Photo taken by Hatm0nstar
Earlier this month we decided to take on the question of “What is a video game?” and challenged our fellows to do the same. At first I thought it was a difficult question to say the least. I mean how do you come up with a definition that actually reflects everything that games have become without first coming up with definitions for everything that makes up a game these days? What counts as gameplay? A goal? A story? Are they all needed for something to be a game? How many? And on it goes. Defining a game based on its components might not be impossible, but it’s definitely a tall order (a very, very, tall order). Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that hard. In fact, defining what video games are doesn’t have to be hard at all. In order to define what a video game is, one need only look at what a video game does.
At its core, a video game is something that connects its player with something that is otherwise intangible. What that something is isn’t particularly important; It can range from something as complex as a lifestyle, to nothing more than a simple challenge. What is important is what it enables us do: experience it.
A video game isn’t something to sit back and watch, but rather something to jump into and experience. It’s solving a puzzle after puzzle in a game like Platinum Sudoku. It’s exploring exotic locations and fighting ancient threats in games like Uncharted or Mass Effect. It’s setting up a raid with friends for a chance at that primo loot in WoW or Destiny. It’s dealing with the trials and morals of a being a poor border agent in Papers Please. A video game is all of these things, its more than these things. It’s the actions we take and the means by which those actions are taken in the first place.
A game can be simple or complex, easy or hard, profound or silly. It can have a story, or not. It can have characters, or not. It can have puzzles, destructible environments, a goal, visuals, or not. I don’t think it’s possible to define what a video game is based on what exactly it’s allowing its players to do. They’re too varied, too diverse, and too…amorphous for that. Defining based on the content wouldn’t really work anyway, because the content of a video game isn’t its point. The point is the experience; it’s about the connection that the player is able to have with that world, character, or challenge. What is a video game? It’s a means to experience things that we never otherwise could.
What is a video game to you? What makes it distinct from everything else?