What is a video game? FInding a answer to that question is one of the most disputed topics for us gamers. How can you find a definition for something that is Call of Duty, Angry Birds and everything in between? On the cover of Edge magazine it says “The future of interactive entertainment” that does work except it also covers board games. I read a quote by someone that said video games are “a series of interesting choices” I like this definition because it also incorporates those games that otherwise could be argued are not video games; such as Journey and Dear Ester. It is my favorite definition because it points out the fundamental thing that makes video games different from most other forms of entertainment, choice.
From Skyrim to Journey the player is constantly making a series of choices. On the surface Journey seems to be a game with no choice you simply walk toward the mountain you can’t die there is no combat and only a few encounters that could be called puzzles. But if you think about it it’s filled with choice, you can choose to admire the scenery or just blast through the game and not give it a second thought. This brings me to another important thing that only video games can do environmental storytelling. From the dead drops in infamous to the audio tapes in Bioshock they are all totally optional you could totally ignore them. The Last of Us took it a step forward and perfected what I call background environmental storytelling. What I mean by that is instead of there being an audio tape, something that once found requires no more brain power from the player, in The Last of Us you need to stop and look at the environment around you. Interpreting what you see with no help from the game. However, what about a game that has none of this? Let’s to the fundamental definition, choice.
Imagine a game were there is only one button when you press it on the screen a balloon gets bigger when you stop pressing the balloon starts to deflate. You are given twenty seconds the bigger the balloon is at the end of those twenty seconds the more points you earn. The catch is the bigger the balloon gets the higher its chance is of popping which means you loose. In this scenario there is no story no combat nothing that usually associated with a video game there is simply one choice: how big do you want the balloon to be? However, you could not deny that it is a video game. If we ignore the fact that life is “a series of interesting choices” and focus on the different major types of entertainment: books, movies, music and video games. The only thing that can claim to have “a series of interesting choices” is video games. Clearly we are a long way from a definition that only applies to video games and I think we probably never will. I see it as unanswerable as the question “what is art?” but still, it is fun to try.