What’s in a game? Part 2

In my last post, I left off in the middle of explaining why I believe that “game” is a reasonable term to use when describing Drinking With God (and its future Bleating Sheep Theater cousins), even though it isn’t one.

What it boils down to is this: there isn’t really anything better to call it.

Sure, there are more precise things to call it; “cinematic, quasi-interactive narrative” comes to mind. But that isn’t exactly a term that’s already out there in the hearts and minds of the general populace. And that’s exactly the problem. I need the name of a medium that’s out there in the common use, and the only one I can think of that might reasonably characterize Bleating Sheep Theater is “video game.”

(Of course, I could bill it is something entirely new, but I don’t think it really is new and different enough to warrant that. Using some completely different term would probably just confuse people — “Hey, I thought I was going to get to kwahrk a floojum, but I’m just playing a video game!”)

There is, though, one possible alternative that did sort of nose its way out into society about a decade and a half ago: “interactive movie.” (I’ll sidestep the obvious objection to the use of this term, that Drinking With God is only “quasi-interactive,” by saying that it is my intention to allow for significantly more user agency in later Bleating Sheep Theater productions.) The problem is that so-called interactive movies have a pretty horrible reputation. They appeared shortly after the debut of consumer CD-ROM drives in the early-to-mid 90s, failed abysmally in the marketplace, and were quickly abandoned.

Those who remember the Interactive Movies of the 1990s think back upon them with horror and revulsion — or so I gather; I haven’t actually really experienced them for myself. But that’s reason enough not to reappropriate the phrase (at least for now); I don’t want people to be turned off at first glance. “Wait, an interactive movie? Didn’t we already find out that those were a terrible idea fifteen years ago?”

Still, when you get right down to it, “interactive movie” is probably as good a description of what Bleating Sheep Theater is trying to be as anything else. A conclusion that one might draw from this fact, perhaps, is that Bleating Sheep Theater is a terrible idea, too. But (presumably unsurprisingly) I prefer to think about it a little bit more optimistically.

In my next post, I’ll talk about where the “interactive movie” genre’s horrible reputation came from, and how, perhaps, it can be salvaged.