The whole, 'is it a game?' discussion that has sprung up around games like Dear Esther and Gone Home has always ticked me off. In my head, of course they are. Saying they aren't minimizes the pool of what a game can be. The question is just a more condensed version of the 'are games art?' argument that is so, so tired.
According to Telltale, whose titles have come under criticism for 'not being games' before, it doesn't matter. As reported by GamesRadar, during a GDC panel, CEO of Telltale Kevin Bruner stated plainly:
Whether they're games or not, we don't really care.
He elaborated by saying:
We love technology, we love storytelling, we just want to mash the things we love together and make it work
Our real passions are character development, writing, and playing with computers and software. So we just keep trying to mash those… things together, and gaming is where that lands."
I think, ultimately, this is the right approach. Defining what a game is or isn't doesn't really serve anybody. Making awesome interactive experiences should be enough to satisfy. Whether people think Telltale's products are games or not is besides the point. They're great stories that I'll continue to enjoy if the quality is there.
…They are games though.