What Is A Game?

What Is A Game?

To be clear, this is separate from Gather Your Podcast (I know, I’m sorry) and Gather Your Perspective.

Talking points:

I’d like to thank everyone again for listening, be sure to leave a comment letting us now how you feel about the topic.



  1. Martius says:

    Its just me or its not working?

  2. Dongs says:

    Where’s the download button?
    You don’t expect me to listen to a podcast on my computer, right?

  3. Sprinkle says:

    based amer

  4. Hardcore Bro says:

    A miserable little pile of codelines.

    • Hardcore Bro says:

      Oh fuck that was already the joke of the description that I didn’t see I’m so unoriginal sorry I’m gonna an hero then go back to reddit.

      • Marbles says:

        I’ve always found the phrase “Go back to X” funny because it implies that people were somehow born on a certain website. Like that’s their website hometown and that they need to take a 5-hour train if they want to get anywhere else. That sort of scenario is only reasonable if you have the shittiest internet known to man.

  5. goombagore says:

    I’m a bit perplexed at the idea that there needs to be an externally-set “goal” to a game, i.e. one that cannot be established by the player (as you were arguing at the end with Minecraft). On the other side of the scale, you hold up table top role playing as the chief example of an “interactive game,” and deny the term “game” to games which don’t utilize the same amount of interactivity as, say, D’n’D. How the heck can you justify D’n’D as the paragon of a game when it doesn’t have an externally-set goal? Nearly every game of D’n’D I’ve played has ended up with the party completely giving up on a main quest line (if there even is one), and instead forging our own path. And don’t say that the existence of the main quest line makes it a game, since you guys rejected the shitty ending of Minecraft.

    Mostly, though, I don’t like the ghettoization of interactive elements. I’d rather have the term “video game” be bigger, rather than smaller.

    • Rob Welch says:

      I actually think that self-set goals should classify, but a lot of people don’t get the same buzz out of finishing a huge structure in Minecraft that I do. I guess saying that open-ended sandboxes are games opens up a whole can of worms, because suddenly banging your head against a wall is a game as long as you can give yourself brain damage.

      I do actually think having a more focused definition of ‘video game’ would help games and interactive stories be judged more fairly. However, in reality the line between them is often rather more blurry than with Tetris and Dear Esther. In that case, should the story and gameplay elements be reviewed separately? What happens when they are deeply intertwined, as they are in EarthBound?

    • DnD in itself isn’t a game, it’s a toolset for game creation.
      It’s a toy.
      The Players Handbook or DM Guide isn’t a game, its a set of rules for playing a game that the DM either makes up or needs to buy a Module for.
      The game comes from either the Module or the DM, he/module sets up the challenges and hence goals for the players to accomplish. The fact that players can either ignore the goals and/or circumvent these goals doesn’t matter. You can circumvent the goals in almost every game by just not agreeing to them and make up your own.
      The game then exists in your head as a implied set of self-selected rules and goals, but the product you are using is in itself not necessarily a game.

      A game in itself as a “thing” we talk about must have goals. If you want to define building the USS Enterprise in Minecraft, thats fine, you are playing “a game” unfortunately Minecraft is not that game as the ruleset and goals only exist in your head.

      • goombagore says:

        Interesting perspective. But that makes the definition of what a “game” is much more temporal. For example, would you agree with me saying “Super Smash Bros is a game, but me practicing it solely to learn a certain move isn’t”, since in that case I’m moving towards a self-imposed goal? The reason I brought up interactivity and why I do think it works in games is because it helps work as a catch-all for everything that goes on in the game, whereas it seems like you guys can’t even agree conceptually what a ‘video game’ is, which makes any discussion of it difficult. There are many different ways and methods by which to read a book, but there isn’t the same amount of weight given to asking what a “book” is (even though there is indeed criticism and scholarship on that matter).

        • “would you agree with me saying “Super Smash Bros is a game, but me practicing it solely to learn a certain move isn’t”, since in that case I’m moving towards a self-imposed goal?”

          You just said it yourself, you are practicing not playing, this does not change the fact that the product you are using is also a game.

          Objects are not defined by the purpose they fulfill. Movies are not defined by watching them, a movie stays a movie even when its not being watched or if you are blind.

          The purpose of the discussion was to find a center core to an object definition that should be applicable on a daily basis for the purpose of both functional conversation but also product categorization and separation for the benefit of the reader/consumer.

          In the games-space we are currently quite imprecise when we refer to things, this might not be destructive when we do it casually to friends. Yes, I too would say “Did you play Dear Esther?” in a casual exchange over a chat, but if we are doing analysis and are interested in discovering underlying principles of our hobby and/or craft, we need to have precise language and communication.

