I have talked about this subject before, about what games are, and could be (and how that might give some options for the MMO space), but there was an interesting article on Gamasutra this week, that I just had to link. In an article called 'The Contradiction of Linearity', Michaël Samyn of Tales of Tales, outlines some thoughts on where games have come from, and what they could be, and what he would like to see them become.
It makes for an interesting read, and read the comments too for some interesting dialog from the author...personally, I don't think my thoughts on the matter have changed that much. I still think that many fall into the trap of over thinking this particular debate. Computer games are a fantastic medium, because they can be so many different things to so many people.
Samyn himself goes on, in the comments, to label fact that the genre is know as computer games as an 'unfortunate heritage'. Which implied, to me at least in the context of his article, that the linear nature of progression was always a bad thing that the genre would be better off without (maybe more charitably, he is simply saying that the linear nature imposes restrictions on our artistic nature). Now personally I think that misses the point slightly, in that, sure it could be true from one perspective, but the beauty of such an interactive medium, is that a game can be many things. From a generic AAA shooter, through an iPad puzzle game, a hidden item browser game through to an art house production like The Path. From the most structured of linear experiences, like say, any Halo title, to the open form freedom of Minecraft, from Flower through Plants vs Zombies to Assassins Creed. From a sports title to a flight sim, they are all games, and all valid expressions of the medium.
..saying effectively that game-play itself might end up optional in some way moves us away from being actual 'computer games', and then they would be 'computer ....', well, actually I am not sure what you would call it. I guess it would depend on the author. Might be 'computer art' or 'computer interactive experiences' but to be a 'computer game' you have to keep the 'game' part.
They could well be a valid form of expression however, and might have to leverage peoples expectations of games, or interest in games, to gain a foothold in the public imagination, but I am not sure they would actually be games then...
He adds in one of the comments to the post:
When we start treating videogames as a medium, the content will define the quality of the experience more than the form. What is the challenge of reading book? Of listening to music?I'm not advocating randomness! I want to increase the role of the author in the creation of videogames. We need to figure out how we want to satisfy our players. And our players will need to learn how to optimize their experience with our productions.I don't have the answers. I'm only suggesting that we start looking for some. And the only way to do that is to get our hands dirty and dive in. This is a case where our imagination is indeed the limit: there is no way we can imagine these types of videogames. We have to make them to see.
Now to me, that is already happening! I would argue that there are many game creators doing just that already. What it won't do is fit into one slim, or narrow, definition, of what games 'should be'...because games will always be different things to different people. Some will for sure have deep cultural resonance, and even more so in the future, but by the same token, some will be just what they are supposed to be...games...games, that help us idle away some time and escape from reality for a little while.
It is though a very interesting discussion. Like I said at the top, personally it 'overthinks' the subject a little for my tastes...but debate is what sparks thought, and that drives our imaginations one way or another, so thinking about the questions is always a good thing!