I say videogame, you say video game. what’s the difference?

Over at Buzzcut, there is a post titled, “Videogames: Closing the Annoying Gap” which argues that “videogame” is preferable to “video game.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I just haven’t gotten around to posting about it. It is quite annoying to always have to search for both terms. It is also equally annoying to do a Google search for “videogame” and see “Did you mean: video game” but search for “video game” and not be asked if I meant “videogame.” (Of course there is also the term “computer game” which also gets used from time to time)

I think I prefer one word over two simply because it emphasizes the inseparability of the video from the game. I would actually prefer some sort of gamevideo term, but that isn’t a word in english. I also think using “video game” sort of makes it two separate things and that they aren’t a real synthesis of both.

The author of the buzzcut article argues that the difference is primarily geographic:

In the U.S., the habit it to write video games, as two words. In Europe, I usually see videogames.

I’m not sure I agree. I think the difference is deeper than that. Take a look at these search results on Google Scholar: “videogame” and “video game.” See a pattern in the results? Most of the search results for “videogame” are people who are actually researching videogames. On the other hand, however, most of the search results for “video game” are people who are really researching violence and the effects of videogames.

I noticed this a few months ago and the reason I haven’t posted on it earlier is that I am not quite sure what to make of it. I haven’t taken enough rhetoric courses (and no, there are no media, film, ethnography, or performance pages even though they are supposed to be equal parts of the department. But I digress…) to understand what difference that space really means. I suspect that it has to do with a kind of literacy or even respect for the medium. Those who use “videogame” have a different kind of literacy regarding the medium that those who tend to prefer “video game” do not. (Roger Ebert used “video game” in his review of Doom which started the whole deal with him). Of course I’m not saying that just because you use one term over the other means that you are smarter or more serious about videogames. However, I do think that it is interesting that the vast majority of violence stuff uses the two word phrase while perhaps not the vast majority, but a majority nonetheless, uses the one word phrase.

So anyone got any ideas? What is the meaning behind using one word over the other especially when they sound the same? This isn’t like “terrorists” versus “freedom fighters” or “invasion of Iraq” or “liberation of Iraq” but I do think that it is a similar kind of thing going on. A rhetoritician! A rhetoritician! My blog for a rhetoritician!

One Comment Showing 50 most recent
  1. GBGames

    In the book “Difficult Questions About Videogames”, a number of the people responding to the questions would make the comment, “I don’t think it should be called videogames.”

    So a number of people “in the know” also use video game and were fairly vocal about not using videogame.

    You’ll also note that “boardgame” isn’t a word: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=boardgame

    If boardgame isn’t a word, I don’t think videogame should be a word either. If videogame should be a word, computergame should be a word as well, and I think we can all agree it shouldn’t be.

    Regarding the use by different people: I think that “video game” should be used so that when people ARE looking for info on violence, they’ll come across more than just the works of people who are writing that there is a direct link between video games and violence.

    On the other hand, if a universally-accepted style guide actually says that it should be “videogame”, then that’s what should be used. I just don’t see a reason to use it when other words historically haven’t supported it. No one plays cardgames, which constitutes an entire subclass of games. Video games aren’t uniquely special to requiring a single word.

    But then, I haven’t exactly given much thought to the debate. B-)