Fries sees the relevance to games. "You can't walk around on giant tundra with a sword," he says about real life. "You can't swim next to a submarine. I could go skydiving, but I'm horribly afraid of heights. If I hit the ground in a game, I won't die."
Bloom offers another reason, quoting television and literary critic Clive James. "Fiction is life with the dull bits left out."
Nesmith confirms that. In real life, he says, "we often say nothing of consequence. You don't want that in a game."
When you ask what's unique to games, though, designers or players all mention one thing. "You get to interact," says Carofano. "There's something rewarding about that."
Clearly, interaction – choice – separates video games from other forms of storytelling. You don't just read about someone killing a dragon. You do it.
Howard offers yet another attraction. Wearing jeans and sneakers, one hand in his pocket, the other holding a remote, he is the keynote speaker at a conference in Las Vegas, which has named Skyrim "game of the year."
"What can games give you that nothing else can?" he asks.
Against a black screen behind him, the answer appears. PRIDE.
"Pride in something you did," he says.
"Definitely true," Fries says. "Sure, you get a feeling of pride reading a book. With games you're participating. You work towards beating the game."
Finally, critics of games point to another allure: their violence. Clearly there's something to the charge: When companies release violent and less violent versions of the same games – one famous example is Mortal Kombat – the violent ones sell better. But does that make players more violent in real life?