65: "Fun" is a Four-Letter Word

"So why must games be 'fun'? Who said that was the highest, or even worse, the only value? Is it a function of our status as a medium that is truly for kids? Is it a function of a development community dominated by Peter Pan types who won't grow up? (I'll cop to that, if you will.) Is it that games are just different from other media in some way I can't define? Maybe I'm missing something; maybe the serious games movement is where our not-fun games are being made."

"Fun" is a Four-Letter Word

Someone watching a movie has to actively take an action to stop the film.
The film has to be so disturbing, challenging or boring that the viewer decides to switch the player off and do something else instead.

A game, on the other hand, requires the player to actively interact with it.
It just has to be disturbing or challenging enough to make the player sit back and it's lost them.
That's a lot less leeway than films have.
Still - it's no reason not to try striking that tricky balance. :)

I heartily agree that games should engage people on a more mature level,
but they still have to keep the players interacting or they become nothing more than a movie themselves.

The point that "fun" is subjective is the linchpin of the whole debate. While some games will be "fun" for some, they're a chore for others. Because of this, you can say that a single title is BOTH fun and not fun. In this situation, you can't claim victory for either point.

I think that gregking's point of likening moves to games is true at a base level, but in the end, we watch movies and play games for the same reason. HOW we perform each of these actions is inconsequential, since, at the point where we feel that we aren't "getting our money's worth" from either medium, we quit. If a game isn't interesting me for whatever reason, I stop playing. If a movie or TV show isn't interesting me, I'll get up, go to the bathroom, get something to eat, or just stop watching.

To that end, I suggest that rather then focus on the term "fun" we use "engaging". "Engaging" is a term that means different things to different people based on what they expect to take away from an event. You can be engadged by a movie, a game, a lecture, a book, a work of art, a conversation. music, sports, or simply by relaxing on the couch. If we can get people to think about being "engaged" by the games that they play, then we can put the products of the industry on a more equal footing, perception-wise, with movies, music and literature.

I agree with Warren here. I'm looking for interesting games regardless of whether they are fun or not. I suppose that they need to be engaging, but the word "fun" doesn't describe what I'm looking for.

Can anyone suggest games that they play out of curiousity or for interesting concepts or art, where fun is a secondary factor of the gameplay?

Nordstrom:
Can anyone suggest games that they play out of curiousity or for interesting concepts or art, where fun is a secondary factor of the gameplay?

I think Armadillo Run might fit that description. It is fun in a way, but not in the way other games are. It's like building scale model replicas of houses or boats. Tedious and challenging, but ultimately rewarding.

Nordstrom:

Can anyone suggest games that they play out of curiousity or for interesting concepts or art, where fun is a secondary factor of the gameplay?

Killer 7 sounds like what you want, if you can manage to read the tutorial text. It's still one of the most interesting story concepts and gameplay ideas I've messed with.

Electroplankton probably fits that descrption as well. I don't own it (no DS), but apparently you just sort of fiddle about with various little fiddly things and somehow this produces simple melodies.

There are games that have tried to offer more than fun, or things other than fun. Killer7 comes to mind -- it had fairly rote gameplay, but an enormously convoluted plot with some interesting things to say about, of all things, politics. [Added: Looks like Shannon Drake beat me to it. :P ]

Shadow of the Colossus was fun, but also filled me with awe at its beauty. It was also one of the first games to make me question the morality of my actions. Previously, morality was generally clear-cut in games, in my experience. You were either a "good guy," (e.g. Mario, out to save the princess) or a "bad guy" (e.g. the protagonist of any Grand Theft Auto game).

Spoilers for SotC below:

In SotC, I saw a protagonist who would do anything -- my theory was that he wished to bring back his lost love -- but for the first time I really questioned whether he should. I didn't trust Dormin at all, and some of the death sequences of the colossi were so heart-wrenchingly beautiful that they made my guts physically ache. Was the life of this one girl truly worth the lives of sixteen glorious colossi? Was she worth the effect on the protagonist? What if he died saving her?