          Games do not have academia to create this discussion and to unify it with even a semblance of authority like other media have, hence we must take this up ourselves and try to analyze and improve our language.
          The fact we can’t agree to our terms yet isn’t a discouragement or evidence for failure, it just means we need to do more analytical work of this kind to be successful.

          This will only benefit us in the long run.

  6. serpen1 says:

    Hey catsman, mind elaborating a bit more on why you don’t like DotA? I’m not trying start an arguement or anything, It’s just that as a fan of the game I have trouble finding criticism that isn’t “I don’t understand how to play it within 2 seconds so it sucks” or “League of legends is better.” You seem to have another reason why you don’t like it, so i’m curious.

    • Michael Talley says:

      The British are inherently insecure about most everything. I imagine Catsman doesn’t want to learn Dota because he’s afraid of wasting 9 other players’ time.

      • Rob Welch says:

        I don’t want to learn it because it looks like an utterly unappealing, unenjoyable (but addictive) timewaster game with a terrible community. I’ve seen many of my steam friends become consumed by it. Some of them don’t even play other games anymore. As a rule, I think the more Dota 2 you play, the less you are worth talking to.

        • Michael Talley says:

          I have 1124 hours on it as of this post. Can we still be world-wide-web pen pals?

          • Rob Welch says:

            I think you might be too far-gone. When was the last you played insert game I like here? I will then rank you on the talkometer.

  7. fish.heads says:

    Is this hopefully not a shitty argument podcast? Because discussion about this topic has been pretty shitty on GYP recently.

  8. prof. Kalkyl says:

    In the end the discussion was a waste of time and purely arguing over semantics. I hope that in future uploads you’ll actually talk about something interesting.

    Interactive fiction/stories aren’t truly interactive because you can’t control everything that happens? J-sus Chr-st, what autism.

    • Rob Welch says:

      Semantic: relating to meaning or logic.
      Yes. It’s true, everything we argued over had semantic value.
      Your post, however, did not.

  9. goombagore says:

    Also, I wanted to add that it was cool to hear different perspectives on the issue, bounding up against each other, with each side at least kind of making concessions. Much more intriguing than a four-page article where one writers goes into their own formulated idea of what games are.

    • Marcus Puckett says:

      Yeah I’m glad it worked out this way. The original idea was for me to just write and article, but we all started arguing about it and some one suggested a podcast. Really, the definition of a video game is going to be different from person to person, and the goal of all of this was to spark discussion more than anything.

      This response also cross-applies to prof. Kalkyl’s post. Seriously, coming into a discussion about how to define something and then getting upset over the fact that we argued semantics the whole time? Come on now.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantics

  10. pessimist says:

    i liked the podcast, things like making a difference between the software and the game, things as the tools, attributes or rules, help a lot in trying to reason what is a game. But I didn’t like the half serious jokes about dota not being a game and other kinds of snarky comments, that even when I don’t like dota, those comments make little sense. I think it harms the whole philosophical feeling you’re aiming in the podcast with such questions like “what is a game” when you’re throwing fallacies around it as jokes

    • fish.heads says:

      Yeah, how dare they try to have fun.

    • Rob Welch says:

      Most people would get bored with a podcast of humourless robots. Sorry if you feel the opposite way, but it ain’t happening.

      • Marbles says:

        “Most people would get bored with a podcast of humourless robots.”

        What are you talking about? That would be the best thing ever.

        Robot 1: THE VIDEOGAME INDUSTRY FOCUS ON DESIGNING PRODUCTS WITH ADOLESCENTS AS THE SOLE TARGET AUDIENCE HAS CAUSED A STAGNATION IN GROWTH FOR THE MEDIUM AS A WHOLE.
        Robot 2: I AGREE.
        Robot 3: ME TOO.

        I wouldn’t stick around for the fanfiction reading though.

  11. Wangs says:

    Oh Cats, why would you play some cheap rip-off of Princess Maker made by american weebs instead of playing real Princess Maker?
    And loli management games aren’t really VN’s, but that whole conversation quickly derailed without any actual VN discussion anyway.

  12. Leah says:

    Why should I care what a game is?

    • Richie King says:

      I honestly don’t think you should. In the midst of an ‘existential crisis’, without established rulesets, games can push boundaries and be creative. Any definition someone has is contextual and cultural, anyway.

    • Marcus Puckett says:

      You don’t really have to, we just thought it would be a fun topic.

