Games: Beyond fun

Most games are designed to be fun – that’s their selling point. They tell you this piece of software is the missing puzzle piece to your heart, the antidote to the restless and empty soul. These games are planned to be, intended to be fun since the day it was birthed as an idea. And its intention remained as a core objective during all stages of development, to bring “fun” to its player. Games, moments before its launch, tend to be marketed along these lines as well. Some even go as far as to estimate the hours of “fun” the game can bring.

We stop by our local Gamestop and pick up our little packages of fun and indulge ourselves in hours upon hours of promised mental stimulation, occasionally cheered on by the program itself. Many games centered around PvP content tend to sport more conspicuous tactics. MOBAs like DotA and league heralds your killing sprees, a mechanic geared towards celebrating your brief victory over the enemy team.
sonic71340_screenshots_2011-11-18_00033In other games, either you or a group of friends are tasked with a certain objective and sometimes work with or against each other to win the game, and “fun” is made to be a core reward in doing so. Sometimes completion of such challenges are also incentivised by putting you on a pedestal for about 15 seconds. Not much, but it has achieved its goal. It’s now clear that games are fun to play, and even more fun when you win.

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But what about games that are not intended to be fun? Would they have any place in the gaming industry? Games are made for enjoyment, they are largely a form of leisure activity. If a game is not fun, the standard perception is that this game would simply start gathering dust in its producing factory and the storerooms of many game shops. On a worst case scenario, these games might not even get picked up by game retailers.

You might agree and say:

“It does not make sense for any developer to create an un-fun game, and for publishers to fund and market a game that is not fun because it simply wouldn’t sell. Who in the world would buy a game that tortures the player?”

I’m not sure whether “un-fun” is a real term, but what I do know is that there are games that do not have “fun” as a primary component in their creation. Don’t get me wrong, in these major AAA game releases “fun” is still a consideration, but other elements take priority. These games still maintain their value and receive praise for their content, however non-conforming they are. Some of these games have something to say, others have an important story to tell.
businessOfficeCraneSnowBigbySome of these games don’t really have clear Right or Wrong choices, and in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, sometimes there is never a “right” choice. Sometimes it is best not to answer. Sure, The Walking Dead puts players into a tense situation, and sometimes it might induce adrenaline and slight states of euphoria. And it can can be fun, but its “fun” is not the primary concern.

Games like Limbo and Braid does exceptionally well in delivering stories and narratives, forcing you to interpret its contents and challenges your perspective over and over again. In Braid’s case, although it is coined as a puzzle platformer, it is interesting to note that the player can bypass the puzzles easily. Most of the game levels are designed so that players can get through the game even without solving any one of the difficult puzzles. The jigsaw pieces rewarded to the player for completing these puzzles provide a little more insight to the backing story, but is nevertheless considered filler material or extras when the story comes to light.

Image courtesy: the8bitlife.com
Image courtesy: the8bitlife.com

With Spec Ops: The Line as a prime example, some of these games don’t sell well. The Line is an incredible game, considering what it set out to do: To challenge your perspective of its own genre. While it suffered from lack of sales, reviews of The Line have been mostly positive, with many critics praising the narrative, themes, and provocative take on violence in video games.  Having played through this game myself and not expecting its contents and aim, this game hit me pretty hard – precisely what it set out to do!

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Games, as the medium with the highest level of human interaction, can purposefully place us into scenarios and force us to make choices. And none of these choices are to be the “right” choices. Games like the Metro series, The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among us has definitely delivered.

Why stick to “fun”?

I am not going to denounce games like Team Fortress 2 and Minecraft, both of which mindless fun games that I have spent countless hours in. I am not saying that we should replace these games with games that are more mature.

I think games can be more than just fun. Hey, imagine if you watched a documentary and decided that it’s not “fun” enough when compared to “Cloudy with a chance of meatballs?”. Oh boy. Then again, as a gamer myself, I know that there will always be younger gamers that are always going for games that are simply more entertainment-driven and more fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Video games, as a medium, still have a broad spectrum of unexplored experiences particularly because of our strength as an interactive medium.

We’re more than just a little ball of fun. Do you have any great games to share?

Looking forward to more great years of gaming.
Cheers,
PP1MT.

3 thoughts on “Games: Beyond fun

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