The ending was remarkable, particularly since I'd played their previous game, ICO. She lives, but at what price?

End spoilers.

Of course I thought SotC also had great gameplay. It was fun. So it's an example where artistry doesn't conflict with fun and engaging gameplay. I think Scopique's second paragraph is apt -- gaming is an interactive medium. Make the interactivity too rote, too dull, without sufficient reward in terms of story, fun, and/or atmosphere, and you're left with little reason to play the game.

The word 'game' itself is becoming such a broad term these days that it encompasses something yuppies do to kill their time to the serious and dedicated connoisseurs to the elite 'pro' gamers... or whatever they're called. The feeling of 'fun' manifests differently to each type of people within these categories.

But hey, if you want to convince the senior management board how much 'fun' is in your game, simply apply numbers to this formula:

( Number of Guns + Average Size of Breasts + Maximum Player Ego Boosting Level ) / Tediousness Factor = Level of Fun

I would argue that Joyce and Pynchon actually ARE fun. Try reading some passages in Ulysses aloud, they are full of humor, especially the ones with Leopold Bloom. And Crying of Lot 49 is quite a comedy in itself. But I guess it only goes to show that the idea of fun differs from person to person. Other than that I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Spector.
My hope is that with the increasing ubiquity of game machines in homes it will be more and more viable to make games that are more mature, more thought-provoking, more "artsy" if you like. Also, with the aging of the gamer generation, there will be an increasing demand for them.
I would maybe point to DefCon that has been discussed in some other threads here. As long as you take it as a game, it is funny. Then, after realizing that you are actually killing millions of people for "fun", it stops being funny. And this moment of "not being funny anymore" I actually find the strongest and most memorable.

A few thoughts on this topic come to mind:

1) Is Brain Age a fun game? or really - are any learning games?
2) If a game is heart wrenching, or makes you angry, or gives a detailed history lesson on a subject can it still be engaging? and in fact - is engaging a far better word for what a game has to be rather than fun?

I enjoyed reading Tom Clancy's "Guided Tour of" books quite a bit, I dare say as much as I do his works regarding the life of one Jack Ryan. The guided tour books for those who aren't familiar are not stories persay so much as detailed information on parts of our military. I found the ideas on command presented in "Into the Storm" some of the most easy to understand information written on the topic. I for one enjoyed learning from them immensely and can apply their theories of military strategy to other points in my life. In this I find them engaging and recieve pleasure. These are not fun books, but they provide me with food for thought, which I personally find pleasurable.

If a game is un-fun, but still has a message in it worth saying, that's being delivered in an intelligent and engaging manner. I don't see any reason why I would stop playing it. I might not agree with everything someone has to say to me but I wouldn't stop listening to them. However, this act puts me in a minority of the populace. We know the average consumer doesn't want to think, and would much rather be mindlessly entertained. He or she proves it with their purchases every day of every year.

It may be that part of the reason that "serious" gaming hasn't really come to the foreground of the scene is that it won't appeal to the masses. There is most certainly a niche market for such games, I am part of it. Whether or not catering to that market would be profitable and allow any return is important for any large company, and makes ventures into it unlikely. I think ultimately it will be created as a side project by developers like Warren or as a contender from the indie field who doesn't really care as much about profit or how far it spreads in either case. Many actors / actresses will take on side films between big blockbusters because they love the roles / stories in them, these films don't make the big money that the box office ones do. Maybe something similar for gaming will emerge.

- Tom

Maybe Warren stood to close to the Nintendo marketing bullhorns and the corresponding media parrots at E3? I hardly think his characterization of the current state of game design is accurate. The idea of, "we need to make more 'fun' games," attitude in the industry is simply a result of the success of the Nintendo DS and Xbox Live Arcade. What they are really saying is we need to make more cheap games that are addictive and anyone can play, so we can expand the market and generate more revenue. It is just easier to distill that idea into a single concept, namely "fun." I doubt we are in danger of being overrun by Nintendo fanboys and yuppie gamers anytime soon. All of the different types of games we all love to play will still be there in the years to come.

I personally would not even play games if they were not fun. It does not matter if the game is cerebral, visceral, or emotional in nature, they are all fun in their own particular way. To suggest that we should try to move away from the concept of "fun" in videogames is ludicris. You may not realize it Warren, but your experience of watching A History of Violence was fun. You just didn't know it. The simple fact is there is plenty of room in this industry for all types of games and gamers. The Shadow of the Collosus and Psychonauts may not appeal to the masses and games like them may never get strong market support, but does that really matter? They will still get made and us gamers who enjoy those types of games will just shake our heads at the masses who do not.

heavyfeul:
Maybe Warren stood to close to the Nintendo marketing bullhorns and the corresponding media parrots at E3? I hardly think his characterization of the current state of game design is accurate.

I think Warren is describing the videogaming market as it sits today... as it typically always has been. I agree with his take on gaming. I think videogaming could grow up a little... or a lot.

heavyfeul:
I personally would not even play games if they were not fun.

You're associating fun with enjoyment... and Warren is separating those two things in his article. Basically, what one finds enjoyable as a child, one might not find enjoyable as an adult; and vice versa. Thus the need for games to mature because they are arguably more geared for children (adults are less likely to enjoy them). If you don't feel this way... I'm jealous. ;-)

Warren is pretty much spot on, and I've been pushing the same point for years in more private circles. One can try to broaden the meaning of 'fun' until it encompasses any meaningful experience whatsoever, but it becomes pretty clear on analysis that this is not how people use the word when they talk about games being fun. They mean something quite a bit more specific, even if what they mean remains frustratingly vague.

My favorite games of last year were SotC, Killer 7, and Resident Evil 4 in distant third. Despite being probably the best "game" there, Resident Evil 4 is quality of design over actual substance. It doesn't provoke thoughts, except "How in this day and age can a game made for adults be written so badly and get a free pass from critics?" All meanings you can read into it--such as my theory that Leon's quest is just an allegory for the right-wing agenda--are unintentional. Shinji Mikami is a great craftsman, but he doesn't have a thought in his head.

I agree with almost everything I've ever read from Spector. I say "almost" because I don't necessarily think that straight nonlinearity is the way of the future. If so, designers become transparent and games become the old-man-fantasy of Ebert: no legitimate auteurs, no legitimate art, just a lot of toothless Ron Howard-types. It's much harder to purposefully make a meaningful experience in a truly nonlinear game, at least from what I've seen.

Warren's resistance to the "fun factor" produced the question, "what can games make us feel BESIDES 'fun?'"

For me, the even more immediate question is, "can't developers describe their work with a bit more sophistication?" What about suspenseful, exhilerating, hilarious, riveting, giddy, smooth, etc.?

Replacing "fun" with "engaging" or "compelling" is pointless. Those words sound kind of rugged and intelligent right now, but overuse will render them as flaccid as "fun."

I'm just a bit resistant to the high-low art debate. And I think this elusive non-fun gaming is already happening. Silent Hill games are exhausting, tedious ordeals, but could they be any other way? It doesn't seem to threaten their potency, however that should be described.

More sensitive language will, as a side effect, encourage more subtle and varied kinds of expression, including stuff that is distinctly not fun, but good on some other level.

Technically both sides appear correct:

If we go by the Mirriam-Webster definition for the adjective fun: "providing entertainment, amusement, or enjoyment," then all games you enjoy playing are fun. However, if we are talking about the noun fun, then there is a certain type of enjoyment implied. Mirriam-Webster: "what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically : playful often boisterous action or speech."

Thus, while you may not be having fun (noun) while playing a particular game, it does not mean that isn't fun (adjective).

I don't agree that the argument can be resolved semantically, heavyfeul.

When I think of what might be a game that's "not fun" but still worth doing, here are some things that come to mind:
- Running a marathon
- Watching Black Hawk Down
- Reading 1984

There are certainly some people who will say they run marathons "for fun" but I think that for most people, to call it fun would trivialize an experience which is much more about self-actualization, personal challenge, and accomplishment. The body literally isn't designed to run as far as a marathon demands it to be run -- if inflicting that degree of physical and mental anguish on oneself is "fun" then the word is neutered.

