Opinion: Game vs. Experience

Gaming has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the shortest amount of time. With such a wide diversity of genres, we see games that span everything from epic hundred-hour fantasy adventures to the short and sweet pleasure of shooting a pig with a bird. Today, games come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them can leave a heavy impact on our everyday lives. However, an argument has been a popular topic as of recent… the argument that some games are not “Games” at all.

Gaming is changing. Some would say for the better, some would say for the worse. I, however, see it evolving as an art form and becoming more and more prominent in non-gaming society every day. Now more than ever we are seeing games come out that are about story and plot more so than gameplay. Some of these don’t even feature a “lose state” which is something many people would use in their argument against some games being “games”. A fine example of this is Home.

Home is an indie horror game, but it isn’t your normal horror game. It’s a psychological adventure where you uncover clues and put them together yourself. In the end you decide on what happened and why things happened. It’s often argued this isn’t a game because there is no win or lose state. My argument, however, is that it really isn’t much different than your typical adventure game. It’s a slightly different KIND of adventure game, but it still features puzzles and obstacles in its own way that would help define it as a game. However, I would easily say that this is more of an experience than a game.

So my thoughts are that some games are better experiences, while some are better games. Now that I’ve explained myself, let’s do a compare/contrast. Let’s look at two very popular games from the same genre that came out last year around the same time. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Dark Souls are two games from the same genre, yet they are very much so different. Skyrim is about Role-Playing whereas Dark Souls is about progression. Let’s go into details on how to define these two games.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Action Role-Playing games of all time. “WOAH STEVEN, NO WAY MAN!” Yes, hear me out. Skyrim allows the player to role-play, build a backstory, and define why a character makes decisions better than almost any game out there in the market. In other words, the reasons many people think Daggerfall, Morrowind and Oblivion are better are the same reasons that make Skyrim better in another way. The leniency of Skyrim‘s progression system, skill system, and plot are what allow the player to truly be able to role-play at its finest. Here’s an example. I’m role-playing as Steven the Mighty, a strong and renowned fighter known for his devastating swordplay. One day Steven woke up and heard voices in his head telling him he is the chosen one and must put down his sword and shield to learn the Arcane Arts. The voice proceeds to tell him that they have awoken a power within him to learn them swiftly. Changing how a character plays or interacts with others is extremely easy in Skyrim. In other games, it would be difficult to make a fighter character suddenly a mage character. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a better experience this way, because oftentimes this leniency is what ruins the gameplay and breaks the core mechanics of the game.

Dark Souls is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Action Role-Playing games of all time. Dark Souls is all about progression; from PvE, Co-Op and PvP the rewards are always geared towards building your character to be stronger. My argument here is that Dark Souls is a better “game” than Skyrim, but a worse “experience.” Dark Souls is defined by extremely fair, but difficult gameplay mechanics and rule set on how to play. You’ll never play a session of Dark Souls thinking “Wow, I broke the game at that point because of some leniency.” The point of Dark Souls is not to role-play, but to advance towards personal goals of beating the game, hitting the highest level, or doing Player vs. Player combat. This in itself falls perfectly into that definition of “game” that so many people are using nowadays.

I honestly think The Walking Dead, Home, Journey, The Unfinished Swan, Skyrim, Dark Souls and every other game out there are all games within themselves. Some offer a better personal “experience” in their own way. I personally believe whatever game is your cup of tea is the better choice for your “game” AND “experience”. In the end it’s up to you to decide what you define as a game or not. Let me know how you feel in the comments below!

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