Extra Lives: To be or not to be a game

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“The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” may or may not be a game. It’s the latest in a series of titles over the past few years which blur the line between games and other medium.

The thing about the new title from developer The Astronauts is that it has elements that make it seem like what many consider a game. There’s a certain degree of interactivity and exploration, allowing the player to get lost in the beautiful world. The player also solvers puzzles in order to progress the story. On the other hand, the puzzles are extremely straightforward and easy. The argument could be easily made that the puzzles themselves might as well not be there.

“The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” is a game, but it’s a game in the most limited sense of the world. Many would rather call it an interactive experience and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. The reason for this is whether something is a game or not doesn’t matter.

Last year, there were two titles with questionable identities: “AMNESIA: A Machine for Pigs” and “The Stanley Parable.” Again, in both cases it doesn’t matter whether the subject of the debate is or is not a game. Now, I have no problem with actually arguing the semantics of the word “game.” The problem arises when critical analysis of products like this is centered around whether they are or not games.

A new release should be judged solely on the quality of the content when it is reviewed. Docking points off of a review score or giving an overall negative review is really just illogical. When reviews focus on petty issues such as this, the real loser is the consumer. The purpose of a review should be solely to express the reviewer’s opinion on the subject and to inform potential consumers as to the quality of the subject. I’m not saying reviews should never mention small issues such as whether something is a game. Petty things like this just shouldn’t be used as criteria when judging a game.

Is it a game or isn’t it? The debate over what constitutes a game is worth having, but it has no place in the critique of individual games. In the end a review should come down to answering just one question: Is it worth getting?

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