Game Rant Asks: Does The Term ‘Game’ Discredit The Medium?

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Does The Term 'Game' Discredit The Medium?

The Word Game Discredit Medium Welcome to Game Rant Asks, an editorialized feature where our writers discuss hot button issues and the challenges our industry faces. After posing a question to ourselves (and our readers) we at Game Rant take the time to share our thoughts regarding the topic. We then leave it up to you to share your opinions, whether that means criticizing our own or simply trying to answer the question for yourselves. This edition of Game Rant Asks was inspired by a recent Twitter discussion on Spec Ops: The Line, wherein some of our writers hashed it out over whether the game's narrative can make up for average gameplay. Here, we explore why or why not the term "game" is still representative of the medium and whether we have progressed from "games" to "interactive art." If narrative is starting to become more important to the medium, then is the term "game" even suitable for describing our favorite hobby?

Anthony Molé (@AnthonyMole)

The Word Game Anthony Mole I don't believe the word "game" is harmful to the medium, as it has grown to mean so much than it did before. Perhaps two decades ago "game" could be equated with fun, but in 2012 the definition has grown to encompass a wide variety of emotions. Games like Spec Ops: The Line prove that a game doesn't need to be fun to be good; a game can still be just as engaging if it can draw in the player. Whether one is having fun or not is irrelevant  as like the different genres of film games no longer need to focus on one aspect of the human psyche. Similarly, both books and films have outgrown their definitions, just as gaming continues to do so. Waiting for Godot is perhaps one of the most mundane works ever written - throughout the entire screenplay nothing significant ever occurs - yet it is still considered an ingenious piece of  existentialist work. Spec Ops: The Line shares this similarity; the player is not meant to have fun when playing, they are meant to feel at their utter worst. That doesn't make Spec Ops a bad game, because "game" no longer means what it used to. We haven't out grown the word "game;" it's still growing.

Kyle Matthews (@superkyol)

The Word Game Kyle Matthews I've always referred to video games as just that: video games. Associating "game" to a piece of interactivity or entertainment does not discredit it - these terms exist to define and enlighten those who these experiences would otherwise be lost on. Referring to a video game as an "interactive experience" cheapens the medium entirely by making it sterile and corporate. Games are created as a way for users to escape reality, however briefly, and connect their senses to something that would otherwise be unachievable within the confines of reality. Calling a game a game is not only accurate, but holds onto the roots of one of the last bastions of a modern, yet still very expressive art form.

Curt Hutson (@8BitBomb)

The Word Game Curt Hutson It is often debated whether games can transcend its own medium from that of simple entertainment to an appreciated art. In fact, the term "game" often discredits itself. The stigma of games seems to be that they hold no significant value, but that is only because games (both video and traditional) are a deeply misunderstood medium because their multidimensionality requires so many levels of analysis. When a game is designed it is more than pen to paper or brush to canvas, it involves several aspects of design, science, cognitive psychology and storytelling. But like all other art forms everyone creates them. People ranging from aspiring computer programmers in their parent’s basements to large production companies hiring college educated employees. So then what defines art? Is it as simple as any aesthetic work produced through skill and imaginative thinking or is it deeper? Is passion a requirement? Is budget? Must it go through the vigorous routines of a critically acclaimed film - a widely accepted art form? Games are indeed an art form, the very fact that they are persecuted as much as, say, modern art, supplies ample evidence to that case, but a game's ability to immerse participants through interactivity allows it to transcend past other art forms. As humans, games are our first language and are used to interact with the world around us and though as adults modern entertainment products become more complex, games continue to develop our minds, as well as encourage thought and interactivity. We become characters; we control actions and directly feel consequences of those actions. It’s deeply personal as well as entertaining. But it is that ability to entertain that often discredits it. Modern young fiction may seem ridiculous to some, but it encourages young people who are entertained by their content to read, something fundamental to the development of language and writing skills. Many games require players to read extensively. It’s been found that those who make habits of reading and/or playing games regularly have also been linked with lower Alzheimer’s protein levels, so just because something is entertaining, doesn’t mean has no value. Games should never be discredited simply for what they are; they are valuable and important to both our development as human beings and as artistic expression. While they may not be as simple as our preconceived notions of what art traditionally is, there is the same passion and imagination that you will find at any gallery. If a game has ever made you feel, begged you to stop and admire its beauty, compelled you to reflect on yourself, or simply had you ponder its meaning, then it is indeed art.

Andrew Dyce (@andrew_dyce)

The Word Game Andrew Dyce I'm not sure if the term 'game' discredits the medium of interactive storytelling, but it definitely limits it. There are obviously still games which aspire to little more than challenge the player in the name of fun and brain activity, but as more and more games reach beyond these qualities, the term 'game' seems to apply less and less. The Walking DeadThirty Flights of Loving, and many more 'games' (most often found in the independent space) seem to be moving headfirst into the realm of interactive storytelling, not twitch-or-puzzle-based mechanics, delivering experiences only possible with a gamepad in hand. My problem isn't with the word 'game' itself, since it works as well as ever. The problem lies with the uninitiated majority who continue to see a trashy novel or brainless blockbuster movie as a better use of time than a genuinely ambitious and thought provoking game experience. And reviewers who hold experimental, indie, arthouse games to the same criteria or value proposition as a Halo or Call of Duty aren't helping anything.

