Game of the Year 2015 Countdown: #20 - #16

In today's Game of the Year countdown, we list off numbers 20 to 16. What games do we think were worthy of inclusion?

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After hours of debates and much gnashing of teeth, our global team of GameSpot editors has finally come up with this: the best video games of 2015, in ranked order. Our list of the best 25 games of the year has been informed by the wide array of tastes, experiences, and preferences of dozens of GameSpot editors around the world. It's a varied and eclectic list, spanning everything from the year's biggest AAA releases, to smaller, personal gameplay experiences, and everything else in between. We'll be counting down to number one over the next few days, so keep it locked to GameSpot as we unveil our choices. For today, check out our picks for 20 to 16.

20. SOMA

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With the terrific Amnesia series, developer Frictional Games established itself as a master of the horror genre, and its 2015 offering, SOMA, lives up to the studio's reputation. Eschewing traditional jump scares for an oppressive sense of psychological dread, SOMA explores themes of solitude, humanity, and death. But that doesn't mean it's just a high-concept think piece. While there's no combat, SOMA builds on the stealth, survival, and puzzle elements from Amnesia to immerse you as an actor in the experience.

The underwater setting and run-down corridors invites comparisons to the classic BioShock, and the compelling story feels ripped straight from a Philip K. Dick novel. But Frictional takes those elements and crafts them into a unique experience that demonstrates what video games can do better than any other medium: scare the crap out of you. SOMA is a horror ride that pulls you into its world, but also sticks with you well after the credits roll.

19. Undertale

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Few games are as unrelentingly inventive as Undertale, a daring and distinct RPG adventure married to shmup mechanics. Each turn-based battle determines the rules of a spin-off mini-game where your heart becomes a spaceship weaving through projectiles that are associated (in some way) with your foe. You can also use your powers of conversation/influence/begging to avoid battles altogether.

Undertale thinks differently at nearly every step, and somehow does so with incredible finesse each time. Even so, the writing still manages to stand out as its greatest achievement; your encounters with the ne'er-do-wells of this fantastical underworld are frequently hilarious (genuinely funny, not just funny for a video game), with razor-sharp writing and impeccably timed witticisms. You won't forget the ending, and you won't forget the people you met on your journey.

18. Her Story

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It's hard to imagine a game like Her Story would have a big impact, but it presents a complex narrative in a clever way. While simple in execution, it requires great attention to detail. With a broken but searchable database of interviews taken during the investigation of a murder case, you have to piece together a confusing web of tales by searching for clues and keywords. When a video matches your search term, you can access it, but with a hard limit of five results per search, you're forced to examine videos with greater scrutiny to identify subtle details, and thus more granular search terms.

Uncovering every video in Her Story is challenging, but not as challenging as understanding the truth. For most of the game, your relationship to the characters is shaped by what you choose to believe, and the game's somewhat open-ended conclusion keeps the mystery alive long after you walk away. Her Story is an amazing narrative-driven experience that's immediately arresting, and the deeper down the rabbit-hole you go, the more intrigued you ultimately become.

17. Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege

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In an age dominated by run-and-gun twitch shooters with near-instant respawns, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege feels like a refreshing breath of ice cold air. Ubisoft's latest take on the genre has incredible tactical depth, with two teams made up of five uniquely equipped Operators, allowing for endless combinations of carnage. Its potent cocktail of permadeath, friendly fire, and health that doesn't regenerate means every confrontation is tense and every bullet fired matters.

Siege offers up plenty to do outside of shooting, from laying down barbed wire and reinforcing walls to setting up traps and planting explosive mines. The game's destructible environments make situational awareness even more important, and individual skill takes a backseat to teamwork. Even though Siege lacks a single-player campaign, the variety and depth of its mechanics allow for some brilliant moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat and coming back for more.

16. Just Cause 3

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Just Cause 3 makes few attempts to take itself seriously. Instead, it sets you loose in a massive world with destructible environments and tools with which to wreak havoc. It's more of a superhero game than anything else, as you glide over the landscape in your wingsuit, grapple through military bases, and parachute behind enemy lines in an effort to remove a dictatorship through sheer force.

The spectacle of domino explosions alone is enough to satisfy during Just Cause 3's initial stages, but the many unlocks and challenges, as well as the finely-tuned controls, extend the enjoyment past the first several hours. Just Cause 3 is a game of experimentation, and each tool changes how you play. The results might not always work in your favor, but they're almost always entertaining.

Come back tomorrow as we unveil the next five games in our Game of the Year countdown.

