Games as software: computer, video, or something more?

Board games run on very different rules and structures than video games; as I discussed in my article, Board games are for lovers (of design): why rules documents are pure game design, board games focus so heavily on design they are wonderful games to study to understand the importance of mechanics.  When we shift to video games we begin to see the nature of a game shift as well, when we build video games we are creating software.

This is no more apparent than when looking at how video games break.  When board games “break” it typically comes in the form of an exploit; a loophole in the rules that allows a player to gain an unfair advantage, or one which makes only one choice or playstyle viable above all others.

unreal-wireframe
Video game engine / editor Unreal rendering the game world in wireframe to allow the developer to see through the world as they work.
These game breaking elements while severe, are a matter of design; whereas video games may encounter breaks ranging from simple graphical corruption, causing visual elements to flash or appear broken, to memory crashes when the platform itself cannot complete the operation.

 

c-code
Video game code 
Although visually, we may think of video games in the same way we think of movies or television, worlds are being created and destroyed as the player moves through the game space, all that we see being rendered on the screen is being calculated and presented in realtime.  In this way, video games end up being some of the most sophisticated and performance intensive computer programs a person may run on their computer or mobile device.

With this in mind we can begin to see that video games now represent several highly advanced technologies.  Not only do these programs offer immersive visual worlds to explore, representing digitized physics systems with amazing graphical fidelity, they are also performing massive amounts of calculations to provide the player with a seamless gameplay experience.  Where board games force the player to run the game, video game code steps in to run the game’s systems to allow the player to simply plug in their inputs and experiment with the game’s mechanics.  This makes games much more approachable and has no doubt helped to create mass appeal and generate commercial success when transitioning into a software format.

Do you believe that video games are capable of moving beyond their categorization as just another form of entertainment? Do you believe that video games have been given proper recognition for their technological achievements? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to playprofessor@gmail.com.

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.

 

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