Sleeping Gods: The meaning of “video games” (as computer-driven interaction systems?)

This was initially posted as a response to Tadhg Kelly’s blog post Techthulhu [Games and Future Fantasy] [@].

I think lack of sleep, yesterday’s ruminations on biometrics, and a few weeks of dissecting the philosophy behind joss whedon’s entertainment efforts all came together for me just now, to make a perfectly crazy ass rant. I started to re-read this and cringed. it might seem to contradict itself from once sentence to the next? is it one of THOSE crazy-as-fuck level rants? … huh. I dunno. but some of it struck me as very interesting. So i’m recording it here in my blog. hopefully revisit later (to either rethink it, or revise it to be easier to read). woof.

I think this statement [ed: that video games have matured and won’t intrinsically change as the technology driving them becomes more sophisticated] is false, because you’re trying to separate technology from an art-form which requires technology. (it would be false to take the computer out of computer gaming?)

Older arts just used a certain level of technology to create the product. computer games use technology to create, and then to process the audience reaction, and then to deliver the product.

Maybe the key issue is : how are we all defining the term “game?” Would you agree that board games and computer games are intrinsically different? I think the core of playing computer games is “making meaningful choices in a system.” The sophistication of the technology that : receives your inputs, calculates their meaning, and delivers a response – is everything. Improving the technology will change: 1) the way you input, 2) the level of meaning that is derived from your input, and 3) the way a response is delivered.

To shift gears, I think it is telling that:
– The audience doesn’t have to learn “how” to listen to a song every time they start up a new one. now how to use their eyeballs to see a painting. but they do need to learn how to experience each new computer game.
– The Film maker doesn’t reinvent the camera technology each new movie. the painter doesn’t reinvent the brush. But computer games constantly create new tools from scratch.

Since past arts resulted in a static product, there was a baseline to the experience. On some level everyone would experience the same output from the piece of art. Changing the sophistication of creation wouldn’t really change how people experienced the final piece of art. But sophistication does become key when you add “creation” and “interaction” to the mix, bookending the “experience” portion.
… In way the classic “past arts” strike me as very similar to the middle step in the process I babbled about above (“2)” Where the computer evaluates input, and tries to decide what it’s response is).

(…which distracts me into thinking that maybe, in the “art” of computer gaming, we human beings are the really the works of art, and the computer is the audience/critic deciding what we mean).

ahem. anywho. bleh.

The original (?) Lumiere Bros. Cinématographe (movie camera) seems to give everything you need to make movies. Arguably, moviemaking matured in the 20s, when editing and storytelling were sorted out and the ~2 hour mark started to be widely embraced.

But advances in technology have notably changed the definition of movies since then. Youtube, for example, has deepened the meaning of “movie making” to encompass this weird phenomenon of “crowd accelerated innovation” (a neat idea taken from a recent Wired article). This “meaning” of movies wasn’t possible with the original tech. it has broadened the artform past limitations. (yeah?)

… and maybe this is the point really. that the original techniques will endure, but the limitations of computer games will get much broader as technology improves…

I guess I’m being freaky to admit: I think someday people may look back and say “is it really a computer game if it didn’t use biometric feedbacks to deduce the player’s intent and personalize the input, access their play histories and psych profiles to properly evaluate the meaning of today’s inputs, and finally upload results to the internet to improve all other gameplay session parameters and update society? Weren’t Pong and Doom more like little ‘finger movies’ that sort of happened on a screen after your fingers mashed some buttons and nobs.” … maybe by that point we’ll stop calling them “video games” and go with “interaction systems” or something. ugh.

(… well, i enjoyed your article, and enjoyed this rambling response. But I’m not sure I’ve made a point. ehh. my brain has certainly died! wee!)

One thought on “Sleeping Gods: The meaning of “video games” (as computer-driven interaction systems?)

  1. “The sophistication of the technology that : receives your inputs, calculates their meaning, and delivers a response”


    I am behind the times in gaming, but to me this defines very well both computer and board games. I do not think the definition of what is a game will change, but rather as with Sims or WOW gamer technology will be used to create something closer to a complete world. Games are incomplete worlds, and that’s why geeks like them. Geeks can’t deal with the complexity of a real world, and enjoy mastering a system with a more limited set of input/response.

    “But advances in technology have notably changed the definition of movies since then. Youtube, for example, has deepened the meaning of “movie making”…”

    Oh so false. Youtube has made video art shallower, much as TV did compared to film.

    Real biometrics will take games and make something entirely other than a game. You need a new word for the territory u r staking out. As I am a luddite, it may come to pass that and u will be my mortal enemy, but all mortal enemies should start out as good friends. But since u don’t believe in enemies really I guess this won’t happen, and I’m glad of that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *