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Videogames Are Not Games–And Why That Matters

We often use the terms “videogame” and “game” interchangeably these days. And while it is true that videogames can certainly be games, it is important to note that they are not games in any exclusive way. Rather than being a “new kind of game,” videogames are complex artifacts that exist in the overlap of many complex categories, none of which have hard boundaries; these include digital media, interactive media, computational media, nonlinear media, games, and narrative machines, among others. These categories are all interesting and distinct in their own ways: not all digital media is interactive, or computational; not all interactive media is nonlinear or digital–each of these categories is vast and varied, and so are videogames. Why does this realization matter? Because if we get stuck thinking about videogames in one way–that they are “games,” or that they are “story machines”–that’s going to limit the ways we look to understand and appreciate them, and it’s also going to limit the kinds of videogames that we make, which would be a shame.

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