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Video Game or Videogame? Spellchecking gaming’s great debate

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When you're watching 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' at your local theater, you're watching a movie. When you read the paperback on which
the film is based, you're flipping through a comic book.

But should you fire up your Playstation 3 and download the Scott Pilgrim game, are you playing a video game, or a videogame?

It might not be Coke vs. Pepsi, but the question over the correct
way to spell their favorite pastime has dogged fans, critics and
creators for years. As they're used to describe the same basic thing --
a game played on a screen -- the two versions are often considered
interchangeable.

But it's not always just a matter of personal preference. Bill Kunkel, former editor of seminal 1980's magazine Electronic Games and
considered by many to be the godfather of game journalism, weighed in on the subject
in 2007. His take? While at first he was a proponent of the single-word
"videogame" spelling because it "reflected the unique nature of the
medium," that opinion changed once fellow journalist Andy Eddy pointed
out that search engines far preferred the two-word "video game"
variation (currently 783,000,000 to 58,000,000, according to Google.)
Kunkel now supports the two-word spelling.

The single-word use has hardly been marginalized, though. The unofficial Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual prefers it, as do a slew of notable game enthusiast websites and companies.

History is on its side, too. Jonathon Reinhardt, Assistant Professor of English Language/Linguistics at the University of Arizona, believes that while both spellings are acceptable, the two-word version is likely on its way out.

"The space between compound words gets lost over time as they become
more and more frequently used in tandem and their collocational
strength increases," he told Y! Games. "Sometimes compounds go through
periods when people use hyphens between them as well, e.g., baseball
used to be "base-ball." Still, some compounds will always have multiple
conventions, e.g., "cake walk" and "cakewalk", and many seem to be
eternally in a state of orthographic flux, e.g. "alright" vs. "all
right", and now "email" vs. "e-mail"."

Videogame Style Guide

Reinhardt's colleague, Assistant Professor of English (and former game reviewer) Paul Hurh, points out that there's actually more to the spelling than just a space.

"We might call something a "videogame" that would not qualify as a "video game," he explains. "Let's say something like [Playstation 3 adventure] Heavy Rain, which is not really a "game" in the sense of a competition, might not
qualify as a "video game" but it would as a "videogame." It is played on a machine that is used to play other videogames. Or perhaps one could imagine a game we might call a "videogame" which has no visual content. Thus the term "videogame"... is more capacious and more flexible than the sum of its parts."

The single-word spelling can even further distinguish traditional
videogames from similar media that wouldn't fall under either
colloquial definition.

"What about interactive fiction? It is a kind of game played on a
screen, but rarely would one think of them as "videogames," Hurh notes.
"Is American Idol a "videogame"? Probably not, but it is, in a sense, a
"video game" (in that the audience in part controls the events on the
screen)."

So which does he prefer?

"In my mind, the term [videogame] has become so widespread that,
though its original spelling should have been "video game," by now it
is considered a single meme, and the spelling should reflect that."

Now if only those pesky search engines would agree, we could declare this debate 'game over.'

How about you? Which spelling do you prefer? Sound off in the comments!

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