Proteus' Creator Defends His Game -- As A Game

Proteus, which went on sale on Steam on Wednesday, is the latest art piece to kick up a fuss over whether something deserves to call itself a game. Twitter's self-appointed video game cop has weighed in on the discussion, as have thousands of his deputies in message boards and comments. Now one of Proteus' creators has his say.

"I find this rather burdensome to write," begins Ed Key, who made the game with David Kanaga, and I feel his pain, even though I don't have much interest in his game. Key is responding to this piece on Gamasutra, which said, "It's currently not cool at all to say that you didn't enjoy Proteus, or to even hint at the idea that this isn't one of the most important video game releases of the here and now."

Speaking as a member of the games-writing cabal, I didn't get that memo. But if we're going straw-man here, then I'm going to say this is a basically stupid slapfight perpetuated by the idea that everything in video gaming is a zero-sum proposition, and that the existence of a game one doesn't approve of deprives more meritorious games of praise, attention, money or whatever.

Back to Key. "I don't call Proteus an antigame or a notgame," he said, "I call it a game, but obviously I am at pains to make it clear that it doesn't have explicit challenge or "winning." Key points out that SimCity or The Sims also have been said, by some, to be "not games."

"Proteus doesn't have or even aspire to the same systemic complexity as SimCity, but it does have systems," Key says. "It's just 95 per cent optional whether you engage with them and it generally doesn't give you any confirmation when you do. There's a design reason for this."

There seems to be a larger reason that it's worth standing up to this navel-gazing game/notgame argument. "Outside of academic discussions, encouraging a strict definition of 'game' does nothing but foster conservatism and defensiveness in a culture already notorious for both," Key says. Amen. But this is video gaming, where everyone feels the instant and constant need to express their disappointment in something they never had any intention of playing.

What Are Game [Ed Key, Proteus]


    Why is this a problem? This is a game that does something new and interesting. Games don't need story, they need to keep you interested, keep you coming back. If Proteus isn't a game then what exactly is it? Also what should Minecraft and DayZ be classified as?

      the problem is more what people classify as a game - as per the sim city argument. there's no real goal except to build a big city.. balance the books as it were. proteus doesn't have any goals, and makes it a stronger argument for not being a game in that even the vague goal of exploration can be ignored. which just makes it a fancy screensaver.

      the minecraft argument doesn't work anymore - the ender dragon is a goal onto itself which leads to end game credits. is DayZ less of a game because the sole measure of entertainment is to see how long you can survive? you can argue that survival is the basis of the majority of games.. can you die in proteus? can you do anything but move around?

      to all the people who argue proteus is not a game; if they added a % explored would that make it more game-like for you? exploring a different world sounds like a game to me. not my definition of fun, but it's all subjective.

        So if it's decided that this isn't a game, what then? Also slight tangent but what's an ender dragon?

        edit: don't worry I looked it up

        Last edited 04/02/13 7:27 am

    In primary school, whenever we had Physical Education class our teachers would tell us during any game we played, 'The Aim of the game is to have fun'.

    I checked it out, it's a game just a damn boring one.

    I personally don't get it, if it's your cup of tea good for you

    it is a game, cause gaming is about playing like childs do and they don't need goals or a story to do that. They only need some sort of reaction, some sort of playground or a sandbox...a world they can explore, maybe shape but mainly just experience.....and I think this game is kinda fundamental for this way of thinking. When you play it, it's like you are in a complete strange world with it's own mechanics behind it and reasons. Something thats really hard to achieve as effect when you are grown up....
    soo...i dont say its a good game or that I like to play it alot, but I believe that this game is something new and innovative and maybe a good step forward beyond the standard games that crowded the market...

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