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I never understood the debate on whether or not Depression Quest or Gone Home were games. They are not games. They will never be games. Because they do not fit with what a game really is.

game dictSo let’s back up, what do I mean by that? Well, there is a huge debate going on about what makes a game, a game. Some people argue that a game needs a fail state, while others don’t believe that is a requirement. Well, how do we get around this? Easy, look to the past. Lucky for most people I actually own a Living Webster dictionary dating back to 1977, to see what they define as a game: “A diversion in the form of chance, skill, endurance, or a combination of these, pursued according to certain rules.” It is a synonym of “Sport”

And if that in and of itself is not enough, what are some things that we define as games that are not considered Videogames? Well, we have Board Games (Monopoly, Checkers, Chess), Card Games (Magic The Gathering, YuGiOh, Go Fish, Poker), Dice Games (Dungeons and Dragons, Backgammon, Risk) and even Party Games (Apple Bobbing, Beer Pong). Sports are also considered games as well, such as playing a game of Basketball. We have a pretty decent understanding on what makes a game a game, so it does not make any sense to me at all why people believe that there is some form of debate on what makes a game, a game.

Games are not like Art, which as little to no real defining characteristic outside of “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,” a game has always been defined as being competitive, and having some kind of winner, even if the winner is not a human being, which is why that “Test your strength” hammer game normally seen at fairs is still considered a game. Because even it has some kind of fail state, and follows certain rules.

Journey-Screen-One“Games” like Journey, The Stanley Parable, etc, are not games because they don’t test you in chance, skill, endurance, or anything, and are not pursued according to any rules outside of “keep going forward or turn off the system.” You can’t break any rules in these media, and cannot fail in any sense of the word. They are, however, very interactive films. They are stories being portrayed in which you have some control over the main antagonist, but that is all. One good “game” that I really enjoyed is called To The Moon. It portrayed a very good story and I liked it a lot. But like Journey and Gone Home, are not games by the definition of the term. They are interactive films, and there is nothing wrong with that.

We should allow interactive films and interactive stories to be included alongside real games like Zelda and Call of Duty. There is absolutely nothing wrong with interactive narratives as a whole, which is why nobody is arguing that Journey and To The Moon don’t belong with other more popular games. Nobody has an issue as long as the media does not suck. So we as a culture should and do allow interactive narratives to be sold and played alongside real games, and even for the most part put them under the same widespread label of “games.” But I guess in the end, it is simply nothing more than a Semantic Dispute.

But what do you think about this issue? Should games like Journey and Gone Home be considered games?

Lucy Walcott

Lucy Walcott is a writer who loves to talk about political issues and other things. She has been an avid gamer since she was little, focusing almost exclusively on RPG and hack and slash games. Some of her favorites includes The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Ys, and Breath of Fire. Her favorite systems includes PlayStation, Nintendo, and Steam.