To see what ranked 25-21, check out our feature here.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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JimmySpindle

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My friend wrote a brilliant review of SOMA here, full of personality: www.spindlegaming.com/soma-review

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iabstract

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Siege should be higher. Just Cause 3 should be lower.

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Mr00Chief00

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Edited By Mr00Chief00

Come on, just throw it out there with the whole list. We all know The Witcher 3 is the only game that can truly claim the GOTY prize and take #1 :)

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franzito

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Didn't have time to try these

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PunnyJokes

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Siege is addicting as hell if you have a full team of friends to play with.

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SaturatedButter

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Edited By SaturatedButter

Undertale isn't funny. It's not funny for a video game. It's genuinely not funny.

"I WAS BEHIND THE PILLAR THE WHOLE TIME!"

Yeah, such amazing writing this game has. /s

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bluefox755

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@saturatedbutter: I know right? I played it for a few hours and thought I was part of some Tumblr inside joke to troll me.

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jcwainc

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ugh stop pushing the wanna be plumbers don't wear ties her story. the game is lame, over rated way over hyped art school project reject. what people see in a pile of $h!t I don't know but I for one say no to game and will voice my opinion over the voices of people who say this is a game and that its good and worth playing.

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OuroborosChoked

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@jcwainc: I liked the game more when it was called Serial Experiments: Lain, back on the PSX. The story was better, too.

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PrickPear

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Edited By PrickPear

Siege is the direction FPS games should head in. Slower pace, weapon physics.... it's all there.

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hoyholyhoy

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Just Cause lower than R6 Siege? I laugh at you!

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SaturatedButter

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@hoyholyhoy: JC3 is higher than R6 Siege. The higher the number, the lower it is on the list. #25 isn't the GoTY, #1 is.

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hoyholyhoy

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@saturatedbutter: Reaaaaaaaalllyyy???? I know that, I said lower because it is a lower number - not that hard to grasp.

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deactivated-5c1c32e0b8cc8

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My vote goes to Just Cause 3 simply because none of the other games even slightly interest me. I've never even played Just Cause 3 and I don't really plan to, but it just seems like if I had to choose, I feel like I'd end up enjoying it the most and it would have the longest replay value.

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Xirtahm

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Just Cause 3 DOES NOT belong on this list. While it's a great playground for destruction and mayhem, it's unfortunately nothing more than that. It's fun, but it has no real identity. Kinda as if Red Faction Guerrilla had angry sex with Far Cry 3.

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Ov3r_Kill_Br0ny

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Edited By Ov3r_Kill_Br0ny

Great to see Undertale, but it is game of the year in my book. I got more enjoyment out of Undertale than any AAA game this year and it is by far the best RPG this year with Pillars of Eternity only comin second.

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heguain

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What if COD BO3 is #1? nah that's overexaggeration...

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TheExxorcist

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Edited By TheExxorcist

I'm vouching for Rainbow Six all the way. The online is great.

Name one shooter that plays the same???

As where games lie COD and BF, Titanfall Halo ect... run and gun rehashes of something we have all already played.

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hoyholyhoy

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Edited By hoyholyhoy

@TheExxorcist: I would 100% agree on everything except Titanfall. That game is unique in its own right, maybe not in game-modes per se but definitely in mechanics, it's not your typical run of the mill shooter. But everything else I tip my hat to you sir.

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gotrekfabian

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@hoyholyhoy: *per se ;)

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Tanares

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Well at least the comments got smarter. On 25-21 the dubious lack of reading comprehension was hilarious.

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Grbonjic

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I'm a big fan of horror games/movies so I'm glad that SOMA made this far

Never heard of Undertale, but it looks cute

Her story's amazing and

T.C. and J.C. live up to the tale.

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Karmazyn

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just cause 3 is a poorly optimized mess, it should never make the list in its current state. simplus.

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DivineJester

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Rainbow six is getting hate by die hard rainbow six fans, lack of campaign for one, and its on a top twenty five list?

sure.

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TheExxorcist

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@divinejester: I love the Muliplayer... I think Its highly innovative. Nothing like it. Its not rehashed like ever other shooter out there.

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GLOK1132

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I am surprised that Rainbow Six is this high on the list, and Just Cause is this low.

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dmblum1799

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Edited By dmblum1799

Her story should be number one. I say that seriously. The people who post here, or at least most of them, thoroughly deserve that. And entertainment value, etc.

