On Fun


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edited in Tutorials
This comes up occasionally, and usually ends in a debate with no real outcome. If this post were to become a debate, I suspect the same will happen, but anyway, here are my thoughts/opinions.

I'm not a fan of prescribing "fun" as some sort of goal for games to achieve. I like having fun, and I like fun games. But it's "fun" as it pertains to myself. I don't expect my concept of fun to be the same as someone else's.

I'm already of the belief that we tend to limit ourselves through formalism. "XYZ is not a game.", is something we see all the time. While not a bad idea for people to learn the art and craft of game design/development through formalised principles, I'm opposed to presenting these things as absolutes. They should merely be there to seed someone on their road mastery by making their own mistakes and learning from them.

On top of this aversion to formalism that I already have, I twitch a little when a loose concept such as "fun" is doled out as advice as a thing games must have. I have played great games that I would most certainly not describe as "fun". Others might. Had a debate of this very nature with Del about an hour ago, and even then it was apparent we had different ideas about what the word meant to us.

What sparked this post is a suggestion that story/art does not facilitate "fun". Why not? In some people's perception of fun, reading comic strips is fun. If similar ideas are applied in a game, could it not achieve the same thing?

Fun is a loose term and my alternative suggestion is to leave it out as a descriptor in one's design goals.

Anyway, your mileage may vary.

For further reading and/or alternative ideas on the topic to my own/yours/the neighbour's:
- Raph Koster's 10 year retrospective about his book "A Theory Of Fun": http://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/gdco12/Koster_Raph_Theory_Fun_10.pdf
- Ian Bogost


Bonus content, on the folly of advice:
- 50 Steps to Indie Success: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TanyaShort/20131010/201752/

Comments


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    edited
    @rustybroomhandle - I think online rating sites (e.g. metacritic) is a good indication of how people's perception of fun differs. It has happened a couple of times that I would play a game, love it immensely and think that is the most fun thing ever, finish the game and then afterwards check out the reviews for the game, only to discover that what I saw as fun other people saw as bugs (or worse call it a broken game). Two examples of the top of my head are Tenchu Z for Xbox and resident evil 6. Loved both, both got horrendous reviews online. Also, math, puzzle and trivia games - some love them, some hate them.

    I think this is something we are born with. My boy and my brother's child are the same age. We purchased leappads for both of them last year Xmas. My boy is still costing me a fortune in AAA batteries a year later, whereas my brother's kid hasn't switched his on since Feb this year. It is all about how and what you perceive fun to be. I think games should aim to stir emotions in players, but it doesn't necessarily have to be fun. That's why terms like "casual gamer" and "core gamer" exists.

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    Also doens't Ian Bogost look a bit like a fat Collin Farrel in the screen above :)

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    Here's Campster on the same topic:




  • Notice: Undefined variable: GuestHourOffset in /home/nitrogen/public_html_mgsatest/forums/themes/mgsa/class.mgsathemehooks.php on line 281
    The right term is engagement and being engaging. Lots of games aren't "fun", but it takes you in, and grabs a hold of you, and you can't help but grab back. Whether that engagement is fun, intrigue, fear, tension, whatever, the one that works is the one that'll stick.

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    @Tuism hit the nail on the head. Most writing on (and discussions of) games find that engagement is a far better word to describe the emotional response that we are looking at.

    But if anyone is interested, here is some additional reading on the subject.
    The Koster is really great, as is the Juul, but some of the shorter articles are also useful. De Koven and Huizinga are fundamentals, but do touch on the subject in interesting ways.

