Just as it’s the actual use of Tetris that makes it a story, it is also the use of Tetris as a game that actually makes it a game. The medium (the computer game) is not the game. The physical artifact only consists of game stimuli. Granted a fairly convincing set of stimuli, but still, the game is only a game when it is being played. With that in mind it is still obvious to most people that Tetris as a medium consists of a lot greater deal of game stimuli than story stimuli. Most people, I reckon, would have a hard time seeing the same story in Tetris, but no problem seeing the same game. Which leads this little rant to games like those in the Final Fantasy series and GTA. There is no question that they have strong game stimuli. We collect points, try to out-do ourselves and others, etc. But they also have very strong story stimuli. As a consequence the medium of computer game is both story and game, depending on how it is being used.
Most technical media can be used in different ways, but computers even more so. Computers can simulate, and in actuality be, a number of other medias. What we call story and game, is really defined by how we choose to use the media. Computer game, on the other hand is a definition of media, not action. You can buy a computer game, you can construct a computer game, but the actual game, as something that can be differentiated from story, is in the use of a computer games.
So no, computer games aren’t games, they are technical devices that have strong game stimuli. But that doesn’t mean that they are, or even can be, without stimuli for using them for story or play. The “game”-part in computer game is more of a stimuli of its own, than a definition of use. “We encourage you to use it as a game, we even made it with that type of use in mind.” But what the user finally use it for, isn’t up to the publisher.
So, yes it’s borderline semantic. But after reading through numerous blogs, forums, and what have you, claiming this and that being a story, and that games can’t be story, I wanted to contribute with this quote from Bruce Springsteen in the august edition of Mojo:
There is no writer who writes something and then has the fascist ability to dictate how it is perceived, y’know?!
– Bruce Springsteen
Same thing goes for how it is used.