Connected by play

JOEL GOODWIN: I’m actually pretty happy with giving up the term “game” myself because it has so much historical baggage associated with it. I grew up with Space Invaders and the Atari console and Star Raiders: these came to define the popular meaning of the word “game” and trying to fight the will of people is like trying to stop a flood with your bare hands.
DROQEN: I miss the historical baggage. I’ve tried to put into words my heartache many times: there is no word that means what game used to mean.

When I was active on the TIGSource forums (a nostalgic time of dreams and community <3), indie games meant something, uh, different. I still remember the arguments over how many people are allowed to be on a team until it stops being indie. Ha ha ha, how foolish those conversations would look in hindsight.

I think I’ve always thought of indie games (or wanted to think of them) as things made only by people who love to play them. Even now this is an enduring fantasy, a deeply-held desire of mine: when I play a game, I want to feel like I’m connecting with someone through the very act of playing it. It’s not always the designer; sometimes I play a game because I want to connect with a friend, to share a space together.

But what makes an indie game valuable, an independent game, is that when I know it was made by a small number of people driven by passion, it’s easier to imagine myself connecting with something in the person who created it.

Connected by play, specifically.

I’ve found it difficult to connect with a lot of highly-narrative games in the same way, and this is because the play itself isn’t what I’m connecting with… in the same way I wouldn’t tell my friend about the feel of turning the pages of a book, there’s nothing playful or feel-y or interesting about the act of advancing text.

I can talk about the events of a story and my feelings about them as well as anyone, whether I read the story, or heard it, or watched it unfold.

The thing that I’m looking for is to participate in an activity and feel connected to another human’s experience, knowing that my play connects me to their play.

There is no word that means what game used to mean.

At some point in the past I might have put this forward as my “definition” of what a game is, or hedged my statement a little and said something like “This is what I like about games” or “This is what games can do that no other medium can do.”

Language changes, and all we can do is mourn its passing.