Is it Even a Game?

For this analysis of what is a game, I chose to “play the game” Breakfast on a Wagon with your Partner by Bananafishtoday. At first I was amazed at where the click of the mouse took me, almost in disbelief despite expecting something far from what I consider a video game. This didn’t appear to be game at all, more like an online textbook.  There were basically two colors on the entire home screen, yellow on a darker shade of yellow and nothing but words and before I was even aware of it, I had begun the game.

At first, I was not controlling anything, rather I was reading along with the opening dialogue. As the pages continued I grew impatient and frustrated until finally i was prompted with my first line, which was a decision over what my character would be having that morning for breakfast. As the story continued, I began to have more and more of a role in the discussion between the two characters. I started having an effect on how the other character would respond. So immediately I sought fit to exploit that newly inherited tool. Once the woman (I am presuming) began to discuss settling down in the town they’re presumed to have just arrived in, I then began to respond with answers that made my character seem very unsure of his decision.

As soon as I had a taste of seeing the virtual other character become emotional it seemed that was my greatest power in the game. Soon after the counterpart got done telling my character how she was done with moving and traveling, I broke the news that I was no longer in love with her anymore.The conversation can be seen in the short slideshow below, but as you can see, it did not take the news very well.

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Very shortly after I had realized that my decline to further my relationship with this virtual character meant ultimate damnation from the game.  Then I realized, I actually enjoyed the brief period I was playing! I came in to the assignment with an open mind and it paid off. At first I was surprised, even given my expectations, how boring it appeared. But as I was playing and gaining more and more influence on the outcomes, I was realizing that i was kind of hooked. To the point where my experience could not simply end that way. I had to go back and replay Breakfast on a Wagon, and surely change the fate of my character the second time around.

So the second time I tried to experience the game I went about it with an opposite approach. I had the mindset that i was going to be very cooperative with the game. My plan was to kind of go along with everything my character was prompted with, I would select the seemingly most obvious answer. As my story began, I was seeing the same basic questions and answers that approached me the first go round, so I would try and remember what I had originally selected and click the other choice in an effort to result in a different ending. For example, the first time through, when the “partner” wanted to settle down in the new town, I suggested we keep going; this time, I said that “I could get used to this place” and be done with traveling.

As it turns out taking an alternative approach in the game may very bring you to the same ending. The game ended with the splitting of this assumed partnership. However this time instead of me doing the suggesting we should split up, the other character “Sam” wants to end things with me. I tried to rectify the situations by clicking on things like “you don’t mean what your saying” but the automated responder just grew more impatient ultimately leaving me with the parting message “the sooner I don’t have to look at you the better”.

Overall I thought the game was interesting but left a lot to be desired. I felt like by the time I was finally interested in the theoretical situation my character was in, the game was over and somehow I felt it was my fault. In my opinion I would not be able to refer to something like this as simply a video game, or even a game at all for that matter. A more appropriate term of reference for this type of thing would be “experience.

In many articles like this one at thegamesjournal.com (Games defined),  we see a consistent presence of a goal in most definitions of a “game”. Very prevalent is this idea that a game must include a goal. It would be a stretch to say this experience had any sort of goal. If i had to guess the goal would be to stay with the partner, but seeing as how it is such a simple game, and the title is simply “Breakfast on a Wagon With Your Partner” leads me to believe that just may be it.

 

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