    Koster, R., 2004. A Theory of Fun for Game Design 1st ed., Paraglyph Press.
    http://www.amazon.com/A-Theory-Fun-Game-Design/dp/1932111972

    Prensky, M., 2001. Fun, play and games: What makes games engaging. Digital game-based learning, pp.1–31.
    http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Game-Based%20Learning-Ch5.pdf

    Choi, D., Kim, H. & Kim, J., 1999. Toward the construction of fun computer games: Differences in the views of developers and players. Personal Technologies, 3(3), pp.92–104.
    http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/649/art%253A10.1007%252FBF01305334.pdf?auth66=1383726531_bb46a503823e686bdadeefcd5ca57153&ext=.pdf

    Juul, J., 2005. Half-real : video games between real rules and fictional worlds, Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press.
    http://www.amazon.com/Half-Real-Video-between-Fictional-Worlds/dp/0262516519

    Juul, J., 2009. A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players, The MIT Press.
    http://www.amazon.com/Casual-Revolution-Reinventing-Video-Players/dp/0262517396

    Koven, B.D., 1978. The well-played game: A player’s philosophy 1st Anchor books ed., Anchor Press.
    http://www.amazon.com/The-well-played-game-players-philosophy/dp/0385132689

    Huizinga, J., 1971. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, Beacon Press.
    http://www.amazon.com/Homo-Ludens-Study-Play-Element-Culture/dp/0807046817

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    hanli said:
    The Koster is really great
    The 10 year retrospective on A Theory of Fun I linked in the OP is a good read too, even though it's just a bunch of annotated slides.

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    >.< Working in marketing, the word "engagement" is so overused. But I can understand how "fun" doesn't work either. What about the word "enjoyment"?

  • Notice: Undefined variable: GuestHourOffset in /home/nitrogen/public_html_mgsatest/forums/themes/mgsa/class.mgsathemehooks.php on line 281
    Nothing wrong with engagement even after marketing's done with it... I mean, end of the day in marketing or games, it's the same - you want the player/user/public/someone to stay with you. And engagement does that.

    Enjoyment... Many horror games, I would say, is not "enjoyable" :P But you can't stop playing :)

    Also there's this video. Called "The Goldmine of Blackheads". Not enjoyable. But look at all the hits it got! (And I couldn't stop watching. OMG It was traumatic and terrible and I couldn't stop watching)

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    "addictive" is also a terrible word to use. Even when designers sometimes actively try to control the release of dopamine in players, making the term possibly accurate, it's an awful way to look at game design.

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    Agreed on "addictive". I'm increasingly hearing people say "hey that game's addictive" or "that game's not as addictive as the other one" - and they're not even game designers. It's quite a scary bar to be using when talking about something that's basically entertainment.

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    I wonder if one could possibly take all the most common OCD's humans have, mix in some Sigmund Freud findings, add a dash of Maslow's Needs Hierarchy...Distill. Add to a game. Maybe it would then be possible to derive that illusive equation that = FUN? I think even if this was possible one would still only keep 83.34% of gamers happy for a limited time period. Fortunately fun is not all a game is about. Luckily there are other elusive elements that contribute to that winning formula as well. For example I've loved games purely for there epic soundtracks or mood. Yes I'm looking at you again DreamWeb...


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    Fun, enjoyment, engagement are all intrinsic values that are defined by the individual's own personal tastes and background. If these are not taken into account, there's no way to create an overall definition of any of these. It is almost always not the game itself, but its relation to these values that makes you play it and return to it. That's why games should be aimed at specific audiences for maximum impact - any attempt to hybridise normally leads to failure as the same person who gets value from one component can also be extremely frustrated or put off by another.

  • Notice: Undefined variable: GuestHourOffset in /home/nitrogen/public_html_mgsatest/forums/themes/mgsa/class.mgsathemehooks.php on line 281
    I was taught in primary school that the word 'nice' was a meaningless word and every effort should be taken to replace it with something more descriptive. After watching the thought-provoking video I think the same should apply to the word 'fun'.

    Instead of 'fun' think of another word you would use and not only will it help you evaluate your experience better but you will relate to others as well.

  • Notice: Undefined variable: GuestHourOffset in /home/nitrogen/public_html_mgsatest/forums/themes/mgsa/class.mgsathemehooks.php on line 281
    There was a car advert there the character derided the word 'nice', we need the same advert for 'fun'
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