Nov 21, 2017

Redefining Video Game Definitions

As humans, we try to organize and categorize everything for the sake of understanding. I find our lack scientific rigor for this practice specifically within the realm of video games to be extremely troubling (on a personal, super-subjective level). I appreciate your efforts though, Wikipedia.

I'm going to flip our methodology for categorizing and organizing video games on its head with all the dignity and research that a 30-minute lunch break will allow.

I'd like there to be a (better) structure for assigning descriptions, upon which I base my purchase decisions, to video games. There's not really a need for this; I'm just easily confused, and still have 25 minutes to work with.

The challenge is that video games are often held unfairly parallel to literature or television. The latter are absorbed linearly; most people observe them from front-to-back/start-to-finish. Most video games, however, allow you to actively affect the experience across two, three and four dimensions. This interactivity should completely separate video games from passive experiences, and we should define them appropriately.

As a fan of coding, I recommend using attribute categories common to most video games, and defining games with attributes from each category. For example, when looking at a video game with which I'm unfamiliar, I'd like to know the following (arranged into a memorable "5 Ps" alliteration, because I had 10 minutes leftover to go back and think of five appropriate 'P' words):
  1. Play;
  2. Perspective;
  3. Passage;
  4. Participation; and
  5. Platform.

Note that many games merit multiple attributes from each category. This accuracy is desirable, but with great accuracy comes great tediousness and wasted time, so I take caution.

1. Play
This is the actual gameplay genre, and it's the first category listed because we're already familiar with it. It includes attributes like "shooter," "beat-em-up" and "RPG."

2. Perspective
This category describes how the participant views the game world, and is again something with which we're familiar. It includes dimensions 2, 2.5 and 3, and first-, third- and fourth-person (creator-like) views.

3. Passage
The word "passage" is a stretch, but dangit it had to start with a "P." It's how the participant passes through space, such as "two-axis," "side scrolling," "into-the-screen" and "open world."

4. Participation
This is partially a catch-all (and completely a cop-out), but should truly call out any yet-unmentioned notes that affect game-play. "A fourth-person, static-screen music video creator/editor" may not truly capture the beauty that is Marky Mark's "Make My Video" for the Sega CD.

5. Platforms
It's literally a list of what systems or computers offer compatibility with the game. It's more than simply informative; it also provides the opportunity for immediate judgement. If it's only available for the Ouya, you should probably pass.

This should be slapped on the back of every game box. Wouldn't it have been great to see "2-D, 2-Axis Platforming Plumber Cartoon for the NES" instead of some lame description provided by Super Mario Bros 3's biased publishers? I would have purchased a PlayStation much sooner had I understood Twisted Metal to be a "PlayStation 3-D, Open World Driver-Shooter with a famous scary clown" instead of "a gladatorial arena for the gas-guzzling heavily armored monsters that cruise the highways."

In fact, I'd like to use five of my remaining 15 minutes to say that this may become the foundation for solving every problem in video gaming. Categories could be added for completion quality and percentage purchased, where developers note how much time you'll spend downloading patches or grinding to overcome a pay-to-win scenario. A more accurate rating category could be built, where "adult" attributes are selected to let parents know exactly how much smut a game contains, as opposed to an arbitrary letter system.

If this doesn't solve every problem in video gaming, I can't think of a single 20-minute solution that will. I've got 10 more minutes to mull it over, though...