A while ago, I heard about a... "thing" called Proteus. The best way I can describe it is that it's a randomly generated 3D island where the whole world looks like it was drawn in 8-bit graphics. What you do in the... game(?) is just explore the island and watch things happen. I think there's an end to it, too.
Just a few days ago I heard about aanother creation of a similar kind. It's called "Mountain" and it's on Steam, under the games category. In this... ... Well, you watch a mountain floating in the middle of outer space. You can look around it and watch as things happen. Not a lot of things, but it isn't completely static.
With the appearance of these new works of art, a debate has started about whether these are games or not. Some people want to consider them games, and others don't. Somehow, questions about whether these things are art or should be worth money got caught in the debate, which caused some misunderstandings.
What is a game
I think a game has two fundamental aspects:
The first and most important aspect is a condition of success or failure. If you meet the condition of success, you win. If you meet the condition of failure, you lose. Some games don't have a success condition, like Tetris mode A. Other games don't have a failure condition, like Animal Crossing. But a game without success or failure isn't really a game.
The second aspect of a game is that player must be able to make decisions that can affect the outcome of the game, towards success or failure. Whether it's moving a character towards his destination, pushing a button at the right time in a quick time event or moving a jewel in a puzzle game, the player much be able to control the game.
By these standards, both Proteus and Mountain are not games. They're missing a way to win or lose, which means the player certainly cannot make any decisions as to where the game goes. It may surprise you, but the old board game, "Snakes and Ladders", is not a game. It has a success condition, but the player has no control over the outcome. In every turn you're given a random number. Hopefully one day you'll reach the end.
Why is this a subject of debate?
I think one problem is that people confuse "not a game" with "not good". So they get the idea that, if it isn't a game, it isn't worth money. The people arguing that Mountain is a game, should remember that it does not have any less value just because it is not called a game.
People also seem to be confusing the word "game" with the word "art". Many artists have tried to break the boundary between what is art and what isn't. Now, everything is art as long as the artist intended it to be art. The people arguing here are trying to do the same thing with the word "game". Art is subjective, games aren't. We don't need to change the definition of the word "game" for the sake of being artistic. It's pointless and causes confusion.
I have heard the argument: "What should we call these things if not games?" I think "interactive art" is a good way to describe them. I have an entire gallery filled with interactive art. My animations are not games. My Amber's Journey games are, though.
Thanks for reading
Well, I hope this won't be as controversial as my last journal about video games. I just want to comment on what I think is a harmless topic.
So, it's been 3 months since I promised to make the new animation, and it's still not done. I think it's a new record of the longest time I have ever spent without making a new interactive animation. I'm afraid I've been so lazy and uninspired this summer. And I just got back to university, where I am not feeling very confident this year.
Anyways, I'm sorry. I want the animation to be done already, too. But it doesn't seem to make itself on its own.