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Benny Disco avatar 12:51 PM on 10.16.2013  (server time)
In Defense of the Un-games

There has been much debate as to whether or not pieces like Dear Esther, Gone Home, and The Stanley Parable can be considered "games" or not, even to the point where some people are offended that they even get covered on gaming sites at all.

To me, this whole "Are they games or not?" argument doesn't matter at all. Whether or not they're games doesn't change anything about them. What matters is that people can use the same tools that are used to make video games to express themselves in a huge variety of ways, and the results can be fantastic.

In my own mind, I have begun referring to these creations as "un-games" because I think it's a perfect way to describe them. They boil gameplay down to a minimum with the sole purpose of presenting a great story or concept to the viewer, yet they still share a lot in common with video games (interactivity, similar programming/engines, they're sold in the same places, etc).

Once we get past this semantic argument we can begin to enjoy these un-games for what they are: Dear Esther was essentially an enhanced audiobook, with the lonely atmosphere contributing to the story of loss and depression. Gone Home is an intriguing experiment in asynchronous storytelling, and the Stanley Parable is a game about games that lampoons the concept of un-games, while at the same time sharing much in common with them and showing how great and entertaining they can be. Some visual novels can be grouped in with these, and many of them have been praised by the gaming community for a while now.

I understand that these un-games aren't for everyone, and that's okay. They don't have to be, but gamers who can't stand them need to realize that they can peacefully coexist with traditional games.  They won't take anything away from you, but they will broaden the horizons of interactive entertainment, and maybe even bring new people into gaming. 

In that case, we all win with un-games.

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