Is A Video Game Minus Game Play Still A Video Game?

This post can be considered something of a illegitimate quasi-incestuous sister post to my last one.

I know the article in question may be old, but I only learned about it a few weeks back while listening to a recent The Indoor Kids podcast. Apparently back in 2006, Killer Betties interviewed Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler to get a woman’s perspective of working in the gaming industry. While she gave several enlightening responses, there were two in particular that rubbed gamers the wrong way, which is a kind way of saying a lot of gamers got up in arms and took to message boards with a vengeance armed only with bad grammar, sexist epithets and the ever-present homophobic slurs.

Here are the offending answers:

Q: What is your least favorite thing about working in the industry?

A: Playing the games. This is probably a terrible thing to admit, but it has definitely been the single most difficult thing for me. I came into the job out of a love of writing, not a love of playing games… I’m really terrible at so many things which most games use incessantly — I have awful hand-eye coordination, I don’t like tactics, I don’t like fighting, I don’t like keeping track of inventory, and I can’t read a game map to save my life.

Q: If you could tell developers of games to make sure to put one thing in games to appeal to a broader audience which includes women, what would that one thing be?

A: A fast-forward button. Games almost always include a way to “button through” dialogue without paying attention, because they understand that some players don’t enjoy listening to dialogue and they don’t want to stop their fun. Yet they persist in practically coming into your living room and forcing you to play through the combats even if you’re a player who only enjoys the dialogue.

Let me first clarify that this blog post is in no way an attack or dismissal of Jennifer Hepler’s opinion of video games. Her answers simply raise a compelling question about the symbiotic nature of storytelling and game play in video games. But while it is not my intention to belittle or go into full-on fanboy rage over Ms. Hepler’s statements, I would still like to address them.

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