“Video Games” and “Videogames”

This may seem a bit trivial, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the difference of spelling “video game” as two words or one word.

Why? Well, contrary to what some people may think, “videogame” is not necessarily an accidental misspelling. In fact, it was originally and deliberately coined by the late Bill Kunkel, who’s considered one of the pioneers of video game journalism. As one of the founders of Electronic Games magazine in 1981, the very first publication devoted to video games, Kunkel was responsible for creating a lot of the nomenclature still used in writing about games today. Kunkel preferred to used the single-word spelling due to the extra connotation it carried for video games as an expressive medium.

It’s interesting to note that many common terms used when talking about video games are compound words, such as “screenshot,” “cutscene,” and “gameplay,” to name a few. All of them are considered acceptable in the medium’s lexicon (even though my word processor is currently flagging them with red underlines), but ironically, “videogame” is one that doesn’t seem to have caught on to the same degree.

I, myself, have tended to used the two-word spelling simply because it’s the more common spelling I see used. In fact, while Kunkel was originally a proponent of the one-word spelling, he switched to the two-word version in 2007 when he realized that it was more recognized by search engines. Still, the single-word spelling has its advocates for the same reasons Kunkel began using it in the first place.

This brief article on the subject from 2010 makes some interesting points about the use of the single-word variation. Personally, I have come to recognize a slight difference in meaning between the two spellings. I’m dipping my toes into philosophical waters here, but to me, “video games” carries a more literal description of what the medium is, while “videogames” implies what the medium achieves. It’s kind of like the difference between “moving pictures” and “movies.”

As a writer, it’s always a matter of finding the right word to use in the right context. I think there’s value in both spellings, and so I intend to start using each one where appropriate. Was it worth writing a whole blog post to explain this? Well, for my own integrity, I wanted to clarify why I might choose to use the word “videogames.”

Most people probably don’t care, but some people seem to have strong feelings about spelling and grammar. If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear it! Do you prefer “video games” or “videogames,” and why?

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