Jason Weissman (@AtticusSays)

The Word Game Jason When I first started playing video games back in the stone ages, the experience was strictly a "gamey" one akin to a game of chess: solving a puzzle, outthinking a competitor, or navigating an environment were typical goals. Story elements, if any existed at all, were strictly secondary and barely served any purpose other than background. Successfully decoding the game's objectives satisfied most players, and video games just felt like a logical progression from board games (does anyone play these anymore?), which were primarily targeted toward children. As such, video games were largely thought of as a non-adult activity by the mainstream public. But as those young gamers grew up, they sought adult experiences and video games evolved over the years as a result. Some of these titles minimized the focus on gameplay, and instead focused on telling a compelling story, making an artistic statement, or just testing the boundaries of our imagination. Minimalist titles such as Seaman, Dear Esther, Flower, or Journey barely qualify as games in a traditional sense, yet each offered unique and compelling experiences that non-gamers could appreciate if given the chance. Unfortunately, the name recognition of these titles barely registered among the stimulus-seeking public, because of the "game" stigma attached to this form of entertainment. Video games like The Walking Dead, where the gameplay takes a backseat to a strong narrative that propels the player forward, would likely have more mainstream appeal if it was presented in a different visual format, even if that would take away from what makes the title so special. This is unfortunate, because non-gamer fans of the television show would likely enjoy this story presented in its present form, if they did not dismiss it out of hand as something for kids or immature adults. Does the word "game" discredit the medium? Yes and no. Certainly many video games are just modernized versions of old gaming tropes, and therefore, the term is still accurate to a large degree. However, the use of the word is very limiting as many will simply dismiss non-traditional video game fare, which they may have enjoyed, as a non-serious form of entertainment that does not equate to a novel or movie.

Riley Little (@TheRileyLittle)

The Word Game Riley I think the term 'game' is something that may discredit, or at least be given a negative light, depending on which social circles the word is brought up in. There's a certain social stigma that accompanies video games, and there likely will be for quite some time to come, but that can be accredited to the interactive aspect that each title has and the alleged repercussions that surround the industry. Despite the general unease that the uninformed have with such variants of media, the word 'game' doesn't cause a negative impact on the medium. It's the ideals that the individual has that determine a positive or negative outlook on video games, regardless of the branding, and snap judgement is entirely at the discretion of consumers. Some take pride in the label 'gamer,' and as the medium continues to evolve, many more probably will as well.

Jacob Siegal (@JacobSiegal)

The Word Game Jacob I think referring to all forms of interactive entertainment as "games" can reinforce the preconceived notions that we all have of games, both positive and negative. For those who do not exist in the same realm as gamers, gaming can be synonymous with wasting time. Telling someone with only a passing knowledge of video games that Journey, The Unfinished Swan, or The Walking Dead are "games" will force them to equate these beautiful, unique experiences with the video games that they know, such as Call of Duty, Mario, and Pong. I do not believe that we have learned to separate games into the same distinct categories that we have for books, movies, television, and other forms of media. In recent years, society has come a long, long way in understanding and accepting gaming as an art form and a form of entertainment just as viable as the others. Regardless, I still believe that "game" is a word loaded with history, much of which is no longer entirely relevant. As time presses onward, that will inevitably change.


Game or Art It's clear from these posts that our writers share similar, yet wavering view points on the use of the word game. What do you think? Is the term still appropriate, or should we find a new word to represent our favorite medium? Join in on the discussion in our comments section down below!

TAGS: Journey, Spec Ops: The Line, The Walking Dead

  • Bronxsta

    This quote “because non-gamer fans of the television show would likely enjoy this story presented in its present form, if they did not dismiss it out of hand as something for kids or immature adults.” is so true

    I’m 20 and video games are as much a form of entertainment as a good book or a movie or tv show. To my parents, they just feel that games are not something a 20 year old/young adult should be interested in or spend money on. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up with video games and they didn’t…idk

    Anyone else know what I’m talking about?

    • Andrew Dyce

      Absolutely. Interactive storytelling is the kind of gameplay that anyone – I mean anyone – who enjoys TV or movies should be able to get into. But the label just scares so many people off, or makes it seem immature.

  • Gooch

    @Bronxsta-I had a similar upbringing. My dad hated when I played video games, he thought I was “wasting my life.” I never saw it that way though because games are as infinitely engaging as a painting if you are willing to engage them.

    I should also mention I am studying animation at a year fine art school, the attitude of fine artists, the majority of them, is that if it is entertaining it CANNOT be art. I whole heartedly disagree, and after studying animation I have a whole new appreciation for the art because that is what it is. Games are not created by robots in a vacuum, they are the a result of thousands of hours of hard work and planning. Anymore I can just turn on a game an marvel at all of the effort that went into creating it without even playing it.

