Friday, November 9, 2012

Random Shots: When Is A Game No Longer A Game

  • An independent game development company called The Astronauts has posted a blog surely intended to provoke discussion. In the post titled "Why we need to kill gameplay to make better games", they posit that the best parts of many games are the parts that are not what would be called gameplay. Instead, the memorable moments are things at fall between the action. Furthey, the author posits that by removing the gameplay, one might make a more memorable game. This is horse hockey, but I'm sure they are well aware of that.

  • People play games for various reasons. But the main reason we all play them is because they are games. Games come in all shapes and sizes, from pure mechanics and elaborate simulations and experiences. But at their foundations, they are still games. If you strip that out, if you remove the interactivity that underpins the medium, you are left with nothing more than a movie.

  • I hope that this was a purely intellectual exercise on the part of the author. But if not, we will be safe to write off any game that company creates in the future. But who knows, maybe their movies will be pretty good.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. I think the main flaw in their argument is that in pulling five moments out of the whole history of video games doesn't even begin to make their case.

    The one thing that makes their argument easier is what makes up great moments in games. In another venue I mentioned getting the babel fish in the Infocom Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy game. That was a moment I remember nearly three decades later.

    The problem is I cannot replay that moment. It isn't a cut scene or an achievement. It is gone, I did it and the game moved on.

    I think they are confusing great moments in gaming... which for me are almost entirely moments where gameplay came together... with the ability to hand a player something tangible that commemorates a great moment. Nothing that you did in the game matters, only the amazing pictures it shows you when you're not playing are real.

    They will influence a few people I suppose. We will see how that plays out.

  2. I recently re-played Final Fantasy IX (a 60+ hour endeavor). Many of the major plot advances are conveyed through conversations or movies that aren't really at all interactive, and some of them are indeed quite memorable. However, it's the gameplay in between those sections that really immerses you in the game. More than even a good novel, by the time I got to the end I felt like I had been living in that world. I could say the same thing about Bioshock, which is one of the examples they cite.

    Gameplay and interactivity is what makes games compelling narrative experiences in a way that is different from a novel or a book. To assert otherwise is to ignore the biggest strength of the genre. But as you said, one would assume they are aware of this and the post is a straw man or an attempt to stir up controversy.