Beyond Fun – Why Games Need to Be More than Fun – Extra Credits


the word fun is a noun meaning light-hearted pleasure or amusement or an adjective meaning entertaining or enjoyable for 25 years now we’ve been held back by the idea that games are only about fun 25 years of constraining the medium to this tiny spectrum of experience thinking about games only in terms of a single emotion it’s time we stopped doing that not because we want the fun games to go away but because we want to see other kinds of games too no other medium out there limits itself to delivering on fun exclusively and they’re better for that what if the only movies coming out were dumb summer blockbusters and the only books were Dan Brown novels wouldn’t that suck I mean summer blockbusters can be awesome but think of how many other great films we’d miss out on limiting all of cinema to a single genre would just get stale and boring after a while which brings me back to games why do we fiercely cling to this self demand constraint of only creating fun it’s because of fear on both the industry and consumer level we’re afraid about what might happen if we step out from behind the old shield of saying we’re only about making fun if we stop dismissing ourselves as a children’s pastime and acknowledge that like any medium we can engage in a plethora of ways what does that mean does it mean we have to be responsible doesn’t mean we’ll have to push ourselves rather than just cranking out the same kinds of games we already know how to make over and over probably but like I said it’s time it’s time we expanded our horizons and embrace the myriad other ways that games can enthrall us it’s time we change the way we talk about games and start to ask not what makes a game fun but what makes a game engaging it’s time we do this because it lets us make more types of games it lets us make better games and the fun games are only going to get more fun as a result but most of all it’s time we do this for ourselves because whether we acknowledge it or not it’s happening when you play Silent Hill you’re not experiencing light-hearted pleasure when you play through a tragic visual novel you’re not necessarily finding it enjoyable or amusing but you’re definitely engaged and that far more than fun is what we as human beings want from our entertainment as a player you may not see it but there’s a continual industry conversation about finding the fun in every title even where it may not be appropriate and it’s handicapping games constantly imagine if the crew behind Schindler’s List got together looked at a rough cut of the movie and said we need to find the fun in this thing imagine if Steinbeck finished Grapes of Wrath and then the editor sat him down for a meeting and said look John it’s great not sure it’s fun enough it sounds ridiculous but that’s what happens with games all the time just look at Silent Hill Homecoming was an attempt to bring much more fun to the series and look what happened in fact I’d say that the more recent grasshopper manufacturer games have suffered now that they’re trying to make their special brand of crazy more fun in a traditional sense I’m sure suda51 fans will agree with me his insanity was pretty engaging to begin with this terminology problem not only prevents us from creating whole genres of games but it also confuses discussion of existing game design everything we create right now has to somehow fit into the fun category so we get all of these game reviewers and designers trying to rationalize why horror is fun or attempting to explain why adding iran’s to bioshock somehow made it more fun rather than just letting these things be something else it’s like when those 17th century alchemists developed the phlogiston theory in an attempts to explain how fire worked and then they made all sorts of erroneous assumptions based off of that false premise because they just couldn’t see past the box of hypotheses they’d already made game design keeps running into walls and filling itself with crazy twisting logic just because we can’t let go of our dependency on fun people often ask that age-old question when will again make you cry while others of us remember the times games already did make us shed a tear well whenever it happens unless those are tears of joy when a game makes you cry it won’t be because you’re having fun you’ll be engaged sure you’ll be engaged as hell but that won’t be because you’re having fun and you know even the things we think of as fun are better because they aren’t entirely about fun Star Wars The Matrix the Lord of the Rings they’re all better for being able to tap into things that aren’t purely fun Final Fantasy 10 System Shock Planescape even games like The Sims and civilization are better for moments that aren’t simply about light-hearted pleasure all fun all the time is a lot like all candy all the time no matter how good it tastes it first by xx Snickers bar you’re just sick of it a little savory makes the sweet even better so let’s stop focusing exclusively on fun and start examining what makes something engaging because that includes fun fun’s one of the most engaging things out there but it’s not all there is and let’s talk about the ways that games are actually engaging us with deep personal drama with terrifying sites with romantic sentiment or with an adrenaline high like diving out of a speeding plane but let’s not confuse our terminology or limit the medium any longer just because we’re afraid of the challenge there will always be games about having fun but if we’re going to truly get the most out of this medium or even if we want get the most fun out of it we’ve got to get over this fear it’s time to move beyond the fun and take this thing to the next level thanks for watching we’ll see you guys next week Oh

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