The word âgameâ is starting to get outdated. It doesnât fit us any more, to the point where it is holding us back.
When people started calling them games, thatâs what they were. Simple sets of action-reaction rules and mechanics. Youâd take your action and the system would apply the rules and respond. There were defined goals and boundaries. Pong, Galaga, Space Invaders - All resembled board games and pinball more than novels or films.
Weâve moved on. Games arenât packages of action-reaction rules any more. Often there is no defined goal, or at least not one as clearly defined as before. Success is no longer measured in abstract points.
Doesnât it seem strange weâre still using the same word to describe the Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Fallout 3?
Modern games are virtual worlds. Packaged experiences. Artifical realities, pre-designed and tuned to produce meaningful, interesting experiences, which we can enter and experience at will. Itâs like stepping into someone elseâs life at the start of the most important day of their lives. Sometimes the limitations of the universe railroad it towards a single predetermined outcome. Other times, it can go one of many ways, or never ends at all.
If we had a word for games that combined the connotations of a ânovelâ, âfilmâ, âstoryâ, and âinteractiveâ, weâd be free of a lot of wrong connotations among mainstream culture as well. I donât like lugging around the cultural legacy of Space Invaders whenever I try to explain to laypeople exactly what Iâve chosen to spend my life creating.Â We create interesting lives you can step into at will, not games. None of this is to say there is anything wrong with true games. Theyâre just not the same thing as Fallout 3 or Pathologic or Fahrenheit or even Flight Simulator.
So what should we call them?
âRole Playing Gamesâ might make sense, but it has acquired an association with collection-based gameplay and numerical character growth.
âAdventure Gameâ seems to have developed a connection to puzzle solving and third-person control.
âInteractive Fictionâ implies a text interface.
âInteractive Movieâ implies the use of full motion video and long noninteractive scenes.
We need something totally new. Alistair Reynolds called packaged experiences âexperientialsâ in his Revelation Space series. Or, we could use Greek roots - Mnemograph would be a âwritten memoryâ, for example. But that's kind of a mouthful.
Itâs tricky to find new words for something. Iâm not going to try to coin one today, but Iâm hoping one will appear soon. And perhaps one of you can think of a name that doesnât sound goofy.
Crossposted from tynansylvester.com