What do you mean, "Videogame"?
Although this might read a lot like a haphazard cover-up to my previous blog post where I explained how I don’t like videogames anymore, I’ve been meaning to follow up on it, especially since I’ve had plenty of time to think on things. After distancing myself from games to some extent, I’ve had the luxury to look at the industry from the perspective of an outsider. Having played the role of an avid gamer, an independent creator and finally also an apathetic bystander, I feel I’ve developed a more comprehensive understanding of the medium and my place in all of what’s going on in the field.
There’s definitely a lot going on. The medium has evolved and developed into many different forms that have ceased to resemble each other in any conceivable way, all of which still cling to the same broad category. The term “videogame” has lost its meaning to me. A lot of people far smarter and accomplished, have gone to great lengths to define the term “videogame” - definitions that are simple and abstract to a point where they can accommodate a wide array of interactive computer games. The medium has a come a long way in just a few decades. Years of innovation and iteration have spawned new varieties of interactive media and perfected certain forms that have stood the test of time.
With all this progress in the medium, I feel that to some extent, we’ve failed to develop the language around it. Words that previously had meaning are saturated after their meaning is inflated beyond a certain point, at which stage they must be broken down so we can point at things individually. We have an underdeveloped taxonomy for the subcategories of games which hasn’t come into form just yet which is why the umbrella term “videogame” still persists. No meaningful discourse can take place with the blanket term “videogame” that gets thrown around so casually. To think we’re making any meaning using that term to me seems silly at this point. We resort to using words that we hope mean the same thing to everyone, but they don’t, and any discourse which takes place using those words naturally generates plenty of unnecessary friction that isn’t particularly healthy, because it’s not meaningful debate. It is not productive. After a point, someone has to stop and realize we’re going in circles. Someone has to take the science forward.
While I trust there is benefit to be had from putting things into categories, it is also something that can keep a piece of work from realizing its true potential. Whenever a thing is put in a category we stifle it somewhat. Once it’s made to belong to that group, it is only allowed to grow within the confines of what defines that group. It goes to some length to fulfill those expectations and demands, even if it was never meant to do so. Progress is definitely slowed to some extent, it takes longer for it to mature into its final form, slowly discovering what makes it unique from its siblings within the group that is no longer able to contain it.
I think all of this in part goes to explain what I really meant when I said that I don’t like videogames anymore. A “videogame” means a lot of different things and I don’t associate with most of what we create and celebrate today. I’m sure I could pen my thoughts with a lot more tact and precision, but to put it bluntly, I really just feel that most titles that surface to the mainstream are extremely shallow and uninteresting. The optimist inside me would like to say that I don’t like playing games anymore because nobody is making the kind I want to play. I’ve not matched wavelengths with the general consensus on what makes our medium great and what direction it should take going forward for quite a while. I’ve been a proud member of the “videogame club” for many years now, but I don’t know my place in it anymore. Surrounded by the sludge of VR shovelware and cinematic big budget borefests, I feel I’ve lost sight of what made games great and engaging to me in the first place. In populating this blog with my thoughts on what makes games interesting to me and exciting for me to play, I hope to rediscover my place in all of what’s going on here and find a quiet corner from where I can continue working on games that I’m passionate about.