Discussion Mondays: Just What Is A Game?

One of the most subjective topics ever covered on Gamer Crash comes from the good folks at United We Game. The challenge this month was to write about what makes a game a game. The challenge proved to be a lot more difficult than I originally anticipated mainly because it’s a topic that has no defined beginning or end…or middle for that matter. It’s a question that means something totally different to each individual and that’s the genius of it I guess.

The answer to this question has changed for me a lot over the years. I grew up with the NES which also means this was a time without the internet. I’ll let that sink in for a moment because I know there are some of you reading this which probably can’t fathom this. For me, thinking about that is mind blowing. So while you and I will have different answers for ‘What Is A Game’, let me try to describe what games mean to me.

With the NES, there seemed to be games releasing at a constant rate. You were as likely to play a good game as you were to play a knock off or a quickly developed piece of trash. Without reviews, media coverage, or online videos to tell us what the deal was with games, it was more or less a judgment call to spend your hard earned (or in my case, my parent’s hard earned) money on a title. It was also a lot easier to swing and miss on a game in terms of quality. Back then, games to me were something I could play and have fun with. This was also a time that my Dad and I played games together quite a bit as they were still new enough that we would typically end up learning how to play together. I have so many good memories during these times from Metroid, to Contra, to a huge list of games. Games to me during this time also represented a bonding experience with my Dad.

As I grew up over the years, the fun excuse turned more into a hobby and then a passion. I don’t want to say I took things really seriously, but sometimes it felt that way. Games were quickly becoming too complex for my Dad to keep up with and while he played significantly less, I got the itch to play more. I consumed as many games as I could get my hands on growing up in the late 90s to mid 2000s with systems like the SNES, N64, and the criminally overlooked GameCube. Thankfully my friends had many of the other systems like the Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, Xbox, PlayStation and PS2 to name a few so I did get to experience life on “the other side” of Nintendo as well. I got a healthy dose of everything the gaming world had to offer and I loved it. I’d say it was this time that really cemented my love of games and what they had to offer.

These days, my time is way more limited than it used to be with “real life” things taking priority, so again the definition has changed. For me, it’s moved back into more of a fun way to pass the time. I still try to play as many games as I can get my hands on, but my time with them is a little more limited than how it used to be. It’s almost like I can enjoy them a bit more, savor them like a fine wine if that makes any sense.

It goes without saying that video games have had a massive impact on my life and helped to shaped who I am in this world. If there’s one defining characteristic of games through my life it’s the “experience” that games offer. For me, games represent the experience more than anything else as they tend to imprint the time and place where you played them, who you were with and what you were doing. I have a ton of wonderful memories tied to specific games. It may sound silly to some of you, but I honestly wouldn’t trade these memories for anything. From the good moments, to the moments where games have helped my through tough times, video games are more than just shapes you can move on a screen. They’re a part of me.

Seriously though, If you want to see more answers to this question, make sure to visit the gentlemen and ladies of United We Game. Not only are they some wonderful people, but there’s a ton of diverse perspectives over there. Make sure to go check them out.

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4 Responses to Discussion Mondays: Just What Is A Game?

  1. Hatm0nster says:

    The Gamecube was (and still kind of is) criminally underrated! It was easily portable, somehow got a lot out of those mini-discs they decided to use, and is home to one of the best fighting game to be made (MELEE!!!).

    It is interesting how limitation of time increased one’s appreciation for the game’s they’re plying isn’t it? For me it’s stopped being simply “what I do” and changed into a chance to slow down and take in the story and world being presented…kind of like how it used to be in the beginning come to think of it…that’s kinda weird actually…

    • It’s funny how forgotten the Gamecube seems even though it had a ton of great games during it’s life cycle. I still have a bunch of games from that era!

      Those minidisks though…odd little things.

      Yeah, Games have completely evolved for me over the years typically ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. I guess when you have limited time, you take greater care in what you play and spend that limited time with.

  2. C. T. Murphy says:

    Games occupy this strange space for me. While I often read as a diversion, that’s mostly a byproduct of sinking myself into an engrossing bit of fiction or nonfiction. The same goes for music and movies. With games, I sometimes seek the diversion aspects first and foremost. I just want something to occupy my time with a little fun, but not in any way be a critical experience.

    This isn’t always or even most often the case. I don’t think I would blogging so often about games if I didn’t view them with a similar critical passion to other mediums. It’s just one of the few things I have held onto from childhood that I do sometimes solely for the fun and not for the enlightenment.

  3. Pingback: What is a Video Game? A Conversation (with Myself) | Recollections of Play

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