In a recent GameSetWatch post, author ‘simonc’ fawns over an article written by Michael Samyn which presents a top ten list of reasons why computer games aren’t really games, and shouldn’t be considered as such.
Normally I wouldn’t present any ‘Top X’ lists, they’re usually a sign of lazy writing (yes, even the ones on this very site!). But this one spoke to me. It said, “Here are some half-baked ideas to generate some discussion.”
I’m not going to rebut all ten points (conveniently numbered, no less!), but I did want to address a couple.
(More after the break)
“4. Not (just) for children
Games are traditionally considered to be for children. Probably because they are useful tools for learning. They tend to contain simple structures that are easy to understand. As we get older, the things we need to learn become more complex. Games don’t suffice anymore and we often turn to art for exploring ourselves and our surroundings.
The same adults that look down on those simplistic children’s games, are now moving joysticks and pressing buttons on game controllers in front of television sets and computer screens. These are not the same games!…”
It seems to me that the author is confusing ‘can be understood by children’ with ‘intended for children’, the difference is subtle, but it is there. Games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are indeed geared toward children, but games like Scrabble are geared toward anyone with the ability to spell, which is indeed most anyone. Indeed, there are competitive organizations comprised of adults and children.
“6. Players as authors
Traditional games have strict rules. Because of this strictness, you can predict all possible outcomes of any game, based solely on analysis of the rules. Computer games, on the other hand, are much less predictable. While many of them still contain rules (although their strictness is fading with each generation), these rules tend to create options rather than diminish them. So much so that a player can play a game in ways that surprise even its creator. Players can bend the rules to create new games, overcome obstacles by simply combining rules and objects in unexpected ways and they can exploit bugs for fun. Many computer games take advantage of this creative potential and encourage the player to co-author the experience.”
House rules. Arbitrary game rules that folks come up with for a variety of reasons to make their games more enjoyable, or more interesting. Perhaps in ways that the authors of the game did not intend. One of the most well-known (or least well-known, depending on your take) is the Monopoly Free Parking rule. In the official rules, landing on Free Parking does nothing, it’s just a spot where you can park ‘free’ of anything happening to you. Most everyone I’ve ever played the game with uses the variation ‘all money paid to the bank goes to the fund, and if you land on Free Parking, you get the fund’. Variations like this can indeed extend the life of a game, make it more accessible to less apt players, or just provide a change of pace from the norm.
“9. No losing
Contrary to traditional games, computer games cannot be lost. This is especially true for single player games. When people say they lost a computer game, they actually mean that they failed to accomplish a certain task. This often prevents them from making any further progress. So they give up. Nobody wins, nobody loses.”
When you’re playing a game competitively against another player, you can indeed lose. Games like Rampart, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat, T-Mek, one of the myriad Pokémon titles, or any sports game you like. Playing against someone else, there will indeed be a loser. If I’m playing NBA Jam against some random arcade patron, and I score less than him, I’ve not only ‘failed to accomplish the task’ of besting by opponent, but I’ve lost the competition.
“10. Cheating is allowed
In computer games, cheating is often as much fun as obeying the rules. Traditional games break instantly as soon as you start cheating. But computer games often include cheat codes that allow you to have unlimited money or be invulnerable, etc. Traditional games would dissolve instantly if the rules were broken like that, but computer games become all the more fun.”
In traditional games, cheating is far easier than it ever will be in computer games. If you’ve ever played Klondike Solitaire by yourself, I can almost guarantee that you’ve either: looked ahead at the card you’re going to flip over next, checked one of the face-down cards in one of the stacks to see what’s underneath, or snuck a card in where it would have been impossible to do legally, especially in the midst of a long game where you really don’t want to start over.
Most of the rest of the points are incongruous with tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons that, in the comments, the author admits he has little experience with.
Hit the link below for the full article.