Image by Flickr user: Christopher Schnese
It would be an understatement to say that video games have changed in the 42 years since Pong! first began making the medium popular. Indeed, since then games have progressed from moving lines and dots to full 3-dimensional worlds built to feel alive. Along with the visuals, the objectives have changed too; from simply getting a high score, to finishing the game, to a myriad of other purposes (with the idea of a “score” almost becoming a foreign concept outside of multiplayer). Video games aren’t just games anymore, they’re something more. But what exactly are they if not games?
They aren’t the simple things that they were even 10 years ago. “Games” today aren’t mindless; they carry messages and ask tough questions(The Last of Us/ Spec Ops: The Line). They can be chaotic battlefields for having it out with fellow players (Call of Duty, Halo, etc.), or be nothing more than a calm walk through a virtual environment (Dear Esther). They can an entirely hands on experience that depends solely on the player to move forward (BioShock) , or can merely bring the player along for the ride (Heavy Rain).
They’ve become complex simulators, allowing us to see what life would be like as other people, get glimpses into other professions, and even discover how we would fare if left in charge of institutions ranging in size from small families (The Sims) to entire civilizations (Civilization). We even used them as a means to reach out and touch our own history, and even explore the possibilities of how the modern world as we know has come to be (Assassin’s Creed). Taken as a medium, gaming isn’t just playing games anymore.
With all this diversity of play and purpose in the medium, the term “video games” in the traditional sense isn’t just an over simplification, it’s the wrong term entirely. Video games aren’t “video games” anymore, but experiences; digital experiences which challenge their audience in ways that no other medium can.
They’re still changing too. In all likelihood, in five years time,that which we call a “video game” will be something entirely different from what we’ve come to expect in the here and now.
What do you think a “video game” is these days? Are we approaching the limit of what they can be? Or are there still discoveries yet to be made?