Or take the movie Black Hawk Down. That's not a "fun" movie. When Virgil and I went to see it, we both found it to be one of the most painful, traumatic film experiences we'd ever seen. "If the Army showed that movie to potential recruits, no one would ever sign up," I remember him saying. Neither of us would say we enjoyed that movie. But we both still considered it a great film.

The novel 1984 is similar. It's certainly not a "fun" read. It's actually slow-moving, a bit torturous, sometimes pedantic, and depressing as hell. But it's still a great novel, one that I thought about for days afterwards.

Can a game create an experience like that? That's the question. Can it be hard work throughout and make you feel terrible at the end, and yet still leave you glad you did it?

Or is Black Hawk Down the videogame just another FPS?

p.s. I want to add in response directly to Warren's article and Robin's quote that in books and movies, plenty of works that aren't fun by anyone's measure are still very commercially successful. They're called dramas... Closer was not a fun movie but it did well.

I think a distinction must be drawn between fun in presentation and fun in system. Mario is a fun presentation. Defcon is not a fun presentation. But they both have fun systems.

When you're making a game, I think, the system - the mechanism by which the player interacts with it, regardless of what it's showing him - can't be anything but fun. When you're dealing with active (rather than passive) activities, it must either be fun, rewarding, or tedious. Since outside of gambling you can't reward a person for playing your game, and since they'll stop playing tedious games, that means the mechanism has to be fun. (Alternately, the presentation has to be so compelling, whether or not it's fun, that they'll overlook its inadequacies).

Of course, with systems, fun has a much broader definition than in presentation. When you call a system fun, you just mean it's got entertaining challenges and interesting decisions in it. When you call a presentation fun, you mean it's playful and entertaining.

Here's a little metaphor. A game of poker. Poker is a fun game. It is compelling if the people you're playing with are all friends and you're telling dirty jokes and drinking, and it's also compelling if you're playing, even for no money, with a bunch of intense, serious players who don't talk except as needed for playing the game. The underlying mechanism of making patterns with cards and betting on them is an inherently fun mechanism. It is fun to drink and tell dirty jokes with your friends, but it is not fun to play more cerebrally with some serious players.

So it seems that this article is about how games' presentations are focusing too much on providing the drunken-dirty-joke-friends feeling, and not the intense-battle-of-wits feeling. And, as I may or may not have said before, I think the key to interesting game analysis and design is to separate the mechanism from the presentation and consider them separately as well as together.

Archon:
I don't agree that the argument can be resolved semantically, heavyfeul.

When I think of what might be a game that's "not fun" but still worth doing, here are some things that come to mind:
- Running a marathon
- Watching Black Hawk Down
- Reading 1984

Yes, but we are talking about games...

Games are not like movies, sports, or other leisure activities. Games have to be fun, otherwise they really cannot be considered a game. To consider calling something not fun a game, would stretch the definition of a game so thin it would stop having any real meaning. If you take fun out of a game altogether, then it really ceases to be a game anymore. It becomes just an interactive activity. At their very essence games are meant to be enjoyable, fun, and amusing activities. If we create games that are not fun, then maybe we need another name for them.

I understand the distinction Warren is making. But if people follow his advice then the videogame industry really will decline, because people will put down the controller and mouse and go do something that is fun.

I wanted to stop reading after this line:

But, the word "fun" has other problems. It kind of locks us into a "games are for kids" mentality.

Why should "fun" only be related to children? Are Adults meant to be not-fun? Because it's news to me.

I'm sorry Warren doesn't have fun as an adult, but for me and a lot of other people I know adult life is fun.

I find when I get together with my childhood friends we have fun doing more adult activities, but this "fun" hasn't changed dramatically from when we were kids, either.

Then the more I read the more I thought this whole story is a bunch of wank actually.

