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Wednesday, February 02, 2005


" 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - - that's all.' "

-Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"
Before entering a monologue or ten on videogames, I need to explain my feelings about certain terminology which has developed. Firstly, I don't like the usage of the term "game industry" to refer to games in general. To call great experiences like Metroid and Zelda products of an industry is practically desecration in my opinion. Calling games part of an industry implies that they are being made systematically, that the only reason to make them is to make money. Now, I don't doubt that that is true of certain companies' games, so whenever I want to refer to that particular branch of games derogatorily, I will call it the "Game Industry". Actually, I think the description "videogame" should be a bit archaic. Imagine the world a few centuries from now, when machines (inevitably) do all the meaningless chores with which we currently are forced to occupy ourselves. I think it's easy to imagine many people who will live in virtual worlds which are a logical extension of today's MMORPGs, and then isn't calling it a "videogame" a bit silly?! Not that we're anywhere near that stage, unfortunately, but it's the same medium. Also, a "game" is by implication primarily entertainment (and not art), which is not always true of videogames. But alas, I do not know of a better term for the medium, and so I am forced to use this inadequate one. If someone comes up with a better phrase, I'll use it. In the meantime, I will try to refer to each Form [of game] as its own entity ("Platformer," "Movie," "Book," "Adventure") rather than compare apples to oranges by using the collective "videogames". I will refer to games as a whole as "gamism". Similarly, I don't like the technical-sounding term "developer" when referring to creative positions, so I will use "gamist". And of course there is the adjective and adverb forms of the word: "gamistic" and "gamistically".

Another thing which I should explain: When I say "Form," (as I did in the last paragraph) I'm referring to any form of either art or entertainment, interactive or noninteractive or anything in between, because theoretically all forms of art and entertainment are encompassed in gamism. Okay, I'll back up a little. Here's a riddle I love asking: Say you have an electronic piano which is plugged into a video game console which is plugged into a TV. In the console is a program which reads sheet music (which either is on the disc or needs to be downloaded off the internet). This program keeps track of where you are in the music as you play it. This music program is a videogame, where the player is responding to symbols on the screen with his controller, which happens to be an electronic piano. Before you say that this isn't really a videogame, consider that Dance Dance Revolution is pretty much the same, with a special controller with which you must respond to on-screen symbols at the right time. The only substantial difference is that music, being around for millenia, has reached a stage where it allows for a lot of depth.
A second example: you have a VR headset, and are strapped into a machine that tracks every movement you make, and allows you to run in place, jump, etc. Now run a sports game- say, soccer. This will be practically indistinguishable from the real thing. Now, as I've said in a previous post, this is sort of a waste of money, but you have admit this is a possible game. (In this example, the movement machine is your controller, and the headset is the screen.) This shows that interactive entertainments such as sports will also theoretically be part of gamism, when sooner or later the technology necessary to create these experiences becomes available.
Finally, I'll take a noninteractive Form- movies. If a movie were made in the format of a videogame console (very easy), you could put it in your console, watch it on the TV, and use the controller as a remote control. This, too, is contained in gamism.
All in all, Gamism is defined as containing both all of Art and all of Entertainment, converted into a digital format. By my definition, a videogame is any member of gamism.

Another phrase I like to use is "Impatient Phoenix," which I use mainly to refer to Nintendo's latest efforts. A pheonix is a bird which dies and is reborn from the ashes. An Impatient Pheonix kills itself early so that it can be born again, its favorite part of life. I think this is a bad idea, because it can never get past infancy if it gets into this routine. This problem is called Impatient Pheonix Syndrome (IPS). Since Nintendo has been calling their DS a "third pillar" next to Gamecube and Game Boy Advance, and since Nintendo's lineup for it seems based on IPS, the Nintendo DS shall be called the Pillar of the Impatient Phoenix, at least until Nintendo stops killing itself.

For now - - that's all.



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