Games Are Not Media

Games Are Not Media: Dang, looks like we had it wrong last week.

Seriously though, this is a great thought-provoking article that’s worth reading if you like considering the nature of the gaming medium. I’m sure there’s someone else out there that enjoys that sort of thing besides myself… Anyone? Anyone?

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Something you won’t hear me say a lot: Meh.

    This applies to the author’s quote-unquote provocative statement. In reality, there’s nothing provocative about it because it conveniently sidesteps the most common, on-the-face-of-it understanding of What a Medium Is.

    A medium is, at it’s most basic and most common form, a vessel through which meaning is conveyed. One might even go so far as to call it a conveyance for meaning. The author toys with this in his fourth point but ends up either sidestepping or straw-manning (I can’t decide which).

    So question: do games convey meaning? Almost always. Therefore, games are almost always a medium. I can think of very few games that don’t convey any level of meaning from author to audience. Okay, really, I can think of none. Even the most basic game conveys the authorial presumption that victory and competition are both desirable. Even a thoroughly broken games (one that will not run) may be considered a medium as it was intended to convey meaning.

    So, article defused. Without even resorting to some contrived, semantically finicky definition of medium.

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    See, here’s the thing. I love that people are trying to think more diligently about games (though I wish “games” generally fit a broader spectrum than just videogames), but articles like this are a step backward in the evolution of critical response to games. It’s the kind of idea that one has while showering or lingering on the pot that makes one go Oh! Hey! This might be something interesting to think about! But then under the sober light of day, said person recognizes the gaping holes in the original idea and so either abandons it or refines it in such a way that ut actually becomes something sensible.

    The occasional person who has no ability to reflect upon their unfinished or bad ideas is often saved by an intrepid editor. The above author clearly had no editor.

    The question whether games are a medium is a valid question. Unfortunately, just answering that question doesn’t make a very interesting article because the answer is so simple: yes, games is a medium. Exploring examples, pointing to strengths and weaknesses, etc. might have been interesting. But that’s the article I read in the alternate universe version of this article.

  • http://gamedesignadvance.com Charles

    You all might be interested in this exchange between Geoffry Long from MIT and Frank over on the GAMBIT Lab blog:

  • http://gamedesignadvance.com Charles

    Hmm, for some reason the link didn’t work. Here’s the url:

    http://gambit.mit.edu/updates/2009/09/some_games_are_media_a_respons.php

  • http://nowheresville.us The Dane

    Okay, the GAMBIT article did a mostly good job of refuting the silly Lantz article. I’m glad it’s there because at least someone of note (I’m presuming GAMBIT’s noteworthiness here) took apart those baffling arguments. Unfortunately, I think the article took the wrong tack by even acknowledging that the original articles four points remotely related to the question at hand (SPOILER ALERT: they didn’t).

    The question is What is a medium?

    The original article proposes preposterous answers to this question over and again. And when one plays along with such games, they only serve to dignified the silliness. GAMBIT’s author could have saved a thousand words by simply explaining what a medium is. I mean, he kind of gets to this, saying that a medium is a vessel for meaning of any kind. But that’s kind of mired in the midst of longness and will bypass the tl;dr crowd completely.

    I’d also like to take issue with this statement:

    Think about books: phone books do not tell stories. That’s not their purpose. Similarly, a game like Tetris does not tell a story.

    Phone books absolutely tell a story. It may not be an easily discernible story, but if I pick up a phone book from South Orange County circa 1972, the story that will unfold via its pages may well be a rich one for me. Similarly, Tetris has its story as well. Otherwise, there would be no impetus to rotating shapes to complete lines of blocks. The story of Tetris is built into its engine. It’s certainly not a robust story, but if it wasn’t there, Tetris would be less engaging than watching dust pass through a sunbeam.


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