Should "walking simulators" be considered games?

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A thing I thought when I remembered the Sunset dev meltdown story. If you need to define games, then having gameplay is a pretty crucial criteria, even if it's bad, either intentionally (Papers, Please for example) or not. It seems the definitions people think of games are that it's on a PC or console, which is equivelant of saying a take away menu is a book because it contains words on paper. Going to a spot and maybe pressing a key is not gameplay.

Of course it's not a cut and dry matter but I think having a definition what is games and what's not is pretty important. With walking simulators defining themselves something that is more apt, like "Visual Narrative" for example.

Some are games. Others are virtual museums where you are just walking from one piece of art to the other, which may or may not be connected to each-other by a common theme. Not to say that those aren't entertaining, but they might not be games.

I remember there being a Jurassic Park game on the pc that is basically this, you are exploring a museum of dinosaur bones and reading text about the various dinosaurs, there's no actual game.

I'm honestly torn. I'd lean towards "interactive media" personally. But the loosest definition of game I can find is

activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.

Which frankly is so broad that anything is a game. But then there are other definitions that do not describe all things we consider video games. Such as

a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules.

Not all games are competitive. Sandboxes for instance. a lot of single player games could be argued to be the player competing against the game itself. But just open world dicking around stuff, doesn't really have an end or win condition. It's just the player having fun. There's no competition. Just the player engaging in activity they find fun. Which if walking simulators tickle you for some reason I guess applies to them as well.

I don't think it really matters, as long as the mechanics are displayed clearly on the tin. A game like Gone Home is basically a modern first-person shooter with the combat taken out and replaced with point-and-click adventure mechanics. Dear Esther on the other hand? I'm not sure, but I'm comfortable calling it a game as there is an objective to reach. The "gameplay" comes from navigating the island, much like Gone Home's "gameplay" comes from exploring the house and using a keen eye to pick up on the game's story.

I think the word "game" is really loose. Are puzzles games? Is a crossword or a sudoku a game? Is "I spy" a game? Do all sports qualify as "games"? I mean fishing is considered a sport yet I doubt most people would call it a game, while football can easily be called a game by most.

Which brings me back to my first point. It doesn't really matter.

I don't know... It gets more complex then people expect though. I mean sunset has a gamey elements in it even. It has defined goals that you can fail, time management, it even has something of a binary morally meeter. How do you define a walking simulator?

If somebody disagrees that something is game, it's not necessarily that they're attempting to say that it's somehow bad or they're against that type of media or anything. Some people might be, but at least from my perspective it's just a matter of categorical concern, and that's all it is.

My brother watches Elmo's World, and there's an episode about games, and they use "Frère Jacques" as an example of a game...and I'm just like "that's not a &%#$ing game!" under my breath <_<

Corey Schaff:
If somebody disagrees that something is game, it's not necessarily that they're attempting to say that it's somehow bad or they're against that type of media or anything. Some people might be, but at least from my perspective it's just a matter of categorical concern, and that's all it is.

My brother watches Elmo's World, and there's an episode about games, and they use "Frère Jacques" as an example of a game...and I'm just like "that's not a &%#$ing game!" under my breath <_<

We kind of have to accept that the definition of game is very very broad and not really that useful on it's own. That's why we further divide game with categories like "board" and "video" and from there further divide into genre's and subgenres.

I think at some point a word definition become so broad as to become meaningless. To me calling a walking simulator a video game is like calling a "TV series" a "movie", there obviously very related but there fundamentally different experience and it's a good things there called differently. Imagine walking in on a movie theatre to discover you just payed for the first episode of a 30 minute series. Similarly imagine buying a walking simulator expecting gameplay only to find out there aren't any, it doesn't mean you don't like the experience (just like in the tv series example it doesn't mean you don't like the tv series episode presented) but that's not what you wanted. I also don't see why some people would insist on calling walking simulator video game, your just setting up people for disappointment.