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jcwainc

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Edited By jcwainc

@dmblum1799: ugh u mean worst lame over rated game of the year. theres nothing special about the game at all. plumber don't wear ties is a better game then this college wanna be art project. glade u like it but 90 percent of whisper no its not

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SaturatedButter

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Edited By SaturatedButter

Lol Undertale is behind Rainbow Six. That's so god damn awesome. I love you, Gamespot. Undertale fans are so damn salty.

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Salt_AU

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@saturatedbutter: They're saturated, not salty thank you.

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heguain

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Just cause 3 though. Should've been at #24 imo.

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I_P_Daily

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@heguain: It should be in the top 10 imo.

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derceto

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How is this list this bad already? Wow.

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NTM23

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Edited By NTM23

Not that I expected much different, but too bad about SOMA not being higher. It's definitely alongside whatever else I see as my favorite game this year. I feel like it's probably The Witcher 3 and SOMA as my favorite, but consistently, as I look back at all the great games of the year, SOMA always stands out as the one that stays there at top. I feel like a lot of the staff didn't play it, and the ones that did, fought for it, though that could be incorrect.

SOMA isn't a typical horror game; I want to point that out because while the text isn't explicit about it, it can give off the vibe that Frictional went the same route with SOMA as they did with their past games, The focus on horror isn't there as much (but so much stronger in all other areas, and does have a few intense moments still for sure).

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yeah_28

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Edited By yeah_28

@NTM23: I finished SOMA yesterday; didn't discuss the game with anyone yet, but I can't say its one of my favorites this year.

Its not a typical horror game, both in approach and in themes, but I dare to say it might be its strongest point, because other than that it wasn't very remarkable to me.

In general I liked the story, the characters were likable although with very odd reactions to the things going on, the atmosphere was great and the depiction of PATHOS II was convincing, no matter the graphics, the sounds were used to great effect too, and then the bonus points for treating unique themes in a rather original setting.

What I definitely didnt like was the gameplay, if we could call it that, the monster sections were very frustrating and annoying in how they try to stop you from enjoying the best things the game has, whether you get caught or not. And the rest, interacting, solving puzzles and so on, was just about presence, just a way of being in the game, not really helping to deliver its themes and ideas better, a matter of immersion in the place more than anything else.

Then the execution of the whole thing felt poor overall, the plot was very disappointing considering how interesting the story was, the majority of times fixing things, or talking about fixing them, and the few events that were well related to the core themes had no choice from the player involved, and were very obviously forced in an artificial way, hurting the game rather than improving it.

I also read almost every blog post from Thomas Grip, the creative director, before playing the game, and I can see why it ended up like this, we clearly have different ideas and opinions about how to do stuff.

All in all, good game, but mostly for trying to be original and thought provoking, not for doing it well.

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NTM23

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Edited By NTM23

@yeah_28: I guess you looked at it differently and felt there were weaknesses in aspects I felt weren't there. I don't know, I guess from the sounds of it, you felt the gameplay didn't serve the story, but I didn't see it as an issue. I think if the gameplay in that way served the plot/story, it may be too on the nose, so I'm glad it's a separate deal, neither strengthening, nor weakening the story experience.

I think there was only one moment that I felt the character reaction was off, and that was when a huge story moment happened involving the change of a body. I felt Simon went from calm, to abruptly too harsh and loud. It sounded good by the voice actor, but it didn't match up in the moment. I think the game is actually not that original in story, as we've seen this kind of thing done before, and will again, as we actually do in recent games, but it's the way it did it that was effective, so I think it's vice versa really.

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yeah_28

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@NTM23: See the first paragraph I can definitely agree with, but I'm less "pessimistic" to put it in a way. I think it wasnt an issue, but the point is that a game has to be a game, and if the best thing you can do with the game part is that it doesnt end up being an issue, I think it starts being a weakness, maybe just by omission of something better, but a weakness still. In retrospective, I can't really admit I'd like to play the game without the story for example, or be in that place with no narrative payload other than the environmental storytelling.

I said less pessimistic because precisely, i think the game could've done wonderful things with the gameplay, and thus use it to enhance the experience, it didnt have to be this way is what I'm saying. Now if we talk about what was already there, then sure, I dont want more of that in any way, in fact if the monster sections were gone to me it would be better.

And about the chars yeah thats just really subjective; I assume that they wanted to make the characters act odd actually, not your typical "OMG IM IN THE FUTURE", so I didnt mean it as a really bad thing, it could go either way. However I dont think the game's story isnt original, or at least not to a much higher degree than most other games, I read sci-fi literature everyday so its nothing special, but in games its unusual.

