Im going to point a couple of things out quickly. One of which is that I am a Game Dev so please do not talk to me like I have no idea whats going on. I do. I'm not like the idiots I went to uni with who thought that because they played games they understood everything and every idea of theres was good and they knew what they were doing just because they called themselves Game Developers. I don't think like that at all. But I do have a lot of background knowledge here and a far deeper understanding of the game development process and even the academic understanding of games as well.
This argument always gets a WTF??? from me. 'Stereotypical'? Seriously? A game is pretty well defined, and this 'game' skirts the wrong side of the line.
If you want to go there, a game is defined in its broadest terms as an INTERACTIVE EXPERIANCE. There is no definition about the level of interaction, or the mechanics needed for it or anything else. Interactive movies are technically games is you go with the most accurate description of what a game is. And obviously there are blurred lines there about how far the term interactive covers.
I mean, you interact with your coffee machine but that doesn't make it a game, so we can go back and tighten the definition more to say that perhaps a game is only a game when its interactivity is put within a set of rules in a virtual of physical world designed to provide a specific experience.
And obviously I could go for hours looking at the technical specifications of terms and trying to get descriptions up, but in all my time at uni, talking with people who worked on games like Star Wars The Force Unleashed through to Jetpack Joyride and even people who make flash games for a living, along with academics who constantly are researching this idea of "What is a game" and after reading the dozens of game design books which constantly look at the idea and work on it, the one thing everyone can agree on is that is its an 'interactive experience' and there is no limit on how that interaction has to be, but beyond that no one I've spoken to has been able to concisely define and constrict a game to a specific set of words, and if they do, other academics rarely agree with them 100%
As far as Ive played in Beyond Two Souls, it was no more true cutscenes then a normal game (cutscenes being where you are just watching and dont have your hands on the controller) and just because the gameplay is scripted and minimalistic (and far less QTE based the heavy rain) doesnt meant it isn't still gameplay.
Mr. Cage is NOT trying anything new. In fact, the man's obsession with photorealism brings his own games down. See, there are two parts to a stereotypical video game, the graphics and the actual engine. And the sad part of it is, if you focus on one, the other suffers. A good game balances requires both, which means it's not quite as pretty to look at. Thing is, the other half, the hidden half, AI, physics, collision detection and all things that make a game fun, that takes up the rest of the space, but you can't have both being super awesome, either you focus on one, or the other. Or you make a decent looking game, with fun gameplay.
Also I hate to say it, but while I love the fact that more people outside of the dev community are starting to understand how a game is put together, this isn't right.
Wheres the design component? What you mentioned as the engine stuff, the AI, collision detection, physics etc, they do NOT make a game fun, not at all. They are the technical components that make it functional.
The THREE parts of a good game go into Design, Aesthetics, and Technical. The aesthetics are the graphics as mentioned, but also the feel of the game, the way a game absorbs the player and how the space around the player conveys a feeling or a presence. The Technical is the engine and programming stuff, and is just making the game functional, bug free.
The design is where the rest of the game falls. Design covers everything from how the player should move around in the world, all of the interactivity and how the player is going to understand the world, through to what the levels are, map design, what the AI should act like, and even story elements like a scriptwriter etc.
It can be broken down a lot more then that as well but if you want broad categories, its important to recognize that third. And no category is more important then another, and just because one category is good, DOESN'T mean that another has to suffer, not at all. That is a DESIGN decision as to what gets developed how and where, and I garentee in every game you've ever played, how 'photo realistic' a game looks, or how 'cartoony', and how full on the interaction is, that is a conscious choice made through months if not years of development
And if you want to go deeper there is then a fourth and actually potentially the most important category, QA. Without testing you can release a game you think is great, only to realize its full of bugs and no one understands what to do with it.
Now with that in mind going back to Beyond Two Souls, it definitely fits into the definition of a game, even if it doesn't feel that way.
People have lately had the idea that games have to be fun, but when you look at a lot of games, and why people play them, they don't play them for 'fun', and really, what does 'fun' even mean anyway? I've never heard The Last of Us described as a fun game, but that got rave reviews (which I strongly disagree with to an amazing degree, but thats for another topic)
And the part that is mostly lacking with Beyond is a lot of testing of design. They clearly tested the technical and aesthetic aspects of the game, I cant say I've ever seen a popping texture, or a collision bugging out, or other things like that, although I'm sure its happened for someone, it happens in every game, but I'm quite happy to say that while their design goal and approach was solid, they didn't realize that it made less sense to those outside of the office, or people who weren't testing it every other day. Things like people not realizing there is a timeline. The fact that Jodie's animations at some points are almost completely unreadable to figure out how to make her move. The fact that the choices seem insignificant which again goes into the fact of the messy timeline.
Id actually love to get my hands on one of the early prototypes for the game, and the QA notes and see how it developed really to see if they were smart enough to adjust their design goal from the early stages to release because of playability. I garentee that it would have been an INCREDIBLY different game.