Corey Schaff:
If somebody disagrees that something is game, it's not necessarily that they're attempting to say that it's somehow bad or they're against that type of media or anything. Some people might be, but at least from my perspective it's just a matter of categorical concern, and that's all it is.

That's very nice as a theoretical point, but it tends not to fit the reality of the situation where "X isn't a game" isn't thrown about by someone just looking for categorical clarity, they're doing it because they think it serves as a condemnation of whatever X is.

As such, yes, walking simulators should be considered video games. They're shown through the medium of video to the audience, and not only do you interact with them, but your interaction is crucial to the things performance. If someone wants to play gatekeeper with the terms of their hobby and cut out those things they want to disparage, I expect them to come up with a clear-cut definition to use. And, once they come up with one, I will happily go through all of the things they're no longer allowed to consider video games.

If VN's are games, "walking simulators" certainly are.

Although, my personal definition is "does the creator call it a game?" If so, yes. If not, no.

Then we can then critique it through the correct lense. I'm wary of defining an entire genre as "bad" or "good" by default.

altnameJag:
If VN's are games, "walking simulators" certainly are.

Although, my personal definition is "does the creator call it a game?" If so, yes. If not, no.

Then we can then critique it through the correct lense. I'm wary of defining an entire genre as "bad" or "good" by default.

I don't think Visual Novels are games, they're just the video equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure Books, and those aren't games either in my opinion. I like a good CYOA/VN, mind you.

Corey Schaff:

altnameJag:
If VN's are games, "walking simulators" certainly are.

Although, my personal definition is "does the creator call it a game?" If so, yes. If not, no.

Then we can then critique it through the correct lense. I'm wary of defining an entire genre as "bad" or "good" by default.

I don't think Visual Novels are games, they're just the video equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure Books, and those aren't games either in my opinion. I like a good CYOA/VN, mind you.

To each their own. *shrug*

In my mind, you could replace 95%-99% of the combat in Mass Effect or FF7 and get the same amount of game out of it. I got very little out of "press the button to kill the generic baddie".

Meiam:
I also don't see why some people would insist on calling walking simulator video game, your just setting up people for disappointment.

Walking simulators are games, FPS's are games, RPGs are games, sports sims are games, point and click adventures are games, puzzle games are games, RTS's are games. "Game" covers a wide variety of experiences. Someone being disappointed because they bought a "walking simulator" purely because they assumed being a "game" implies anything about the gameplay therein is just as much at fault if they bought Mass Effect and were upset that it wasn't Call Of Duty because it's a "game". You said yourself, "game" is such a broad term it's essentially meaningless. Buying a game purely because "it's a game", rather than basing the purchase on the genre of game, is your own fault.

Corey Schaff:

altnameJag:
If VN's are games, "walking simulators" certainly are.

Although, my personal definition is "does the creator call it a game?" If so, yes. If not, no.

Then we can then critique it through the correct lense. I'm wary of defining an entire genre as "bad" or "good" by default.

I don't think Visual Novels are games, they're just the video equivalent of Choose Your Own Adventure Books, and those aren't games either in my opinion. I like a good CYOA/VN, mind you.

In cyoa there are generally loss scenarios too. I've had a few that were essentially single player p&p rpgs.

Look at Dread. It's basically a choose your own adventure style tabletop rpg.

Yeah the loose conditions in cyoa books are often arbitrary, such as "Oh you went down the wrong corridor. You're dead now." But a lot of old school videogames were often just as bad.

But maybe we're going about this wrong. We need to figure out what definition of game we're working from here. Otherwise it's just a meaningless back and forth of opinions.

In the same way The Cat in the Hat is a book.

I always see this argument as missing the point. Yes, VNs and walking simulators meet the technical definitions of a video game, but that was never what was being asserted. What is being asserted is that their lack of failure state, skill based or intellectual challenge, and general sedentary nature, make them unworthy to build any form of gamer cred on. Conversely, what is being complained about is how some see gamer as a title you don't get without facing some form of higher challenge that they don't want to or feel they should have to meet.

