Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
 
That is not a game!

Compared to other media, discussing games is more complicated, because there are two very distinctive parts to it: Gameplay and story. For a long time reviews were pretty much limited to discussing gameplay, but with the advances of technology that becomes less and less viable. There are more and more games out there where the gameplay is very simple to the point of being nearly non-existing, but the story is very important, for example the recent "Her Story".

I'm sharing Azuriel's dislike of games that are about blind choices, where you are being told a story and have to make a decision with no hint of what the consequences of that decision are going to be. So I recognize the story value of games like "80 Days" or "Ryan North's To Be Or Not To Be", but find them aggravating to play. In other cases I'm okay with the gameplay, but dislike the story, setting, or the message the game is sending, for example with "Fallout Shelter". So I see gameplay and story as separate issues, but both have to be right for a game to be enjoyable to me.

The trap that I see many people falling into is saying that if for either gameplay or story reasons they don't like a game, "that is not a game!". Well, then what else is it? I can't really understand why Clicker Heroes is one of the top ten played games on Steam, but I wouldn't know what other than "game" I would call it. The whole genre started with satire games like Progressquest and Cow Clicker, and then surprised the satirists by their popularity. An argument can be made that these idle games are "stupid", but I refuse to call them "not a game", because that would require a needlessly complicated definition of what a game is, just so that we could exclude the games we don't like from the definition.

Comments:
The Wikipedia definition would be enough: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game

To show why these are not games (and I started to feel World of Warcraft falling into this group), let's imagine the following situation: your DVD player malfunctions, pausing the film randomly, but you can restart by pressing the pause key on the remote. So experiencing the story needs you to press a key again and again when prompted by the frozen screen. Would you call this malfunctioning DVD player a "game console"?
 
Oh dear, Tobold. I refer you for the umpteenth time to Toys and Games.

For comparison, let's imagine the game is "reading a book". I must interact with the book to complete it. The game-play element is called "turning the page". In order to progress to the next page and get one page closer to my goal of reading the complete book, I must interact with the book to turn the page. Moreover for full marks, I must read every line on the pages in front of me before I turn the page.

You would not describe this as a game, yet it has more game-play than the "games" you mentioned. In fact, they are more like reading a book or watching a film than they are like playing a game.

 
You are confusing design and outcome. The malfunctioning DVD player is a malfunctioning DVD player. The game that is designed to lead you from story fragment to story fragment by pushing buttons is a game by design, even if the outcome is superficially similar. World of Warcraft enters fully into the Wikipedia definition you cited yourself. Nowhere in that definition does it say that a game may not have cutscenes which aren't interactive.
 
I must remark that all your analogies are extremely faulty.

But the book is a good example of what you don't understand, because there ARE game books. The difference is that you have to make a decision at the end of one page, and based on that decision you are being told which page to turn to. That is what turns the "book" into a "game". You can't consumer "Her Story" or "80 Days" in a linear mode without making any decision, so these are games, not books or DVDs.
 
Indeed Tobold. There are game books where the book is a game. And that's because the reader makes meaningful decisions and can lose the game if they make the wrong choice. That's not the case with Clicker Heroes and Progress Quest.

I fully accept that "80 days" and "To be or not to be" are games.

 
So what is Clicker Heroes if not a game? Is it a book? Is it a movie? I don't think so. It is a game with meaningless decisions. Nowhere does it say that a game needs a loss condition to be a game. You can't lose League of Legends either (the overall game, not any individual match).
 
The problem here is that "game" is just far too broad a category to be meaningful. It's of the order of categorizing Tallis and Odd Future as "music". It may be true but it doesn't forward many discussions.

 
Clicker Heroes is essentially a resource management game. You set up an engine that produces money and hero souls. Money acts as fuel for your engine while hero souls let you upgrade your engine. At certain point your engine will shut down as it cannot generate fuel in enough quantities to operate. At this point you reset your progress, use your hero souls to upgrade and then start up your improved engine.
 
If I intentionally brake the DVD player, would it become a gaming console?

When I referenced WoW, I didn't mean cutscenes. I meant that to advance the story being told in quests and cutscenes, you have to click on mob and press a random hotkey. You can literally make a /castrandom macro key and level up pressing just that one key (some dude did it, couldn't find the video).

Anyway, for a game, "decisions that affect the outcome" is necessary. In the case of the broken DVD, clicker heroes and WoW leveling, your only decision is stopping playing. Every other action will lead to a progress on a pre-written story.


 
If I intentionally brake the DVD player, would it become a gaming console?

If your DVD player has brakes, then it's almost definitely a gaming console.
 
I hate you. I installed Clicker Heroes. It's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. Yet, it's addictive as hell. I hate you.
 
"Anyway, for a game, "decisions that affect the outcome" is necessary. In the case of the broken DVD, clicker heroes and WoW leveling, your only decision is stopping playing. Every other action will lead to a progress on a pre-written story."

That same logic would apply to Tetris, Super Mario Bros or EVE. All consequences in a game are "pre-written" due to the game being a computer program. The game part is all about manipulating those consequences to get the outcome you want.

BTW Clicker Heroes is extremely similar to running a business in EVE. :)
 
Tobold, you wrote:
So what is Clicker Heroes if not a game? Is it a book? Is it a movie? I don't think so. It is a game with meaningless decisions.

