Difficult Questions About Video Games

I recently bought Difficult Questions About Videogames from PublicBeta. They are giving it away “free”, saying that it is £100 off and I only had to pay shipping…yet the book arrived with a price on the back cover of a little over £14. Not sure what that’s about…

Anyway, I actually like it. It asks questions like “What is a videogame?” and “What is gameplay?” These are terms that get thrown about in game reviews and general conversation, and yet no one has a definitive idea about what they actually mean. Also, they use videgame as a valid word, but some of the responses they received questioned its validity since it should be “video game” much like rap music instead of rapmusic.

And it is amazing how different everyone’s opinions are! Some people make a distinction between video games and computer games, claiming that the former involve dedicated proprietary machines whereas the latter makes use of general purpose computers and software. Others make some incredibly arbitrary definitions in my opinion (usually played with thumbs? Seriously?). My favorite was: “Pass.”

It is clear that the language of video games isn’t very clear. Everyone knows what a video game is, and yet everyone disagrees about the exact definition. We apparently can feel good gameplay, yet can’t say what be improved for something that has “bad” gameplay.

It’s hard to believe that with video games being as popular, profitable, and important as they are, we still don’t know how to talk about them so that everyone understands what we mean. At first “what is a videogame” sounds like a simple question, but if you try to define it exactly, you can quickly see that it is a difficult undertaking. Difficult Questions About Videogames is definitely a good read for game developers and players alike.

1 comment to Difficult Questions About Video Games

  • Actually, I think that’s a sign of how the industry has matured (though it still has a long way to go) – so many of these questions defy easy, black-and-white answers. Back in the day, a videogame was a videogame – I still think that some of the catagorization between “videogame” and “computer game” is bogus. I mean, if you play a port of a computer game on a console, is it still a computer game? Or a videogame? Even if it’s an RTS (like the port of Warcraft to the console back in the day…)? It’s a little bit silly. But I do agree it’s important to have some kind of common language when we discuss … ummm… “interactive entertainment” (hey, aren’t board games interactive?).