Seawolf Slug: What exactly is a ‘game’?

Graphic by Roz Kirkelie
Graphic by Roz Kirkelie

As you could probably tell from the headline, a strange question has been wracking George’s brain for a few years. Several games such as “Journey,” “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons,” and this issue’s review, “Continue?9876543210,” (man, is he sick of typing that game’s title) have tested the limits of what it really means to be a video game.

“Continue?9876” — you know what? I’m just going to call it “Joe” from now on — “Joe” feels more like a game than the other examples I just listed, but its strange nature, lack of menus and odd ways of explaining itself definitely put it apart from other games on the market. And then we have abstract games like “Journey” or “Gone Home” which have become their own new genre, which George has just started calling the “Journey” genre for convenience’s sake. I, too, think that’s a pretty fitting name.

Now, understand that I had no games where I came from, because Slug entertainment was no game. Well, actually, that’s not true, we have entertaining telepathic messages from other slugs, as well as pitting animals from the species we have enslaved in battles to the death (see my sports article for more info on that one), but unlike your video games, we never directly interact with anything when it comes to Slug entertainment.

George’s mind knows a lot about gaming, though, since he is a massive shameless nerd who has no life, so thankfully I’ll still have some info to go on.

To answer the question, “What is a game?” I think looking up a dictionary definition would be adequate. Hm, let’s see … Google search … Aha!

“Game. (N.) Words you use to get the opposite sex into bed.”

Oh wow. That sounds nothing like the games that George talks about. Judging from his experiences, I doubt he’s even that great at games.

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Wait a minute. George is telling me that’s Urban Dictionary, and that I need to use a real dictionary. You guys are really confusing sometimes. Alright, normal dictionary …

Okay, a few definitions.

“An amusement or pastime.”

That seems pretty straightforward. George has been playing these for a while, and he’s found a lot of them amusing. But there are still games like “Spec Ops: The Line” and “Joe” that are still not built to be fun or amusing.

“The material or equipment used in playing certain games.”

So, consoles, discs, downloads — yeah, those are games, alright. Next.

“A competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators.”

Sports. Yeah. I’ve written about that in the past, and yes, we have sports video games. You see fighting game tournaments and League of Legends tournaments everywhere these days.

“A single occasion of such an activity, or a definite portion of one.”

Oh, as in “last game of the season.” That makes sense, but unless it’s the last of a trilogy or something, it doesn’t really have anything to do with video games.

“The number of points required to win a game.”

Well that’s kind of irrelevant nowadays. I mean, what video game requires points anymore? This isn’t the ‘80s.

So, uh … it kind of ends there. Video game is a whole other definition, but the dictionary assumes that all video games fall under that general “games” definition, which, as we’ve seen in “Spec Ops” and “Joe,” is kind of a silly assumption.

So has the term “video game” grown out of date? I think it may have. When you look at a dark, story-driven game like “Joe” and pit it against the definition of games, they don’t really match up. So what do we call them instead?

“Interactive experiences?” Nah, that’s too long. We need to think of something better.

Well, in the meantime, I guess I’ll just call them “Flurgleburgle.” While it sounds silly, it’s still not as silly or undignified as the word “game” is.

So Flurgleburgle on, Flurgleburgle fans. And remember: