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  1. #21
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus soldant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skalpadda View Post
    For me, forming an interpretation of the story is a goal (though my interpretation is by no means definite or conclusive). It exists within the confines of gameplay: navigate the environment to unlock voice-overs which form pieces of that puzzle, find the little vignettes scattered around the island, gain access to the rest of the story.
    From a gameplay perspective though it isn't a goal. It doesn't compare with the goals in Minecraft for example (since sandboxes usually are more difficult to classify as games due to their open nature) because goals in Minecraft are still based around what is possible with gameplay. The exception is Creative Mode which is not game-like.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skalpadda View Post
    I don't see how navigating the environment in Dear Esther to progress to the next area and the next bit of story is (conceptually) any different from navigating through a dungeon in Dragon Age to reach the next part of a quest, for example. Or is an RPG only a game when you're engaged in combat or conversation? Does a shooter stop being a game when I let go of the trigger?
    Those examples you mention have specific gameplay. Navigation through the map in Duke Nukem 3D for example requires that you overcome obstacles in the way of enemies, or traps, or conveniently colour-coded access card doors. Navigating a dungeon in Dragon Age requires a similar sort of thing. If you had an in-depth conversation tree where you had the possibility of success or failure that also counts as gameplay. It has to relate to gameplay. Dear Esther's navigation is akin to walking through a museum and looking at exhibits. The examples you cite are conceptually different because they're rooted in gameplay.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skalpadda View Post
    I never failed anything while playing Mass Effect 2 for example (no deaths, no lost squad members), nor did I ever die during the HL2 episodes, so would those meet your criteria for providing a challenge?
    Passing a challenge with ease does not stop something from being a challenge in this sense. I didn't say that something being easy is not a challenge. What I said was that the "failure conditions" aren't about gameplay, they're about imposing barriers to prevent you wandering off into parts of the game world without geometry. It's like a clip block that prevents you wandering off into the skybox, or "Get back to the battlefield before you die from some unspecified cause!" They aren't challenges. They're more like rules.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skalpadda View Post
    You say the story has no gameplay aspect, but when it's up to the player to unlock and explore the story (through exploring the environment) I would argue very much the opposite.
    So if I said to you "Here's a PowerPoint presentation, there are three buttons: one of them leads to the next story, the others do absolutely nothing" you'd consider that to be a game? If so, would you like to play my game? It's got a cool story about a game that didn't think it was a game.


    Regarding your definition of a game: I can play with lots of things that aren't games. If I play with a pen out of boredom (e.g. fiddling with it), is that a game? If someone plays with their hair (e.g. they twirl it around their fingers), does that count as a game? If I dig a hole in a sandpit without really having any intention in mind, but just for the sheer fun of digging, does that count as a game? Also, what do you mean by "tools to be used within a game"? Does that mean that a controller, because it is used to play a video game, counts as a game itself?

  2. #22
    Obscure Node sirgoit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    If I dig a hole in a sandpit without really having any intention in mind, but just for the sheer fun of digging, does that count as a game?
    If I was to call it 'Dig the Hole' and give a goal of digging the best darn hole possible then would you then consider it a game? If I played through Dear Esther with specific (personal) goals of exploration and understanding why not consider that a game? I would consider DE to be a game but depending on how you played it I can see where you'd disagree.

  3. #23
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    Whether it's a game or not is largely irrelevant. The point is that it does something that, for all the bleating, can't be done in a linear format like a movie. By giving the 'player' control you introduce, if not actual agency, then the illusion of agency. You connect more with the character because you're controlling his every move. That fundamentally changes the experience.

    A similar field would be the visual novel, most of which have some limited choices in them, but some are entirely linear. Even these are very different to just reading a novel, purely through the fact that you have to click through the text, so the system knows exactly where you are in your reading at any point in time, and can add in appropriate sound effects, music and visuals which have a huge influence on the experience. Music, especially, in VNs can be used to take a degree of control over the pacing - you can't force someone to read more quickly, but if you up the tempo of the music you gently encourage that.

    So while these things aren't necessarily 'games', they're using the grammar and vocabulary of gaming to offer new experiences that can't be done as well in other mediums.

  4. #24
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    Video game isn't a medium. Video game engine is a medium. All arguments disappear.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Video game isn't a medium. Video game engine is a medium. All arguments disappear.
    That's an intriguing idea. Can you go into more detail?

  6. #26
    Network Hub Capt. Eduardo del Mango's Avatar
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    I reckon this one is close enough to the 'what is art?' discussion to deter anyone from spending too much time on it.

    Is it a game? What is a 'game'? It's a word, in this context meaning, broadly, interactive entertainment on a computer or console. We know what things are or are not games when they're smack bang in the middle of things - Street Fighter II is a game, Microsoft Word is not - but when it comes to things like say, Dear Esther or Microsoft Flight Simulator, examining whether or not they're 'games' rarely reveals anything more interesting about the item used as an example. What it usually serves to highlight is that 'games', like 'art', is primarily a word, and a fairly poorly defined one at that. Trying to pin down the edges of nebulous, personal concepts like 'game' or 'art' is almost always fruitless.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reinhardt View Post
    That's an intriguing idea. Can you go into more detail?
    I'll try, but I haven't worked out the correct vocabulary. Let's call the Thing in question the Product. The Medium is how the Product is communicated to the Subject. For instance, a book, a motion picture, a letter, a spreadsheet, an interactive first-person simulated world. Now, we can instantly get bogged down with technicalities here, such as whether a book is the same Medium as a letter, or whether a third-person game engine is the same Medium as a first-person game engine. Let's ignore this for now.

    Next, there's the, I don't know what to call it, the aim or type of the Product. The idea of this level is that it's higher-level than genre. The idea is to filter very different uses of a Medium. For books, this would be novel, short story collection, non-fiction, autobiography perhaps, and so on. It's to show there's a lot of stuff you can do with a particular Medium. A spreadsheet is usually a Medium for administrative work, but it can be a Medium for other work, or even a Medium for a game if you wanted it to be.

    And finally underneath this layer you have Genre, which I think everyone knows what it means.
    Last edited by NathanH; 18-03-2012 at 05:33 PM.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  8. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Skalpadda View Post
    Goal: Of course interpreting the story can be a goal, just as finding all the hidden stuff can be a goal. That it's a goal you set for yourself doesn't change that it exists and you made that point yourself above in regards to Minecraft. "See how it ends" is quite a common goal for anything with a story and in this case, to see how it ends you have to play the game.
    I don't think interpreting the story could be considered a goal. It can be a challenge, depending how it's done, but not a goal. Trying to find more clues would be a goal, like in games like Fatal Frame where you can simply navigate the game defeating ghosts until you reach the end, or hunt for every diary and note to get the entire story. Interpreting the story can be an "external" goal, but that's not a goal of the game itself but something the developer wants out of the player.

    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Why are some people so desperate for Dear Esther to be considered a game? I mean, it obviously isn't a game according to common usage. The first line in the "About" section of the product's website says "Dear Esther is a ghost story, told using first-person gaming technologies." This seems to be a very accurate description of what the product is. So why do people want to call it a video game? What is the benefit of extending the term to cover such very different things, that will cause confusions and mistakes?
    People are not desperate for it to be considered a video game (the "mere mortal" definition for video game being "a game on an electronic device with a screen"). It IS a game, though. The description on the website is about marketing. If it wasn't a game, Indie Fund should've had no relationship with it, and IGF should've rejected it. This is the typical case of calling it one way or another depending on how convenient it is. It is a game when it comes to get into festivals and win awards, but it isn't a game when it's about it being "judged" based on gameplay.

    Quote Originally Posted by deano2099 View Post
    Whether it's a game or not is largely irrelevant. The point is that it does something that, for all the bleating, can't be done in a linear format like a movie. By giving the 'player' control you introduce, if not actual agency, then the illusion of agency. You connect more with the character because you're controlling his every move. That fundamentally changes the experience.
    That would've been more meaningful if Dear Esther wasn't basically linear. It's even defined at the begining of the game that your final destination is the glowing red light (that's the reason why, when you start the game, you're looking in that direction even if the path you have to take is exactly 90 to the right), and during your walk you can stray a little, but you're forced to get back on track all the time, either because the game forces you to backtrack, or you walk in circles and end up on the main path.

    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Video game isn't a medium. Video game engine is a medium. All arguments disappear.
    That's like saying movies aren't a medium, but celluloid, DCPs, DVDs and MP4 files are a medium.
    "So dark le con of man"

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia_fan View Post
    That's like saying movies aren't a medium, but celluloid, DCPs, DVDs and MP4 files are a medium.
    That's not what I mean, as I explained above.

    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia_fan View Post
    It IS a game, though.
    Putting it in caps doesn't make it true. In your article you claim it is a video game because, quoting wikipedia, "A video game is an electronic game..." But then you do not justify that it is a game. You've got the electronic part, you've got the interactivity, but you still haven't got the game.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Putting it in caps doesn't make it true. In your article you claim it is a video game because, quoting wikipedia, "A video game is an electronic game..." But then you do not justify that it is a game. You've got the electronic part, you've got the interactivity, but you still haven't got the game.
    And on my response to you posted above I also state that:

    [If it wasn't a game, Indie Fund should've had no relationship with it, and IGF should've rejected it. This is the typical case of calling it one way or another depending on how convenient it is. It is a game when it comes to get into festivals and win awards, but it isn't a game when it's about it being "judged" based on gameplay.
    The reason why I'm using Wikipedia to define what a video game is, is simply because that source will be a lot more belieavable than me saying "according to myself, a video game should be this and that."

    But let's look at what dictionary.com has to say about the subject:

    video game 
    noun 1. any of various games played using a microcomputer with a keyboard and often joysticks to manipulate changes or respond to the action or questions on the screen.

    2. any of various games played using a microchip-controlled device, as an arcade machine or hand-held toy.


    The cambridge dictionary.

    Definition a game in which the player controls moving pictures on a screen by pressing buttons
    (Definition of video game noun from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus Cambridge University Press)
    Merriam-webster dictionary:

    Definition of VIDEO GAME : an electronic game played by means of images on a video screen and often emphasizing fast action




    Note by me: "often" as in "not always," meaning slow paced electronic games played by means of images on a video screen are also 'video games.' Such examples are Myst, Zork Nemesis, and Dear Esther
    I think Dear Esther fits the "video game" definition perfectly.


    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    That's not what I mean, as I explained above.
    Then you should explain how "games are not a medium; a game engine is a medium" is different to "movies are not a medium; movie files, celluloid and DCPs are a medium." Because to me, a game engine is a technology used to make a game, just like film, a DCP or an AVI file is a technology used to present a movie.

    Because so far, all devs out there talk about "video games" as being a medium, and saying that "video game engines" are the "things they use to make the games." This is the first time I read someone stating that "game engines are the medium, not games"
    Last edited by magnolia_fan; 18-03-2012 at 06:53 PM.
    "So dark le con of man"

  11. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia_fan View Post
    If it isn't a game, but an "interactive story" as some say, there was no reason for it to be in the Indie "Games" Festival.
    It is the business of the Indie Games Festival what they choose to call themselves and what products they choose to admit. I don't see how what they say should trouble us one way or another.

    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia_fan View Post
    Then you should explain how "games are not a medium; a game engine is a medium" is different to "movies are not a medium; movie files, celluloid and DCPs are a medium." Because to me, a game engine is a technology used to make a game, just like film, a DCP or an AVI file is a technology used to present a movie.

    Because so far, all devs out there talk about "video games" as being a medium, and saying that "video game engines" are the "things they use to make the games." This is the first time I read someone stating that "game engines are the medium, not games"
    The things you list are the things on which the movie is stored. The corresponding thing for video games would be disks and game files. The medium is the way the product is communicated, for instance written words, or pictures, or moving pictures. The next layer, which I haven't worked out what to call yet, is the layer that distinguishes between things of different order but the same medium, for instance distinguishing novels from reference books. The final layer is genre.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  12. #32
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Skalpadda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    From a gameplay perspective though it isn't a goal. It doesn't compare with the goals in Minecraft for example (since sandboxes usually are more difficult to classify as games due to their open nature) because goals in Minecraft are still based around what is possible with gameplay. The exception is Creative Mode which is not game-like.
    So, solving a puzzle isn't a game? Exploring an environment and finding hidden clues or being rewarded with beautiful sights and sounds isn't a game? Using Minecraft as an example, when I built this I had a goal to build it, it was challenging to figure out how (and took a lot of time), it required me to interact with the game through its rules. I didn't do it in creative mode, but the only thing that would have changed if I did would be method and time. By your definition then, would the process of building not be a game while the gathering of materials is?

    This is the first thing you see in Dear Esther. You're presented with your final destination and a mysterious narrative to figure out (goals). You're the one who has to solve them and navigate the environment (interactivity, challenge) and you have to do so within the limitations imposed by the game (rules).

    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    you had the possibility of success or failure that also counts as gameplay. It has to relate to gameplay. Dear Esther's navigation is akin to walking through a museum and looking at exhibits.
    As I said, Dear Esther has failure states as well; you can drown, fall off a cliff or get lost. If a museum tour presented me with a mystery and hid clues for me to find I would consider that a game.

    Quote Originally Posted by soldant View Post
    So if I said to you "Here's a PowerPoint presentation, there are three buttons: one of them leads to the next story, the others do absolutely nothing" you'd consider that to be a game? If so, would you like to play my game? It's got a cool story about a game that didn't think it was a game.

    Regarding your definition of a game: I can play with lots of things that aren't games. If I play with a pen out of boredom (e.g. fiddling with it), is that a game? If someone plays with their hair (e.g. they twirl it around their fingers), does that count as a game? If I dig a hole in a sandpit without really having any intention in mind, but just for the sheer fun of digging, does that count as a game? Also, what do you mean by "tools to be used within a game"? Does that mean that a controller, because it is used to play a video game, counts as a game itself?
    Your Power Point example would be a really crappy trial and error game, but it's a game of finding the trigger to advance the story. The others, sure, if you approach them as games they're the playing with the pen game, twirling your hair game and the diggy-diggy hole game. The controller is a tool you use in a game which form parts of it's rules and mechanics, just as the pen, your hair and the shovel and sand are.


    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia_fan View Post
    I don't think interpreting the story could be considered a goal. It can be a challenge, depending how it's done, but not a goal. Trying to find more clues would be a goal
    But surely the goal of finding more clues is to better understand the story. Alternatively you could view it as a scavenger hunt which, when done recreationally, certainly is a game.
    Last edited by Skalpadda; 18-03-2012 at 10:45 PM. Reason: grammar

  13. #33
    Apparently, mystery = game.

    Any puzzle, any thought on the audience's part, means you're playing a game.

    Ugh.

  14. #34
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Skalpadda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abacus Finch View Post
    Ugh.
    No one is saying you have to think it's a good game.

    edit: Also, mystery does not equal game. The game is in exploring the mystery and trying to solve it.
    Last edited by Skalpadda; 18-03-2012 at 11:09 PM.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skalpadda View Post
    No one is saying you have to think it's a good game.
    Well, that is a problem though. Even if we stretch the definition far enough to make it a game, it probably doesn't end up being a very good game, but we'd have to judge it as one. I don't really want to judge it as a game. I think that would be missing the point.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  16. #36
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Skalpadda's Avatar
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    I enjoyed Dear Esther, so to me it's a good game.

  17. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    The things you list are the things on which the movie is stored. The corresponding thing for video games would be disks and game files. The medium is the way the product is communicated, for instance written words, or pictures, or moving pictures. The next layer, which I haven't worked out what to call yet, is the layer that distinguishes between things of different order but the same medium, for instance distinguishing novels from reference books. The final layer is genre.
    So by definition, if game engines are the medium because is the "technology" powering the product, the medium in movies is either the projector, or the Avid? You've talked much about the product, the genre, and whatnot, but you're still failing to simply explain why a game engine is the "medium."

    Or you can simply forget about the subject completely, because developers have pretty much agreed that video games are a medium. They all talk about "pushing videogames as a medium" while engines are just considered technology. And there's also the fact that there are so many engines out there, so we can simply start saying "this game pushes the unreal medium, while that game pushes the flash medium."

    Quote Originally Posted by Abacus Finch View Post
    Apparently, mystery = game.

    Any puzzle, any thought on the audience's part, means you're playing a game.

    Ugh.
    So you're on the side of "Dear Esther is not a game, is an 'interactive experience' "?

