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Thanks, And Not Not Games

Thank you all for coming to BoA last week! We meant to post the text below on the morning, but didn’t have time. The Stubnitz is an incredible venue, the weather was fortuitously sunny, we had a lot of fun running it, and judging by Twitter you all had a lot of fun being there too. There are a few hundred megabytes of photos as well as 38 gigs of video to sift through; we’ll get on posting that as soon as we can.

(Unfinished games, by Michael Brough)

This is the text from the programme last Friday, written by David Hayward:

There’s been a particular wave function in my brain for the past few years, and I’ve been waiting for it to collapse. In the run up to this Bit of Alright, I think it did.

It started in 2009 when I heard Frank Lantz say “Games are not media”, and that we’d been suckered into thinking of them that way because, just like other media, until recently they came on a disc in a box. To think of them that way excludes thousands of years of heritage and culture that is, undoubtedly, “games”.

At the same time, it’s useful to think of videogames as media. The reason I started making and working with games is because, as such, they are so inherently weird. A decade ago, in a life with too many commitments related to other cultural forms, I slowly pared it down to games as the most important and interesting one, because in some sense they incorporated all the others I was giving up.

Considered as a medium, games are strange and plastic, able to mimic every prior form as well as absorb and invent new ones. There’s been a lot of shouting and defining things as “not games” recently. In the midst of that I’ve realised that possibly the only thing I feel like defining as not being games, is the medium we work in.

I might be wrong, but thinking of it that way, for now at least, is interesting. Whatever this medium is, it doesn’t have a punchy name, nor an easily understandable verb for making things with it beyond the anodyne sounding “develop”. I think that points to a broken bit in our language; a corner we’ve talked ourselves into. Like a pre-industrial toolkit or a pre-Cambrian way of thinking about life, we have a colloquial framework that can’t keep up with the evolution of the thing it’s describing.

Making that mistake was probably a really important part of defending what’s unique in it from land grabs initiated by older, more established things. It feels like that’s no longer necessary though. Whatever this medium is, games are a thing we can express through it. It mashes system design together with all prior forms of media. It is the strangest and most syncretic medium in history, and it’s ours.

Posted on: 2 Comments

2 Responses

  1. Clyde says:

    How does the medium from which games are created differ from the medium where calculators, photo-editing apps, and Facebook are created?

    I also understand the power of definitions and categories, so I can understand the need for naming this pool of possiblity space.

  2. admin says:

    It doesn’t! And that’s opening up a world of interesting thought for us 🙂

    (Sorry, I didn’t see this comment in the queue until now).

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