefore eliminating interest or creating preconceptions/misconceptions before ever seeing the product.

    “I think games are a waste of time.”
    “I think art is a waste of time.”
    Which of those do you think is more likely to be spoken?
    And yet, I believe the word ‘games’ address a variety of topics probably as broad as art; or more precisely it is used to describe a huge amount of topics. Even though the root definition (the most primitive definition) of a game is “activity engaged in for diversion or amusement”.

    My point is that, let Games be games (something for fun or amusement!). But, also be mindful that you may lose a large audience… as a price for using just that word.

    So, I ask people to think about how to properly reach the target audience.

    And the next topic, games as art… The trouble here is that unlike a a picture, a book, a song, a movie; games are a terribly clouded word. Games CAN consist of all of these and more. Not to mention that people can label what was not intended to be a game, as a game.
    So, personally the term Game in my opinion is a terrible word to use (albiet perhaps necessary?), as even though people may have a clear idea of what a game is; the fact is the actual game can take oh so many countless forms today. Whereas movies, art, and music are much more straightforward.

    Now let me address your article…
    First off the lamenting of how games should be games and simply an amusement; then moved aside to create real accomplishments utilizing the medium of computers to push boundries.

    What if you are already doing this unknowingly? I mean where are games headed? To extinction? Or evolution?

    Computer games started out simple, pong, tic tac toe, battle chess…
    Today we have Mass Effect, The Path, The Sims…

    What is the theoretical extreme of this trend?
    Creating an electronic reality, or perhaps someday intelligent AI? Perhaps even electronic immersive virtual realities we can exist in?
    It’s all just make-believe now, and yet if our race lives long enough…

    The games of today could be the primitive evolution of controversial culture on the horizon.

    (but quickly jumping back to more immediate interests)
    Keep trying to be innovative, creating the exciting new, ‘next thing’. Make your game as artistic as you desire; or as fun or not fun as you want…
    We can only try to lay stones for the pyramid, and we may not be able to see what this Path might bring. But, I say be smart and build as much as you can while spreading the word the best that you can. Some games might be in a textbook someday…

    Mini summary : Games are far more a complex matter than books, pictures, music, or even movies. It can include interaction. Since they can involve all of the above it is a medium whose potential is only just beginning.

  35. I’m really happy that many people seem to have moved on and have understood that the word game can mean a lot of things these days. That wasn’t so, say two months ago.

    But I am not talking about a linguistic issue. Most game designers, even the ones designing games that contain so much more and may even be enjoyed for those other things more than anything, think about games primarily as rules-based goal-oriented systems structured as a continuously repeating linear sequence of challenges and rewards . And I simply think that is not appropriate when you have serious ambitions in terms of narrative and content. And I wish more designers would have the courage to leave the old formats behind and try to develop new ways of creating interactive entertainment.

    But maybe I’m just impatient. Or too demanding. Or too pessimistic.

  36. So would it be fair to say that you are criticizing what most games are, rather then what games could be?

    Also, I could argue that any art is a rules based (You must work within a certain medium, to stimulate certain sensory input, and the rules of what you are physically capable of doing with sound, for example, limit and confine your work. In addition, as a medium matures, rules emerge from the complexity of the mediums components) Goal oriented (Communicate a certain idea to the viewer, establishing certain patterns and input, and piecing that input together in a meaningful way) systems structured as a continuously repeating linear sequence of challenges and rewards (A song of movie, for example, proceeds linearly in time, and can certainly present challenges and rewards in terms of recognizing patterns and understanding them, if not consciously). I understand the point you are trying to make, but I don’t think its a matter of games following this formula that other mediums are free from, but rather that games need to use these components on subtler, more sophisticated ways. I think it’s getting there.

  37. I don’t want this comment to sound as if it were mean-spirited or anything like that, but if you are not interested at all in being associated with videogames and their tropes, maybe you shouldn’t have used the word “game” to describe your works in the first place. I mean, it is kind of weird to see you speak of games with such disdain when I see the word “game” being used all over your website, like in the “about” section, right after the comments.

    If your creation is not restricted by the boundaries that make a game a game (things like challenges and goals), maybe you could call it something else. A software, or a computer program, perhaps? I know it sounds rather silly, but the term “computer program” is not necessarily restricted to word processors and boring stuff like that. It could be anything, really.

    Just as an example, I don’t see many people calling Second Life a game. Why? Because I don’t think the folks at Linden Labs have ever used the g-word to describe it. And rightfully so, I believe, for Second Life is only similar to videogames in the sense that you control a character in a virtual space.

    According to Wikipedia, “Second Life’s status as a virtual world, a computer game, or a talker, is frequently debated. Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules. As it does not have any stipulated goals it is irrelevant to talk about winning or losing in relation to Second Life.”

    Come to think of it, most of that quote could’ve been used to describe your “games”. =)

    (Or maybe not. I may be missing the whole point. Who knows?)

  38. Xanadu, I’m lamenting the the lack of effort that is being done by designers and artists to research the potential of what could be done with the interactive medium in terms of art and entertainment. And I’m identifying the success of videogames as one of the reasons for this. I’m trying to encourage people to look beyond the games format and see what else can be done.

    There’s rules and goals just about everywhere. But in games they are the end result of the design while in other forms of art and entertainment (or politics and economics for that matter), they are a means to an end. That’s the difference.

  39. Matheus Castro, this is not about us. Why we use the word “game” is an entirely different discussion.

    And this is also not a linguistic issue. I don’t care what things are called. I look at what they are and how they are being made.

    Second Life is interesting for daring to not be a game (which is different than calling your product a game or not). I wish there were more designers who had that kind of courage.

  40. Well then, I have to agree with you, there is vast untapped potential in games as a medium, and the realization of that potential is painfully slow. At least, slow in regards to it being a medium that needs to play some serious catch up. But the concept of, “Game” is incredibly powerful, and I think that referring to games as mindless ruins the potential of the medium, ensuring that people forever abuse it for cheap thrills, and not only ensure that new people won’t want to take games to the next level, but alienate those precious few people who are doing some amazing things. Also, I wouldn’t throw out the games format just yet: There is enormous power in that. And frankly, I think that if you could better address the formal system, you could make video games surpass mediums like film.

    I feel a bit pugnacious here, so I would like to end my rantings by saying that the things you are doing are incredible, and I love your work.

  41. Now that’s the kind of Tale of Tales rant I’ve been waiting for! 😀 I totally agree with you. Though I am also fascinated by the games themselves, their mechanics and particularly the way they facilitate learning.

    Here I am, stretched between the two poles of Lost Garden and Tale of Tales. Ah, it hurts so good… :)

  42. Games are fascinating! I think we’re only advocating that we stop confusing the two poles. Split them up and let each grow bigger and more interesting. Together they’re holding each other down.

    So, axcho, this means that you should make two types of games! Good luck! :)

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