My own take, since I come from a place of humility toward myself, is to say that while the junior jumble and the New York Times crossword have a similar structure, they're hardly equal, and walking around looking at the pretty graphics isn't on par with mastering Dark Souls.

altnameJag:
If VN's are games, "walking simulators" certainly are.

Although, my personal definition is "does the creator call it a game?" If so, yes. If not, no.

Then we can then critique it through the correct lense. I'm wary of defining an entire genre as "bad" or "good" by default.

Actually VN's are not games by the regular terms and the reason I started this thread, since they have their own definiton rather than games.

Spot1990:

Meiam:
I also don't see why some people would insist on calling walking simulator video game, your just setting up people for disappointment.

Walking simulators are games, FPS's are games, RPGs are games, sports sims are games, point and click adventures are games, puzzle games are games, RTS's are games. "Game" covers a wide variety of experiences. Someone being disappointed because they bought a "walking simulator" purely because they assumed being a "game" implies anything about the gameplay therein is just as much at fault if they bought Mass Effect and were upset that it wasn't Call Of Duty because it's a "game". You said yourself, "game" is such a broad term it's essentially meaningless. Buying a game purely because "it's a game", rather than basing the purchase on the genre of game, is your own fault.

How are walking simulator games? Is walking in a museum in real life considered a game? Games are not a package of narrative, they are, well, a game, with rules and an ability to lose and win.

While yes, people like to use "not a videogame" as an insult, in the end we made the term apply to anything virtual, making it lose it's idea completely and even worse made some insane idea that games must not be fun to be deep.

Walking simulator is a terrible term considering these games play out more like first person point and click puzzles (even though I use it myself). They tend to feel like games to me. They require my thinking and input to complete fully. Ok there is no combat, but since when did combat define what a game is. To be fair, I call flicking chick peas at blind people a game...that doesn't even require walking or a computer!

Xsjadoblayde:
Walking simulator is a terrible term considering these games play out more like first person point and click puzzles (even though I use it myself). They tend to feel like games to me. They require my thinking and input to complete fully. Ok there is no combat, but since when did combat define what a game is. To be fair, I call flicking chick peas at blind people a game...that doesn't even require walking or a computer!

That's nice and all, but nearly every game considered a walking simulator has largely been a game I have to turn my brain off completely to find anything good about them. And about the only thing you can say is a good thing about them is that more often than not, their art is nice. The abomination that was AMFP, Kurosavia, Dear Ester, Gone Home, etc(Okay, I hate the Chinese Room, sue me). All of them have nice art, and you can see alot of care was put into that part, but not much in the way of actual gameplay or challenge that a two year old can't figure out.

And that is the problem, there is no challenge or obstacle to overcome in these games for the most part. AMFP is not a horror game, there's nothing remotely scary because they have no ability(maybe motivation) to create the atmosphere required, they just keep shoving pig noises and pigmen in your face. Gone Home was marketed largely as a suspense/horror game, and all it is is you wandering around one of the worst constructed houses I've ever seen picking up bad handwritten notes(which would be ok if so many of them weren't so hard to read, but there's too many shifts in brain gears between wandering around and picking the crap up).

Games are defined by their gameplay. Story means nothing if you don't get involved in some kind of conflict, and it carries no weight if you have no possibility that it stops if you fail. You may play games solely for the story, but if you take out the conflict of ME, you're left with a subpar space opera that got worse the farther you get into the franchise. You take it out of a JRPG, and you get FF13.

Spot1990:

But maybe we're going about this wrong. We need to figure out what definition of game we're working from here. Otherwise it's just a meaningless back and forth of opinions.

