Whats in a Game?

Games are hard to define. Really, really hard to define. What is the common elements in a game between kids, a video game and a board game? A lot of ludologists have tried to define it, and in my honest opinion to no avail. To play a game just seems to come really natural to humans, and we don’t need a proper definition to understand it.

Definitions aside though, that isn’t the focus of this blog post, but rather a little bit more of a positive rambling about the future of games and the medium. In many ways, gaming is still in the early stages, unlike other huge entertainment mediums. Stories are several millennia old, going all the way back to the Bronze Age. So does the music industry. The film industry has been around since the start of the previous century. They’ve all had a lot of time to grow into their possibilities, whereas gaming has been around since the 70’s, hugely popular since the 90’s.


To bring it back to the headline, what is in a game? If you asked people to tell you about a game, you would probably be told about Mario, or Candy Crush, or another famous hit. But lately we’ve seen the medium expand in so many ways.

  • You have Journey who brought an emotional yet somewhat simple story to the forefront. Simple graphics, no way of communicating to your potential ally, yet a strong experience to everyone I’ve talked to who have played the game.
  • Amnesia turned the horror genre on it’s head by removing weaponry and combat entirely, forcing the player to hide and get away from the monsters. Taking a quick check at youtube over Amnesia reactions proves how wildly effective this was.
  • AR and VR has been making headway into our lives, AR with games like Pokemon Go, and several big names publishing VR headsets. Though Pokemon Go can be criticized for a lot of things, it was undeniably popular and well known. To the point where I could even talk to my parents about it, two people who haven’t touched a game since the early 2000’s.
  • Undertale launched in 2015 as an indie success, an RPG where you could befriend the monsters instead of fighting them. In fact, killing the monsters would forever tarnish your Undertale experience after finishing the game, tainting every future playthrough as the game remembers your brutality.
  • Farmville, a game few gamers would admit they are playing actively. Yet it brought millions of “casuals” into Facebook to fix their farm daily. For weeks, months, years.
  • And finally, Minecraft. If you had asked an investor if they wanted to support an indie game where you made stuff with mega-pixelated blocks, chances are they wouldn’t fund or support you. But that didn’t stop “Notch” from making the insanely popular Minecraft. Huge massive recreations of whatever you can imagine, be it the Mines of Moria (from Lord of the Rings) or King’s Landing (from Game of Thrones).

All of these examples are pretty different, yet they all have one thing in common. They popularized a huge change in how we play our games. Be it a narrative shift, a gameplay shift or just a completely new thing we haven’t seen before, they all brought something to the forefront.

New ideas and thoughts are brought into the game industry every day. Yes, we see the fifth Uncharted game or the god-knows-what-number Call of Duty game be released, but among them we also see the Limbo or TowerFall. They do something different, or something old yet fun. Be it an improvement of something old, or something entirely new, the game industry is still growing up in many ways, and I think people in general should be happy about that.

With every new addition to the game industry, it will be forever harder to define what a game really is. How would you, considering it can be everything from a board game, to running around in the woods pretending you are a gnome, to wearing a virtual reality headset and see worlds one could only imagine until recently. But to all the consumers out there, that is only a good thing, and I think they will have a lot of experiences to look forward to, that all of us can only begin to imagine.

You know, when we aren’t talking about lootboxes, Destiny 2 scandals, overpriced DLCs or the messed up faces of Andromeda. Specially that last one.

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