      One of the proposed reasons to care is that some things are unfairly categorized as a game get looked down upon because, as a game, they aren’t very good. If you were to look at it in a different light, however, say from an interactive movie or visual novel stand point, it would fair much better under that definition. Obviously it’s not exact, but it’s a possible reason to care.

    • You might be on the wrong website if you don’t care.

  13. -- says:

    You people need to read some of Wittgenstein’s “Investigations”.
    Deals a whole lot with meaning of phrases and touches on games as well.
    But that’s maybe too much to ask from video game journalism because even respectable philosophers have a hard time coming to a conclusion on the bottom line of Wittgenstein’s writing, which was kind of deliberate.

    • 3 says:

      Be careful what you wish for, last time a guy read a philosophy book and tried to apply his newfound knowledge to video game writing we got icycalm.

      • Marbles says:

        yeah i have no idea who that is

        Internet searches aren’t making this any less inscrutable. Who’s this icycalm guy?

        • 3 says:

          Crazy greek guy that runs culture.vg, believes that he is a true ubermensch that only plays superior games for ubermensches like himself. Knows some shit about games and sometimes have interesting points, but essays are so masturbatory that they’re kinda hard to read, and it’s impossible to argue with him.
          Recently his ego inflated so much that you need a paid subscription to actually read his blog.

          • -- says:

            Sounds interesting, would have read it if not for the subscription thing. Is it impossible to argue with him because he has good rhetorics? That’s the impression I’m getting.

          • Truth says:

            “Is it impossible to argue with him because he has good rhetorics? That’s the impression I’m getting.”

            His older articles are still accessible. I’ll post a link to the preface, but my favorite article written by him is “On The Genealogy of ‘Art Games’: A Polemic”, which was written in response to the proliferation of bad pseudo-artistic games.
            http://insomnia.ac/commentary/videogame_culture_preface/

  14. dustythoreau says:

    I think that gamers are like old people who can’t get over the fact that things are changing. And this is coming from a person who cares a lot about gameplay in videogames.

    We’re seeing this age where entertainment is changing. Remember when 3D movies started becoming a thing?

    Think of this: when a “Game of Thrones” type thing is written, and then produced not as a show, not as a videogame, not as a book, but as a “story driven videogame-thingy” and people go apeshit over it, what is that going to do to the gamers? They’re gonna get pissy and shout “THAT’S NOT A VIDEOGAME! THAT’S AN INTERACTIVE THINGAMAJIG!”

    And yeah, Simulators, Minecraft, Interactive Fiction, Visual Novels, I mean fuck, Adventure games themselves have been around FOREVER…and yet games today are bad because there are too many cutscenes (which is true but that’s just my personal taste).

    The point here is, and I think you guys were getting close to it, is:

    The game has changed. Literally. Videogames are broadening their view more into the “entertainment” part of the entertainment business, and that means movies, music, good writing, characters, etc.

    I feel like the thesis everyone was trying to grasp was something that was more of “what is a good game” getting tied up with “what is a game.” And arguing that with gamers is like arguing what is a good person vs. what is a person to a Nazi. Or something.

    I hope that helps in some way.

  15. asdgashsh says:

    This is frustrating to listen, no one can ever convey their thoughts clearly.
    VN thing? Just say it’s a character building game, say that it’s suggested that you are going to encounter uses for every skill, but will only be able to master a couple of said skills. Say that it’s telegraphed what kind of results you are going to get for following this or that speciality, and explain the difficulty of managing your needs and goals. That’s what the few games I played of that type were like.
    Rhythm games aren’t arbitrary, save for the bad ones. They are tied to the, well, rhythm, and have certain patterns tied to the chords to learn.

  16. gnupoo says:

    I realize this discussion is somewhat older, but I would like to add two things to the list:
    -You have to do it voluntarily.
    -Loosing should be ok.

    Let me give you a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean:
    Hide and Seek is a game, right? Hiding under the desk during a school shooting is not. There is a goal, it’s the same as in Hide and Seek, and there are also rules, namely our laws still apply (for example you shouldn’t kick the shit out of the freshman to take his hiding spot). But you are not doing it voluntarily, and loosing is not ok.

    Another example: Work. Goals and rules? Check. Voluntarily? Nope, can’t just say “Today I don’t wanna go.”. Is loosing ok? Nope, continously failing will make you loose your source of income.

    Another example: War. Goals? Sure. Rules? Yeah, Geneva/Hague conventions. Voluntarily? Can you say “Today I’m not feeling like it.”? Nope. And is loosing ok? Very much nope.

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