On that train of thought, I found this curator group on steam:

http://store.steampowered.com/curator/6859533-The-Game-Police/

I've never heard of this "2008 Games Definition Act" and on an immediate google search I don't see anything definitive so this might be a joke

EDIT: On further reading it most definitely is a joke <_<, my apologies.

it'd be very useful to define what a game is I agree. I feel like the best way to do this might be cladistically (that is, gather up all the things boil them down to their traits, and organize them into groups and subgroups based on how many traits they share with other things)

There's definitely a sliding spectrum, I think. They're definitely different from esports, or other games oriented around skill and challenge.

Spot1990:
I'm honestly torn. I'd lean towards "interactive media" personally. But the loosest definition of game I can find is

activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.

Which frankly is so broad that anything is a game. But then there are other definitions that do not describe all things we consider video games. Such as

a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules.

Not all games are competitive. Sandboxes for instance. a lot of single player games could be argued to be the player competing against the game itself. But just open world dicking around stuff, doesn't really have an end or win condition. It's just the player having fun. There's no competition. Just the player engaging in activity they find fun. Which if walking simulators tickle you for some reason I guess applies to them as well.

Pretty much this. The question is.. 'Are you having fun?'

If you're having fun and it contains an interactive element of some point. I.e something you are required to do, some action you are required to take... then it is a game. Walking Simulator even grass simulator are games...the thing is, the market may be quite niche. This is not a bad thing after all, there's always be mainstream, cross-stream and niche markets. Niche markets if properly cultivated can become mainstream. Remember a couple decades a go, Video games were a niche market. RTS games were a Niche market, FIghting games were a niche market. But those markets grew.

Saddly I think we've reached the point where 'Tuber bAit' ios also a niche market.

Sure. I had more fun with Gone Home than with any modern "M4 wielding Simon says simulator" since we are now calling game genres by their derogatory nicknames.

I was thinking about this the other day, and one thing I see tossed around for if it's a game or not is if there's a lose condition.

However, there's a few games where there technically isn't.

So thinking on it more, I came to the conclusion that a good differentiator is "Is it possible for you to have a unique experience from everyone else that plays it"

A book or movie will always be presented in the exact same way to every person that reads it. However, with games, it's possible for people to have emergent gameplay moments that create hilarious stories, play alternate paths that others never saw, hidden endings, unlockable gear, and so on.

I guess, in short, if people can be talking at a watercooler and one has a "Woah, I never had that happen!" moment, it's definitely a game, as opposed to interactive media.

That largely depends on your definitions of "game" and "video game".

For some, a video game requires some kind of win/loss state and some modicum of skill to complete. For others, a video game is simply a form of interactive entertainment, with the only requirement being that it is displayed by and interacted with through some computer system.

Fact is, more often than not, the terms are so nebulous as to border on useless as specified definitions. So again, it all depends on ones personal definition of the given terms.

Because of this, walking simulators are video games, if we decide to use "video game" as "interactive media". I'm comfortable with this definition for now, but as this industry and it's specific form of media (and the ways in which we interact with that media) evolves, we may need to broaden our definitions. There may come a day when "video game" is a narrow term within a larger category of "interactive entertainment".

For now? I'm fine calling walking simulators video games.

Yeah, for the most part they are technically games in the same way a coloring book can be considered literature because the pictures have some text underneath. The depth of skill required being non-existent, the length being usually ridiculously short and the story presented being indistinguishable from a first-person style home video movie don't take away from it being classifiable as a game. Certainly worth criticizing and even mocking any claiming them as any sort of attempt at being serious art in the medium, but they are still games.

The problem though is that once you start making the definition of it so broad, an odd thing happens.

Lets say that a game is a walking simulator, the only goal is to walk around the scene to see what you can see as the exploration tells a story. In practice, how does that differ from navigating a DVD scene's menu? The minimal interactivity is there in both, the story doesn't change or reflect user input as anything meaningful. There is no lose state, accomplishment distinction, or definable aspect of play or chance or skill. What makes the distinction between the two?

