Throughout this article I will placing heavy emphasis on difference between the phrases “videogames” and “video games.” If you don’t pay attention to that space you’re going to get very very confused.
What’s In A Name?
When you write about videogames you sometimes end up spending far more time thinking about them than you actually do playing them. There’s not anything wrong with that. It’s often necessary to put our controllers down and take a step back, considering the implications of our play and the implications of the way we talk about that play.
Words are powerful things. A label, once applied, isn’t easily removed. When cinema was born, people were amazed at the idea of photography in motion. These moving pictures were dubbed “movies,” and the name has stuck. When we record things, we still refer to “taping,” a reference to the analog recording methods of old. When Alexander Graham Bell invented a device that could transmit voices across long distances, he reached into his Greek vocabulary and pulled out “Tele-phone.” Today we talk on our “phones,” and I sometimes wonder how many people even know what the word means.
So here at Gamechurch, we talk about the medium of videogames (even though spellchecker isn’t a big fan of the word yet).
The Problem With Video Games
In the world of games criticism there is a school of thought which argues that games are simply rule-sets, with no room for storytelling or character. This school of thought is known as “ludology,” and its proponents have made tremendous contributions to our understanding of what makes for fun and engaging game mechanics. They are 100% right in this assessment. Games = rule-sets; no more, no less. However I would argue that the medium known as “videogames” has evolved far beyond mere “games.”
Others have already spoken on this phenomenon with far more insight than I possess, but it is clear that there is more to videogames than mere sets of rules. No longer can they rightly be called “video games,” because they are so much more than games played out in video form. This even correlates to the entire discussion of “games as art.” It’s a tiresome conversation, but at the very least, a videogame can be an “art gallery,” a combination of visual design, music, and storytelling, much like film. However videogames have transcended film with the addition of a new function: interactivity.
I recently wrote about my experience playing Dear Esther. Without rehashing a tired out discussion about what is and is not a game, let’s just say that Dear Esther is at least not a “game” in the traditional sense. Yet it is, for all intents and purposes, a videogame.
Let’s not worry too much about semantics. The terms are still nebulous. “Games” can still refer to videogames, but just to set the record straight, there’s a reason that we at Gamechurch have decided to talk primarily about videogames, and not video games.