    Games are the newest form of art to be developed and I feel that eventually it will be appreciated as an art. It is similar to film, which was not considered art at all but more of a parlor trick when it was invented. You simply have to have someone with the vision to explore all the potential of the medium. I think there are already several games that are genuine works of art but it may be another ten years before they are widely considered as such

    • Bronxsta

      I always felt it was just ridiculous to not to consider games as art. But I do feel that the medium has a lot of maturing to do. We’re making the right steps with games like Limbo, Journey, Unfinished Swan, etc. and i believe the Smithsonian had a gallery on video games recently.

      So the medium is definitely mainstream but it’s going to be a while until the general public (and parents) consider a video game on the same pedestal as a film or a book.

      • Andrew Dyce


  • jwalka

    i hate how most people in society (the ones that dont game) label games as being for kids and class those of us who play games as ‘immature’ and childish. it’s mainly those that haven’t grow up with the medium that ‘hate’ it, people like my dad (in his 50’s) dont understand how games are made, whether they have story or not etc, he assumes that the only people that game are people with nothing better to do in life.

    i really wish people ignorant of the industry (as a whole) would either stfu and keep their bs to themselves or accept gaming as a form of entertainment and appreciate it as the future of entertainment, b/c as it is hollywood is running itself to the ground, which will help gaming rise and eventually over throw movies as a form of entertainment.

  • boogoo

    Excellent feature! :)

    The term “game”, in my opinion, certainly discredits certain titles. Many games already have and are continuing to transcend the term. The medium is evolving in complex directions and the problem is people don’t know it or aren’t interested because of the stigma attached to video games. Too many people generalize games and still associate it with children and slackers and immature adults. That perception is changing with time but as of right now when you look at how “gaming” as a whole can still be labeled “immature” by people then that term is a discredit to the medium.

  • Matt

    I like this new feature! We get to hear detailed opinions from the writers on certain subjects, something admirable about this website. Game Rant Asks is kind of like Game Ranter Banter (where did that go, anyway?), but with all the writers talking about the same subject.

    • Matt

      Also, way to go Riley! Those are my thoughts exactly on this subject.

      • Anthony Mole

        I’ve had the idea for Game Rant Asks for a while now, so I’m glad you (and Boogoo) like it!

        As for the Banter, I viewed GRA as bit of a spiritual successor. So yea, similarities abound!

      • Riley Little

        Glad you liked it. 😉

    • Rob Keyes

      Banter I loved but it was tough finding participants on a weekly basis and with the timing, it didn’t do well on weekends. With GRA, we can do it on specific hot topics with any number of people :)

      • Matt

        I see. So how often will there be a new GRA? Every week? Month? Random times?

        • Anthony Mole

          So far the plan is to have a GRA everytime a major event happens in the industry and/or if a hot topic arises.

          • Matt

            Alright. Just don’t make them infrequent.

  • DarthMalnu

    I think that gaming is going through the same conflict of maturity that comics have gone through recently. To most the word “comic book” could only evoke thoughts of silly muscle bound super humans in spandex “Biff Bam and Pow”-ing their way through nameless henchmen… Try explaining the works of Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to them. Suddenly all the hipsters started calling everything a “graphic novel” to avoid social scrutiny, which eventually diminished the value of anything truly deserving the term, and it all went back to comics again.

    I don’t think that the term “game” discredits anything, because I don’t value the criticism of those that would judge something based on its terminology. Chess is a game. Lawn darts is a game. Anyone who can’t find a difference is unworthy of an opinion on the subject.

  • Melkor

    We are the parents of next generation so we don’t tell our children what our parents are telling us about “games are being made for child and immature adults”!

    Truly games are going to be considered as Arts soon. The wave has already started and prime examples are “Shadow of the Colossus” ,”Journey” and my personal favorite “Spec ops: The Line”.

  • Jak Frost

    random fun fact did you guys know that the average age of a gamer is 37 years old

    • Matt

      That’s got to be the average of a casual gamer, though. I bet the average age of a hardcore gamer is lower.

  • jack

    I am almost 34 years old, my brother is 44 years old and we are both gamers. I was typing in games are art when I found several links saying that up to 40 different games will be on display in the Museum of Modern Art. So far they only have 14 selected. They will have them on display sometime in March of this coming year.

  • Son of Prometheus

    Well a “game” by definition is an activity that one or more people engage in with set rules and goals. Every athletic sport is a game but look at how ridiculous many sports fans behave from time to time.

    They get more worked up from just observing others play a game than we do from digital games. Not every video game should be deemed Interactive Art. Hell I love Monopoly but I don`t consider it art. Now Silent Hill 2 on the other hand is definetly IA. I`ve never even actually played it myself, but I watched some really good vids of it on YouTube (Gameplay & Story from begining to end) and that game is a true work of art 😀