Most "walking simulators" have the walking simulating part to be a fraction of the gameplay. I would say the Dear ester represents the core aspects of "walking simulators" and games like FO3/NV and ARMA 2 have things like gun combat, dialogue options and a degree of exploration (off rails and unique locations to discover).

Diversity is the key here and the more specialisation you get the "less" of a game it is and more like a film.

To me, it's circumstantial.

If the walking simulator has something that makes you keep playing, like a good story - which, granted, is one of the few things a walking simulator could realistically excel in - then in my opinion, yes, it can be a game. I love Gone Home because being able to walk around that house helped me better immerse myself in the main character than if it were a book or a movie. A lack of 'substantial' gameplay shouldn't be a death-knell.

It depends.

If the game is just "walk around, random voiceover will tell you the story, and there's not much to the story in the first place", then it's not a game IMO.

If you need to investigate things, if there are story details you can piece together through careful examination of the environment, if you really need to piece the story together and unravel it yourself, or if there's enough mystery to be sussed out, then it's a game.

Basically, if the player is just "along for the ride", it's not really a game. If it requires some involvement of the player on a mental level, then it's a game.

My question is why do people WANT them to be considered games? Seems like shooting these games in the legs. As interactive stories, a lot of them are fine. But comparing them to better games, they fall FAR short.

Redryhno:

Xsjadoblayde:
Walking simulator is a terrible term considering these games play out more like first person point and click puzzles (even though I use it myself). They tend to feel like games to me. They require my thinking and input to complete fully. Ok there is no combat, but since when did combat define what a game is. To be fair, I call flicking chick peas at blind people a game...that doesn't even require walking or a computer!

That's nice and all, but nearly every game considered a walking simulator has largely been a game I have to turn my brain off completely to find anything good about them. And about the only thing you can say is a good thing about them is that more often than not, their art is nice. The abomination that was AMFP, Kurosavia, Dear Ester, Gone Home, etc(Okay, I hate the Chinese Room, sue me). All of them have nice art, and you can see alot of care was put into that part, but not much in the way of actual gameplay or challenge that a two year old can't figure out.

And that is the problem, there is no challenge or obstacle to overcome in these games for the most part. AMFP is not a horror game, there's nothing remotely scary because they have no ability(maybe motivation) to create the atmosphere required, they just keep shoving pig noises and pigmen in your face. Gone Home was marketed largely as a suspense/horror game, and all it is is you wandering around one of the worst constructed houses I've ever seen picking up bad handwritten notes(which would be ok if so many of them weren't so hard to read, but there's too many shifts in brain gears between wandering around and picking the crap up).

Games are defined by their gameplay. Story means nothing if you don't get involved in some kind of conflict, and it carries no weight if you have no possibility that it stops if you fail. You may play games solely for the story, but if you take out the conflict of ME, you're left with a subpar space opera that got worse the farther you get into the franchise. You take it out of a JRPG, and you get FF13.

It seems you do not have a positive view on these forms of "interactive entertainment." If you do not consider them worthy of game-hood, that is ok. But it comes off sounding a little like those young metal-heads when they talk about what bands are "real" bands. I used to be one of those, embarrassingly.
Ah no worries, it isn't a big issue and we all have our opinions. If you desire some fail states and slightly more taxing puzzles, I recommend at least trying The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Yes, it is also quite pretty. But they don't sound your bag much, so maybe when you have no other choice? ;)
Personally, I do not demand conflict from all gaming experiences, it is all about the immersion for me. Story and atmosphere are most important...escapism. Admittidly, a certain mood needs to be maintained to commit to these experiences. Usually a pondering, relaxed mood. I can easily understand how it isn't for everyone. We should perhaps simply enjoy our hobby without going over the same debates on definitions. Much love and good luck to you sir!

