Name Games

There has been some talk lately about the video game industry moving on from the name “video games”. The argument is the term is too juvenile for the future of the industry. Some people say with the name “video games” the main stream will never accept it as a mature art form or entertainment medium. Others argue that for some games the term isn’t very accurate. Are Flower or Wii Fit really games in the traditional sense? My argument in this debate is … that is BS.

Ok, so that was a little vague, let me flesh it out.

Is changing the name really going to be the thing that makes the main stream accept it? Will a name change suddenly make the critics think of games as art rather than just toys? Will it make 12 year olds stop screaming slurs while you are playing Call of Duty or Halo? The answer is no. A name change will mean nothing to the main stream. Most people who don’t play games just call everything a Nintendo as it is. I doubt they would adopt any new term people come up with for video games.

Video games today still aren’t as widely enjoyed as movies or television, but the name isn’t the reason. The medium is still young, as are the majority of those who play video games. Most adults who are already not playing video games will probably not start now. Over time, though, the core audience will begin to grow up. The average age of a typical gamer will rise. It is already rising today. The number of people who don’t play video games will shrink smaller and smaller until gamers are the majority. A name change isn’t needed to bring gaming to the main stream. All we need is time. Soon enough video games will be as widely recognized as any other entertainment medium.

Another reason for a potential name change is that some video games don’t feel like traditional games. The latest example of this is Heavy Rain. Many people view the upcoming Heavy Rain as less of a video game and more of an interactive movie or story. Even the creator of Heavy Rain, David Cage, has said that he doesn’t even think of Heavy Rain as a video game anymore.

That statement makes it seem like Mr. Cage wants to put Heavy Rain above the medium it is in. I think Heavy Rain looks totally different than any video game I have seen. I am eagerly awaiting its release in just a few days. But why isn’t it a video game? Because of its mature (real mature, not just blood and/or boobs mature) story? Its long cut scenes? Its unique game play mechanics? The lack of space marines, a health bar, or chainsaw guns?

I believe that Heavy Rain could push the boundaries of what to expect from video games. It could redefine what can be done in our amazingly flexible medium. But if you stop thinking of Heavy Rain as a video game, it cuts off the medium as a whole from this broadening of scope. Any game now or in the future that pushes the boundaries shouldn’t be above their medium. If that happens, suddenly you have games that are worth this new classification and some that aren’t. I believe that the medium as a whole deserves respect, not just the few pieces of work that are different enough for people to believe they are better than everything that has come before. Heavy Rain wouldn’t be here without Mario, Link, Sonic, Metroid, Cloud, Master Chief, Kratos, Nathon Drake, Marcus Fenix and a whole lot of others. Without video games’ past, its future would be non-existent. I believe that we owe that past more than to turn our back on it because we think the term “video games” is too childish.

Of course I am just one voice in this debate. Feel free to argue with me, agree with me, call me an idiot, whatever you want, in the comments.

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  • I think we should keep the name. There are a few games that are like interactive movies and no one has ever complained before.