With A Thousand Avatars

To the editor: Allen Varney, as usual, makes a fine job of a hot topic in “Trading Web Cards.”

But on one point I feel he (probably inadvertently) paints a distorted picture. Wizards of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering Online game may be seen by a few grumpy tournament players as riddled with bugs, bribery and lag but for the vast majority of players these are seldom-important details of a very playable game.

In particular, MtGO is actually superior to its paper counterparts in two key respects:

1) It actually enforces the game rules. (Except in high level tournaments, most games of Magic involve rules errors unnoticed by all players.)

2) You can actually find opponents at any time of day or night.

– Dom

In response to “‘Fun’ is a Four-Letter Word” from The Escapist Forum: 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.

– gregking

In response to “‘Fun’ is a Four-Letter Word” from The Escapist Forum: 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 engaged 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.

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– Scopique

In response to “‘Fun’ is a Four-Letter Word” from The Escapist Forum: 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

– Branded

In response to “‘Fun’ is a Four-Letter Word” from The Escapist Forum: 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.”

– heavyfeul

In response to “‘Fun’ is a Four-Letter Word” from The Escapist Forum: 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.

– Walter K

In response to “‘Fun’ is a Four-Letter Word” from The Escapist Forum: 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, exhilarating, 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.

– david_hellman

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