I saw on Greg Costikyan's blog, his Nov. 18th entry, that there's been some recent discussion about whether certain games, especially MMOGs (massively multiplayer online games), are, in fact, "games." The key issue is whether a game without an ending is really a game, or something else. According to Greg's blog, Raph Koster, who lead the Star Wars Galaxy project, has labeled his product a "persistent world," saying that it's not really a game as we know it.
Lisbeth Klastrup, Assistant Professor at DIAC at the IT University at Copenhagen, writes in her blog on Nov. 20th: "I believe some virtual worlds have so many game elements that they could be considered as marginal forms of games (such as EQ and the other RPG worlds). However, I do prefer the term gameworld instead of game, to me there is a difference: EQ is both a world and a game at the same time, not either-or. I know a lot of games project a world, but they are not primarily gameworlds. I wish we could reserve the term 'gameworld' for those virtual worlds which are dominated by gaming activities."
Okay, since I've got this little blog thing, I get to toss in my two tokens.
Scott's Screamingly Obvious Point #1: I find it ludicrous that we cannot call EQ, SWG, UO, and all other MMOGs "games." The opposing idea is that something without a win condition doesn't qualify as a true game. But, in this day and age, a win condition is NOT a required goal. Games are also designed around short-term goals, such as getting a better weapon, acquiring new skills, reaching new areas of the gameworld, and so on. These many short-term goals are really mini-games that do have a "quantifiable conclusion." The be-all, end-all quantifiable conclusion is simple not a requirement.
Scott's Screamingly Obvious Point #2: Asteroids. Space Invaders. Pac Man. Defender. Robotron. Five of the biggest arcade games ever. Oops! Can't call them "games" -- they don't have an ending.
Um, they ARE games. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs a good spanking.
Scott's Screamingly Obvious Point #3: If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... This is the point that Greg made in his blog. Let's not get hung up on silly technicalities. If gamers of the world all say, "Hey, are ya gonna buy that new 'online game', EverQuest 2?", then the game industry as a whole, including academics, should step in line with the lingo.
Finally, one last opinion that I'll toss in purely as a bonus: Who cares!!! Seriously, it's not like we need to work out the definition of the word "game" to make 'em! And frankly, I prefer to think of what we do as making "entertainment." Not that it matters, though. But there's a reason our company was renamed from Apogee Software in 1994 to 3D Realms Entertainment, because we saw the bigger picture. We saw that we could -- hopefully! -- make games that would have life in other entertainment industries, such as the movie industry, in comics, novels, or as toys. When you think in terms of making entertainment, it gets you thinking about including hooks that might interest the other media branches. And maybe best of all, you don't need to worry if your game has an ending.
And with that, this post comes to a quantifiable conclusion.