It's a toy. An amusement. Reread the article I linked earlier. To be precise, "Clicker Heroes" is the software (the toy) with which you experience "Clicker Heroes" the amusement, the pastime. In the same way that a book is the equipment you need for the pastime of reading. You can call Clicker Heroes a game, but only in the same sense that you can call "reading a novel" a game.

Nowhere does it say that a game needs a loss condition to be a game.
Nowhere? What about here? Or here?


You can't lose League of Legends either (the overall game, not any individual match).

Would you listen to yourself, Tobold?
 
Dàchéng, have you actually played Clicker Heroes? Fundamentally, the game is more like playing SimCity than reading a book.
 
Back in the late 90's we joked about making a game called "The Big Button" that featured nothing but a big button. When you pressed it, you got experience. When you got enough exp, you leveled up and stuff would happen... like fireworks or the button shaking.

We should have made that. It would still be pulling in money today.
 
Well, Dacheng, please explain to me how you can possibly lose League of Legends. Or any other MOBA, or any other MMORPG (including EVE). None of them has a loss condition. Even if you lose every single match, you never lose the game. In many games like World of Tanks you still advance if you lose, just slower.

And sorry, a link to a blog has no more value than my opinion on that issue. Games do not need to have loss conditions!
 
Try Clicker Heroes with any random auto clicker program. Big numbers. Just for the fun of it, then you can uninstall the game. Also, it helps you realize that you will never "finish" it, unless you click the mouse for years.
 
Actually, a properly upgraded 'idle' setup will beat an autoclicker. There is actually very little clicking going on in higher levels of ClickerHeroes.
 
@Nielas: in tetris you have multiple options and also personal skill (can you make the decision fast enough) matters.

@Tobold: can you lose chess? Not the actual match, but chess at all?
EVE or LoL all are series of matches with outcome affected by your performance, just like chess.

If we want to talk about winning and losing the games themselves, we can refer to toplists where every match moves you. You can be chess master, you can be in platinum for League or become space-famous in EVE.
 
@Gevlon: So how is that any different from wiping in a raid or losing a PvP arena match in World of Warcraft? At least in WoW you don't gain skills offline, like in EVE.
 
I was talking about leveling, dungeons, dailies. I do not question that arenas and progression raiding are games.
 
How does that change anything? You can die during leveling, dungeons, or dailies, even if the likelihood of that happening is not very high. That is why I compared it to games like League of Legends or World of Tanks: There are fail modes for the individual bits of the game, but even a series of failures always leads to progress. The difference between "playing well" and "playing badly" is not failure, but just different speed of progress.
 
In League of Legends you don't progress by bad playing. You'll forever be in bronze.
 
You don't progress BEYOND A CERTAIN POINT. But if you compare the state of a fresh account with the state of an account that has played extremely badly for a long time, you see that there is a huge progress from the one to the other. The same is true for World of Warcraft. At any given point there is an ilvl of gear which you can reach without skill (currently 695), and from there on it becomes impossible to progress further without being skilled.

Basically it is not any given game what we are talking about here. It is a certain level in any given game. Even in so-called hardcore games these days a fresh account can faceroll for a certain time and see progress before he gets stuck at some point. Some games just have a longer faceroll period than others.
 
Tobold, you asked
"Well, Dacheng, please explain to me how you can possibly lose League of Legends" and "You can't lose League of Legends either (the overall game, not any individual match)."

I refer you to Gevlon's previous germane response:
"can you lose chess? Not the actual match, but chess"?

To indulge your trolling a little further, Tobold, let me just say that you are conflating two different usages of the word "game", one being a concrete instance of the other. "The game of chess" is an abstract concept, referring to the rules and equipment, and Elune knows what else. "A game of chess" is a concrete example of the former. You can lose "a game of chess", not "the game of chess". You can lose "a game of soccer" not "the game of soccer". If I say my team beat yours at soccer, I mean that my team beat yours at a game or series of games of soccer, not that they somehow beat you at an abstract concept.

Similarly, as you know well, "League of Legends" means both the software used to play "a game of League of Legends", and is also a shorthand for "a game (or a series of games) of League of Legends". In the sense of "the game of League of Legends", you can no more win this than you can win "the game of chess".
 
@Dacheng: But League of Legends, and World of Warcraft, and World of Tanks, and many other games have an additional layer compared to chess. Around the series of "a game/match of X" there is another game which is generally about using the rewards you get for each additional match to modify the conditions of the next match. Chess doesn't have that, you don't get a better starting condition in the next game because you won the previous one. So beyond individual matches there is *the* game of WoW/LoL/WoT as expression for that outer shell of the game, not for the software.

The accusation was that "World of Warcraft is not a game, you can't lose it". I still see absolutely no difference between LoL and WoW here, except that WoW has far more different sub-games, some of which have a loss condition while others haven't. But just like your WoW characters only ever get stronger, your LoL account will also accumulate various rewards like champions and runes which make a difference.
 
"Chess doesn't have that, you don't get a better starting condition in the next game because you won the previous one."

You do: you get a higher ELO rating which allows you to enter tournaments with bigger prizes. Also, in a Swiss system tournament, players who win will be seeded against players who lost.
 
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