[MUD-Dev] DGN: Reasons for play

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Wed Sep 14 19:05:27 CEST 2005

"Lydia Leong" <lwl at black-knight.org> wrote:

> I think we need to think beyond what we traditionally call
> "games", into the broader field of interactive entertainment. That
> includes "software toys" as well as forms of digital entertainment
> that are just emerging or don't yet exist.

This goes into the whole Will Wright "SimCity isn't a game, it's a
toy" thing. Personally, I see "game" the same way I see "book". Just
because you can read something doesn't make it a book, but just
because it is a book doesn't mean it is science fiction. I find
"game" to be equally broad. It doesn't need goals, competition, a
computer, or victory conditions to be a game, but interactivity
alone isn't enough.

The game industry concerns itself almost entirely with a specific
type of game - media entertainment. This mailing list, however,
concerns itself almost entirely with MUDs, some of which are created
for entertainment purposes, but ALL are created for social gaming
(which as we all know, can be anything but entertaining). Likewise,
the military uses games for training and strategy building. And some
games exist purely for competition. "game" should never, ever be
confused for "entertainment".

> Multiplayer games are participatory entertainment. Television is
> becoming, obliquely, more participatory thanks to the Web, online
> chat, etc.; conversely, games are becoming more and more
> cinematic. I think we will eventually see an era where our
> entertainments heavily blend "game" notions with "theater"
> notions.

First off, a book is interactive. Unlike a television program, a
book only progresses when you read it - and how you choose to read
it. In middle school, I only read the dialogue and skipped the
descriptive text. My mom read The Shining, chapter by chapter,
backwards. Television becoming more interactive would simply put it
on the same level as a book on a bookshelf - you can choose what to
read, when, and how. The question becomes, can a book be a "game"?
What about Choose-Your-Own-Adventure? Game or simply interactive

Second, it is a common fallacy for the videogame industry to think
that they alone rule the universe. Not all gaming comes from a
computer chip, as evidenced by the pen and paper RPG and boardgame
market. Even though some of the boardgames are based on computer
games (ie World of Warcraft - I kid not), they are so significantly
different that they have nothing in common. We can create ideologies
that apply to all games, or we can concerntrate on creating theories
for interactive media entertainment, which can not be applied, for
example, to Warhammer 40k.

I do predict that the boardgame/miniature/rpg gaming industries
could one day merge with the videogame industry, but the industry
seems more interested in merging with the movie industry instead. I
think this is a big mistake because it makes worse games and makes
people think that videogames have more in common with movies than
Axis and Allies.

> I don't believe we're anywhere close to having discovered all the
> genres of games that will eventually exist.

I'm going to disagree, just to be difficult. I think we can still
create unique new games within existing genres, and I think we can
still create new genres by simply making simple changes to an old
formula, but I don't think we'll see anything really unique to media
gaming that we haven't already seen. Outside of Pong (the
introduction of the action game), most games are a combination of
concepts found before computers were even invented.

However, I think that social gaming, like MUDs and MMORPGs, is a
completely new paradigm, if by no other virtue than the sheer scale
of it.  You can literally model an entire new society and try it out
safely. Can communism really work? Here's our sandbox. It's a shame
that MMORPGs have become so unambitious in the past couple years. It
truly is the new frontier of gaming... and nobody wants to rock the
boat anymore.

- Sean Howard
MUD-Dev mailing list
MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the mud-dev-archive mailing list