    Quote Originally Posted by NathanH View Post
    Well, that is a problem though. Even if we stretch the definition far enough to make it a game, it probably doesn't end up being a very good game, but we'd have to judge it as one. I don't really want to judge it as a game. I think that would be missing the point.
    According to all the different definitions (all taken from dictionaries) I posted 3 or 4 posts above, Dear Esther is a game, where the gameplay is walking.[

    Quote Originally Posted by Skalpadda View Post
    But surely the goal of finding more clues is to better understand the story. Alternatively you could view it as a scavenger hunt which, when done recreationally, certainly is a game.
    Yeah, but the gameplay aspect of finding clues is defeated by the fact that you can walk like 20 meters to one side before having to return to your original path, and that you rarely "find" clues as dialogues are on automatic pilot.
    That's why on my blog post I stated (or at least I think I implied) that you don't need monsters, puzzles, or a shotgun to make the game "better," you just need the exploration side to actually mean something = let me explore the damn island instead of forcing me to walk directly to the red light without being able to stray a little, and give me something meaningful by doing so.
    Last edited by magnolia_fan; 18-03-2012 at 11:31 PM.
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  18. #38
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    I think you're deliberately being obtuse now. For example, you claim that all your dictionary definitions demonstrate that Dear Esther is a game. But all your dictionary definitions (of video games) begin "...is a game...". So in order for it to be a video game, you have to demonstrate that it is a game. Which, you'll note, is exactly what I wrote before. So I don't think there's any point in continuing here.
    Irrelevant on further examination of the rest of the thread.

  19. #39
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Skalpadda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magnolia_fan View Post
    Yeah, but the gameplay aspect of finding clues is defeated by the fact that you can walk like 20 meters to one side before having to return to your original path, and that you rarely "find" clues as dialogues are on automatic pilot.
    That's why on my blog post I stated (or at least I think I implied) that you don't need monsters, puzzles, or a shotgun to make the game "better," you just need the exploration side to actually mean something = let me explore the damn island instead of forcing me to walk directly to the red light without being able to stray a little, and give me something meaningful by doing so.
    Quite a lot of the dialogue triggers are in places where you have to explore away from the most direct route to find them. The voice-over clips are not the only things to find either; there are the chemical and electronics diagrams, bible quotes, the little vignettes with photos, the defibrillator, the car parts etc. If you have to walk off the beaten path to find them then that's exploration (which I consider to be a game mechanic) and I can't see how it matters if you're walking 20 or 200 meters to get there.

  20. #40
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    Dear Esther started as a mod of the Source game engine. Now that title is its own entity using that same Source engine. This thing is now being distributed by a service that almost exclusively deals in games. The previous are plausible reasons to consider Dear Esther as a game: made with a game engine and distributed by a game company on a game distribution service.

    This could also describe machinima. Except, in machinima one only watches and cannot move about the made environment according to one's will. Actively exploring an environment provides a different experience than passively waiting for a film crew to present it to you. Being allowed to actively move to a point in order to discover something carries more weight than being shown a discovery that someone else took the action to obtain.

    The interactivity of Dear Esther happens mostly in the head(or heart or soul). The presentation provides very little "game". For example, through most adventure games the player presses only a single button the entire time. However, on screen this one button press, opens doors, combines objects, pulls, pushes, slaps, or anything else the developers add. The interactivity is presented through the game itself. Dear Esther lacks this on-screen action. Instead it relies on the user bringing his or her own personality to the table.
    A painting provides a single scene, a film provides many scenes - and sound. Games provide multiple scenes, sound, and the ability to take action within the scene itself. All three share the ability of allowing the audience to pull in outside influences. Dear Esther's impact is very much dependent on these outside influences.

    So we have a thing with less interaction than is commonly found in anything called a game, but it also allows us to control the moving about, which films lack completely. The closest experiences I can think of for Dear Esther are installation art and architecture. Both of those things allow for the audience to have more control over how they experience the creation.

    It would have been really interesting if they had described Dear Esther, in its current form, as a film or machinima. I can imagine people buying it, running it, and staring at the screen waiting for something to happen. When they realize you have to move the story along yourself, would they be outraged or intrigued? Maybe it would have sparked a new wave of "film-making" where in the audience can take an active roll - active machinima. Or maybe the whole idea will go nowhere.

    Just call the thing Dear Esther if calling it a game bothers you that much.

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