If you liked the game so much I really suggest you read that blog, its been going for so long that you can see the evolution of their design philosophy through time and how it resulted in SOMA.

Anyway thanks for the exchange.

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Edited By Schwah

@NTM23:

Agreed. There are so many measures you can use to judge a game's worth. Throw in subjectivity and all of the disagreements we see when these lists are released make a lot of sense. But of all the amazing games I had the privilege of playing this year, SOMA is most definitely the one that sticks with me the most. It also turned out to be one of the most frustrating, lol, but not because of the game itself.

Unfortunately I don't have many gamer friends so I'm always trying my best to get my friends to give gaming a try. I found SOMA to be such a worthwhile and thought provoking experience that I kept thinking, "If they could just share in this experience it would click and they would see how gaming can be one of the best mediums in which to enjoy a story." But alas, I found that trying to explain and share the SOMA experience was a lot like trying to convey the magic of a really awesome dream. You can be as enthusiastic as you want and go into a ton of detail, but everyone just ends up nodding politely while they think about something else.

I think I need Danny to visit Richmond and school my friends. I thought he did an amazing job of representing gamers in a smart way on his recent On Point NPR appearance. Maybe he can help my non-gaming friends see past the jumping plumber when they think about games. There's beer in it for you, Danny. Perhaps some greenery as well.

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Slannmage

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Her Story isn't even a game, there is no gameplay in it, you just click on videos and that is it. At that point is my Micro SD card in my TV a game? I have folders of videos I click on in that too.

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Schwah

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Edited By Schwah

@Slannmage: It's such a simple game and yet you still somehow managed to oversimplify it ;-). It takes some thought and trial and error to flesh out the content and piece together the story. Now obviously it's a one shot kind of deal and I doubt anyone wants to see it develop into a genre, but still, I thought it was a creative way to tell a story.

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Slannmage

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@Schwah: If there was any gameplay I would call it a game, but it's the first one I've played where I'm calling bullshit. There is no game what so ever, some people might say you have to work out the story... well there are many mystery TV shows where you have to do that, Inception gave me a headache the first time through.

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Schwah

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@Slannmage: In Her Story The gameplay boils down to a necessity for the player to utilize smart implementation of the "Search" function. You can't just browse all of the videos at will and there's a limit the number of videos displayed when you use a search team. So it's only through careful observation and a little trial & error that the player can use the search function to flesh out the whole story, which like any good mystery is much deeper than it seems. That's the gameplay; simple but nuanced.

And in contrast to a mystery show that almost always tells you the whole story (usually under the pretense that if you were paying enough attention you could have pieced together the mystery before the reveal), without creative use of the search function you will miss out on most of the good bits. So again, you may not have enjoyed it but there's the gameplay.

It's certainly not traditional, and its exactly the kind of game that's going to inspire a lot of reactions like yours in addition to mine. But whereas you see Her Story as a waste of time, I see it a very good sign that there are creative people out there willing to step outside of the standard gaming box to experiment with new content rather than keeping it safe with more pew pew and platforming. We need people just like this to keep gaming fresh and interesting for the next 1000 years :-)

That's my 2 cents anyway...

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PutASpongeOn

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@Schwah: So is The Matrix movies a game because people didn't piece together till way later that Agent Smith is The One?

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Schwah

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@putaspongeon: No. Taking presented information and exploring ideas in your head is what we commonly refer to as "thinking", not gaming. Although hopefully thinking plays a role in the majority of your gaming experiences too ;-)

All kidding aside, do I really need to point out the difference between a linear, non-interactive stream of media and a non-linear, interactive pool of media? You guys will get absolutely no argument from me if you think this is a terrible game that should be put on ice for eternity in the 9th circle of hell, but its still a game. And if you really need me to point out how the Matrix and Her Story differ in this regard just let me know.

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PutASpongeOn

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@Schwah: That's exactly what that "game" is.

But seriously, if that's a game, so is my hentai folder.

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Schwah

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@putaspongeon: Nah, that's not what a "game" is. The description I gave is essentially the definition for general information processing in the brain, which is so general a definition that it be could be used define any conscious thought or action, such as gaming, deciding to take a dump, or even entertaining a ridiculous conversation on the internet. And while your hentai folder certainly isn't a game, I see no harm is making a game out of it. So off you go, enjoy :-)

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PutASpongeOn

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@Schwah: My hentai folder has more complexity than that game.

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