Ambiguity of Seaman

​After a few classes of analyzing what exactly a game is I realize that the idea of a game is an ambiguous one. We played games such as Zork and That Dragon that really push the boundaries of what a game is. And after the exploration of games I have come to a different conclusion from my previous definition. 

For one a game has to have a goal. Every single so called game that we played has a goal and/or an ending . Two,  a game has to have a set of rules.  Even games like Mine craft has a set of rules and boundaries that sort of shapes a game.  And three a game can has to be voluntary.  

Now as I had a chance to explore a plethora of games that challenge the meaning of games and they all have one thing in common to create that challenge… fun.   Again when playing Zork they had all the elements of a game but the one thing that put it in a grey area was how the functionality wasn’t all that entertaining because it’s literally a game of typing,  which we use for things like research paper. 

Try playing this couple of hours

The game that I have played that push these boundaries was a game called Seaman on the dreamcast.  Seamn man is apart of the popular virtual pet genres of it’s time.  Other games with in this genre include gigapets and nano. At the time the concept of having virtual pets was trendy but didn’t last. Here are a couple of things that was required in this game.

The concept of the game was to take care of a fish with a human face.  Also this fish can talk.  

 thing about this game is that the game comes with a microphone that hooks up to the dreamcast vmc port.  The reason why is because the Dreamcast software allowed users to interact vocally.  If you say hello to Seaman,  Seaman will respond. 

When the game first starts you actually have to hatch the egg untill it turns into a immature tadpole .  From this point,  the game involves maintaining and occupying the fish to prevent your new pet of dying. Task includes:

  1. Feeding seaman
  2. Cleaning fish tank
  3. Providing oxygen
  4. Daily excercise

The fishSeaman,  also seem to have emotions,  so some days he isn’t bothered to interact with you and can give you a hard time.  There is a problem with that though.  Not only can that effect Seaman chances of survival but also to beat the game you have to answer a sequence of questions from Seaman. If Seamn is feel img grumpy one day. A day is lost of progression. Seaman can take a long time to finish take longe but it’s the real world experience that developers seem to go for.  When I use to play this game, I actually felt a connection with Seaman as if he was my real pet. I witnessed the evolution of his life and as the game evolve his personality change. As if my efforts effected him emotionally in a weird way. 

Here is a section from the manual that explains what I mean:

Playing this game I see that it has all the components that I personally concluded to what a game is.  The game has a goal even though the goal is not as linear as other games.   There aren’t level or stages to beat with bosses at the end but you do have to keep you virtual pet alive. The goal actually becomes more personal for the simple fact that it takes daily work and investment. Let’s not forget thatif he dies you start over from the beginning. 

The game has a set of rules or boundaries but again,  not in the classical sense. The rules are created the same way their are instinctual rules for life.  For example, the rule of life is that in order to survive you need to eat.  In this game,  the goal is a goal of realistic survival so all the rules that we use in our daily lives apply.  And in a lot of cases provision is required as well. 

The game is voluntary but the investment it takes to play it isn’t.  So after a while,  I did feel like it was a burden.  But  that was the purpose of it. When I use to play this game,  I had other games such as Powerstone, NFL 2k1, and Marvel vs Capcom 2 that I would play as well. But for some reason I felt that I was obligated to play Seaman,  even if it was for a short time.  I would catch myself playing , Seaman in between game switches. That’s what is so weird about this game and other games of this genre.  It does not only challenge the idea of games but it also challenge the idea of other aspect. What is voluntary when the consequences isn’t jail or death? There are a lot of things that we perceive as involuntary that really is voluntary. 

What makes Seaman more of an ambiguous game is the fact that the game wasn’t as fun through the end because it became a burden some of the time, where other times it was fun.  Sort of like having a dog.  Sometimes you want to play and other times you don’t want to deal with it, but it will still be there.  But after thinking about it wasn’t fun when I perceived it as a hobby. To take it further any activity can become fun and it depends on how iindividual percieves. So fun can not be an indicator if an activity is a game or not.  

Seaman was a game to my expectations,just a very weird one. 


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