Who has ever said "Fun is what you must be and all you will ever be." in regards to games?

No one I've ever worked with, that's for sure. Fun is definately a factor, but so is compelling, challenging, interesting, aestheically pleasing, and so on.

In my mind, trying to create a dichotomy between fun and these other factors that simply doesn't exist isn't a good way to conceptualise game creation, and if Warren is the type that does this, maybe he's not the type who should be making them...

Basically I think he's making a mountain out of a very tiny molehill, and this sort of thing doesn't really lead anywhere good.

heavyfeul:
Games have to be fun, otherwise they really cannot be considered a game.

I disagree. Games have to be interactive and have goals or objectives for the player.
Fun or enjoyment is necessary to make anyone put effort into playing it, but an un-fun game is still a game.

WalterK:
One can try to broaden the meaning of 'fun' until it encompasses any meaningful experience whatsoever, but it becomes pretty clear on analysis that this is not how people use the word when they talk about games being fun

A crucial point.
Warren's saying that the word 'fun' has come to be associated with being childlike. You could argue the same is true of the word 'play'.
The whole furore about games with adult content is because so many people still see games as a childish toy.
Using alternative words when communicating with the public at large may help them see games as a medium adults could enjoy without having to be childish.

david_hellman:
"can't developers describe their work with a bit more sophistication?"

Yes, many can. Can publishers?

Publishers seem to be trying to expand the market by convincing people that they don't have to be 'hard core' gamers in order to enjoy games.
That's all good, but they appear to be doing this by catering to the part of people that wants to be a kid again, to the exclusion of everything else.

In order for ground-breaking games to be made that cater for adults, there has to be a potential market.
In the current industry model, that needs publishers to be willing to communicate to potential customers with words other than 'fun' because of the way that word is perceived.

gregking:
Warren's saying that the word 'fun' has come to be associated with being childlike. You could argue the same is true of the word 'play'.

That's an interesting point. I'm currently reading a book called The Play Ethic that essentially attempts to formulate an alternative to the structured, Puritan-derived "work ethic" that permeates parts of the formerly colonial world. The book addresses the origins and various meanings of the word "play" in great detail -- it's fascinating reading.

Shiroi Danmaku-kun. It's a game I've been playing recently, mostly because I have a Mac and there aren't that many games to play on it. In any case, the game is anything but fun, but I still play it often. Why? I have no idea really. It's not fun, it has no story, its graphics are minimalistic, the difficulty is totally unfair, and well, it's got nearly everything going against it. I think, though, that's it's an example of a game that didn't make "fun" a priority.

http://narcissu.insani.org/
This is also a game that's not fun. It's not supposed to be, it's suppposed to tell a story. That's basically it. I don't like the story, so I don't like playing it, but it's not a bad story at all. Maybe somebody else would like playing it.

The problem is that people are seeking different things from the same games. Some are perfectly happy with the state of videogames... some are not.

I like drama. I like games that make me question my own morals with a good story... I like it when a game gives me something to ponder on an intellectual level. Adult drama is very different than drama for kids. Videogames are currently designed to appeal to kids. It's that simple.

Some adults are not into drama or don't seek that when they play videogames and these are the ones who can't understand the validity of this article. It doesn't apply to them. It's like when people say that [insert action movie title] was a good movie and the other people say that they didn't like it. There is nothing wrong with the movie, it's just impossible to appeal to everyone... which is why there are drama movies and action movies. Right now, the videogame market is focused on "action movies". There are hardly any "drama movies" for videogamers... and even fewer "adult drama movies" (if any).

This article (and others like it) is simply the product of an evolving (growing) videogamer demographic.

Imagine if 99% of the books and movies out there were rated "E for everyone".

I'm tired of the young boy who embarks on an epic quest to save the world... could I have some stories that appeal to people over 30, please?

Another interesting article in a similar vein.

http://gamasutra.com/features/20060929/adams_01.shtml

gregking:
Another interesting article in a similar vein.

http://gamasutra.com/features/20060929/adams_01.shtml

I read the original article and this follow-up. A very similiar premise to the one in Warren's article.