Rathkor:
My question is why do people WANT them to be considered games? Seems like shooting these games in the legs. As interactive stories, a lot of them are fine. But comparing them to better games, they fall FAR short.

Considering who it is that constantly brings up how this or that isn't a real game, the better question is why do people WANT them to not be considered games? It's certainly not because they think they're bad games and consider themselves the all-knowing arbiter of quality, or else they'd spend their time on games considered more universally awful instead of a genre they don't like.

As for you question, I imagine people want them to be considered games because that's what they are and they're not the biggest fans of people running around declaring genres they don't like to be non-games because gatekeeping's super fun.

I have a question that is at the very least naive, and possibly quite stupid so enjoy!

Other than in discussions like this and what section of the store you'll find the product in-why does it matter what category you put it in?

Rathkor:
My question is why do people WANT them to be considered games? Seems like shooting these games in the legs. As interactive stories, a lot of them are fine. But comparing them to better games, they fall FAR short.

"Better" is quite subjective really. Slaughtering grounds has a lot more traditional gameplay but is significantly shitter than say "Gone Home". arkham knight is completely broken on PC, almost unplayable, still a game though. I'm just trying to gauge what a "game" really is.

Prince of Persia for PS3 and 360 had no lose conditions. There are sandbox games that you can't really win or lose. You just keep playing. So win/lose conditions aren't really a qualifier. If you were to play a multiplayer FPS set an infinite time limit or infinite kills nobody can win or lose within the game. Someone can get their ass handed to them over and over but nobody loses.

Rules don't really work either in that games don't have "rules" so much as things you can and can't do due to the programming. In football the offside rule is a rule in that it can be broken, players have to follow that rule or be penalised. "Rules" in videogames aren't really things that can be broken. So a walking simulator has the same basic rules as CoD, you can't do anything that isn't programmed into the game. There's nothing in games that are "not allowed" you just literally can't do them. Same as walking simulators. So to the extent that any game has "rules" so does a walking simulator. Then there's the modding, cheat codes and other things that can remove "rules" from a game. gta with infinite ammo, invincibility, a code to get rid of stars and a code for summoning vehicles (god gta was so much more fun in the PS2 days) is still a game.

Fun is far to subjective to be a qualifier because people find different things fun.

Like I mentioned before one definition of game is activity engaged in for diversion or amusement. Which I'm not particularly fond of because watching a movie, reading a book, having a wank or organising your stamp collection are all activities engaged in for diversion or amusement.

We need to agree upon what a game is before we can say what is or isn't a game.

basically all we've got at the moment is that "I feel it is a game" vs "I feel it isn't a game" without anything really backing it up on either side.

altnameJag:

Although, my personal definition is "does the creator call it a game?" If so, yes. If not, no.

Then we can then critique it through the correct lense. I'm wary of defining an entire genre as "bad" or "good" by default.

I generally go for this definition as well.

You could possibly think about seperating away walking simulators and defining as something else if there were a lot more of them but then you have to figure out where the dividing line is, seeing as they range from the Gregor Clegane simulator to Dear Esther to Vanishing of Ethan Carter by some people's judgement.

So it may be easier to have them all as another genre of video game and I shall judge them as such. May god have mercy on their souls.

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side.

A few months ago, I saw a video on Youtube(VSauce, I think) where it was stated that the above is not an actual joke. It may follow the same pattern, and you may find it funny, at least the first time. However, because it finishes so simply, and that it doesn't follow the other "rules," it is called an "anti-joke," yet I, and others got along just fine calling it the former. Does its blatant rule-breaking mean it shouldn't be told? Does the fact that it arrives at funny a different way than the traditional joke mean it has no humor? I think these games should be given the same level of respect.

Two other videos, a Jimquisition and a TED-talk made mention of Prego's dilemma and the solution, no perfect Pasta Sauce, only perfect pasta sauces. Do not say only one type of game is worth being made, because you not only discriminate against those with differing desires, but might lose an opportunity, yourself.

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