The more I think about this whole issue of "fun" versus "highbrow" I just think it boils down to taste. Although I think both authors are being a bit snobish about the whole thing, despite their proclamations to the opposite, it seems that as gamers grow up and move into their thirties they begin to desire games that mimic the more adult and cerebral themes they have come to appreciate in other forms of media.

The problem with that is that videogames are not all that conducive to "highbrow" themes. It seems to me that to recreate the experiences of "high culture" in videogames would create a somewhat restrictive type of game play, so that the experience could be tailored to and consistent with the vision of the designer. Books and movies are completely contrived and and relatively static. Videogames, on the other hand, are a more open-ended and user determined experience.

It's a problem, but it may not be a limitation. I think we will see more "highbrow" games in the future, based on the simple fact that gamers are getting a little longer in tooth and want to see videogames mature along with them.

heavyfeul:

The problem with that is that videogames are not all that conducive to "highbrow" themes. It seems to me that to recreate the experiences of "high culture" in videogames would create a somewhat restrictive type of game play, so that the experience could be tailored to and consistent with the vision of the designer.

I dunno, Max Payne does a pretty good job at tackling adult themes while keeping gameplay innovative and fun. Same goes for Indigo Prophecy and the plethora if interacive fiction games out there.

Like other entertainment media, games can be highbrow, but many choose not to be. Just like action movies or romance novels cater to a different audience, so do many games.

heavyfeul:
The problem with that is that videogames are not all that conducive to "highbrow" themes. It seems to me that to recreate the experiences of "high culture" in videogames would create a somewhat restrictive type of game play.

Why do you say that the videogame medium is not conducive to "highbrow" themes? Does this have anything to do with Roger Ebert? Don't get me started on Roger. ;-)

I agree with Joe, it's really just a choice made by the either the developer or the publisher... and it all boils down to the risks involved in making money. Personally, I really enjoyed Halo and Knights of the Old Republic (best twist ever, by the way). Why can't we see games like that, but with stories and dialog that are impressive and interesting to the grownup gamer?

It's not a matter of restricting how games are designed... I don't understand that argument at all.

Echolocating:

heavyfeul:
The problem with that is that videogames are not all that conducive to "highbrow" themes. It seems to me that to recreate the experiences of "high culture" in videogames would create a somewhat restrictive type of game play.

Why do you say that the videogame medium is not conducive to "highbrow" themes? Does this have anything to do with Roger Ebert? Don't get me started on Roger. ;-)

I agree with Joe, it's really just a choice made by the either the developer or the publisher... and it all boils down to the risks involved in making money. Personally, I really enjoyed Halo and Knights of the Old Republic (best twist ever, by the way). Why can't we see games like that, but with stories and dialog that are impressive and interesting to the grownup gamer?

It's not a matter of restricting how games are designed... I don't understand that argument at all.

The thing that distinguishes games from other forms of media is the ability to interact with the environemnt and to participate in gameplay. Thus, much of the experience a user has is determined by how they decide to experience the game. To ensure that the game fully realizes its desire to be "highbrow" would require a certain amount of restrictions in how the gamer goes about playing the game. Otherwise, the experience would be completely different for every user.

Just adding particular stories and dialog would not make the game highbrow. There a several games that already touch on highbrow issues, but do they quilify as icons of high culture?

For any game there has to be a certain amount of play involved. That play has to fun in some fashion or another. Would forcing the user to play in a specific "highbrow" way make for a good viable game? I am not really sure, but I am skeptical.

It just seems to me that anytime we try to elevate videogames into the realm of art or high culture, we inevitabley fail, at least in an objective sense. This may be related to the nature of the medium itself. If we make a videogame that most people would consider high culture, would it still be a videogame, or would it be interactive art, or an electronic graphic novel?

Movies and books have the ability to completely contrive the viewers' or readers' experience. Videogames do not have that luxury.

heavyfeul:
If we make a videogame that most people would consider high culture, would it still be a videogame, or would it be interactive art, or an electronic graphic novel?

Personally, I consider all of these to be video games anyways, so it's a non-issue to me.

heavyfeul:
The thing that distinguishes games from other forms of media is the ability to interact with the environemnt and to participate in gameplay. Thus, much of the experience a user has is determined by how they decide to experience the game. To ensure that the game fully realizes its desire to be "highbrow" would require a certain amount of restrictions in how the gamer goes about playing the game. Otherwise, the experience would be completely different for every user.

...

For any game there has to be a certain amount of play involved. That play has to fun in some fashion or another. Would forcing the user to play in a specific "highbrow" way make for a good viable game? I am not really sure, but I am skeptical.

Disagree. You don't have to make the experience the exact same, you just need to convey the same themes, which is the important part in art anyway. In fact, no one experiences "real" art in the same way anyone else does, either. Ask 10 people what the Mona Lisa's smile means, and you'll get 10 different answers, assuming they didn't read The Da Vinci Code.

I think you're looking at sandbox games and MMOGs rather than games as a whole. Sure, GTA by very definition has to be an open-ended experince. Same with WoW. But look at all the single player games that put people on rails, whether they know it or not. Metal Gear Solid and Kojima's themes on violence definitely brush up against art, despite the fact there's little to no wiggle room in the way you play the game. You're still being guided by the creator's hand; there's just an illusion of choice. And it's still a fun game.

Personally, I think people in the industry put too much stock into agency, especially when they say it's what separates games from books, movies and other forms of art. Literature and cinema engage the audience in a dialog, which can be just as interactive as games, or more so, mainly because that dialog occurs between other members of the audience rather than an AI.

I think it could be quite possible to make a game that forces people to think about the world, like movies such as Fight Club did (or even Inconvenient Truth, but let's start climbing before we leap mountains). There's even some ways to introduce interactivity. I know some people in F.E.A.R. felt sort of wierd being able to kill Fettel themselves, unrestrained. He's talking to you, and he stops, and you're sitting there, and you think "WAIT. I HAVE A PISTOL. HE HASN'T DISAPPEARED." Will Wright said there's a big difference between seeing a burly hitman tie someone up and let them bleed to death, and BEING a burly hitman...

It's like nobody believes in layered gameplay anymore.

Shakespeare got it right; build your story with layers, with the low-brow stuff up-front (there's sex and booze humour in Shakespeare, regular Farelly Brothers stuff for the era, and lots of fighting), social commentary behind that, literary themes behind that, and wrap it up in poetry. Appeals to a broad market of differing demographics with the same product.

Games have ventured there too; Shadow of the Colossus and BioShock, for two. Arguably Portal and Marathon. There's no reason to think that we won't see more of the same ilk... and who knows, maybe we're still waiting for the digital era's Shakespeare to blow the doors off all the conventions.

-- Steve

(PS: I hate the false dichotomy raised by Spectre, that stories are either fun or thought-provoking. They can be both.)

I like articles like this, because I think they tend to look at games with a different perspective. This particular subject is something I've thought a little about, because I don't really buy the "games have to be fun" sort of mindset, as it doesn't seem to mesh with other activities very well. I think the best example that comes to mind at the moment is climbing Mount Everest. I haven't done it, but there was recently a commercial on the Discovery Channel for a new show about some people making the trek to the top. I just remember part of the commercial being a person saying something like (and I grossly paraphrase), "This is hard, it isn't fun. Don't do this expecting to enjoy it." Yet, people do it. I can only imagine that people want to do this sort of thing because, despite misery and pain, it is a valued experience. That, then, is what I'd like to see games trying to create: valued experiences. Being fun is okay, but it often gets forgotten, and you just need to get the next bit of fun to keep you going. If you create an experience (in a book, lecture, film, sport, game, or anything) that goes beyond simple fun to give you something you really value, then I think that is always going to be more laudable.

Two words: Silent Hill.

With the possible exception of the newer, more action-oriented variety like resident evil 4, Survival horror has never been "Fun". It's done just fine.

 

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