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TIGSource ForumsCommunityTownhallForum IssuesArchived subforums (read only)CreativeDisplacing 'fun' from the game designer's lexicon
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Author Topic: Displacing 'fun' from the game designer's lexicon  (Read 20575 times)
agj
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« on: January 07, 2009, 12:20:07 AM »

'Fun' is a pretty empty word in our field. Most people use it to describe something that is enjoyable--but is it enjoyable by whom, and why is it enjoyable? Masochists find enjoyment in being whipped till they bleed, so maybe they would describe that as being 'fun'! Provided you're not a masochist: would you?

'Fun' is a very ambiguous word that does not help us, as game makers, to identify the cause for the enjoyment. It is the equivalent of calling a painting 'pretty'. That may be enough for a casual observer, but what about the artist? Can he really get anywhere as an artist if he thinks about his paintings as being either 'pretty' or 'ugly'?

I have my reserves when it comes to making games for enjoyment's sake, but if we're going to do that, let's at least think emotions, reactions, insights, aesthetics, etc. Say, I enjoyed Knytt, it was tremendous fun--but that fun was because:

  • it used an aesthetic of elegant simplicity (no in-your-face elements, in fact everything is tiny and subdued) and warm stillness (music would interrupt the silence at the precise moment when you discover a new area)
  • it built a seamless world that seemed larger and deeper than it actually was, thanks to a screen-as-scene approach to the level design, and to an authentic attention to detail, such as seen in the addition of non-interactive characters or stage elements that could be found in only one place of the whole map
  • it refined the controls and game elements to just what they needed to be, no more and no less, so there was no juggling with the keys or buttons at any point in the game, nor was there any colored-key-for-colored-door nonsense--the experience was pure

Of course, I'm talking about what I considered fun in the game, here, and maybe someone else found it fun because they thought it was a great challenge, or something else. Point is, not everyone will find the same things enjoyable, so what really matters is what the game is trying to communicate to the player, which he might even be disgusted by (Resident Evil). If we think under those terms, games either succeed or fail at achieving a goal, which is a much more important observation than declaring them fun or boring.

Summary: I propose we stop using the word 'fun' when talking about videogames.
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Xion
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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2009, 01:00:47 AM »

I disagree.

But I'm too sleepy to expand upon my position on the matter.

But

I like the word fun, the meaning of the word fun, and I like that games are fun.
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BMcC
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2009, 01:12:50 AM »

I propose we stop talking about talking about videogames and start talking about making videogames.

(Sorry, this isn't personal!  Just a peeve of mine.  I think the priorities are out of whack here.)
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Zaphos
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2009, 01:44:16 AM »

I think it's fine as a generic positive word, as long as you recognized it's not particularly specific.  Not all words need be specific!

But I'm often interested, when someone has played my game, in whether or not it was enjoyable for them (and then, if so, in what ways), and here I think 'fun' is a fine word.  In combination with other words, it becomes more specific as well (this element is fun for masochists, that element is fun for people who like geometric puzzles, etc).

Point is, not everyone will find the same things enjoyable, so what really matters is what the game is trying to communicate to the player, which he might even be disgusted by (Resident Evil). If we think under those terms, games either succeed or fail at achieving a goal, which is a much more important observation than declaring them fun or boring.
This seems like a leap from the rest of the post ... I'm not sure how you get from 'different people enjoy different things' to 'what really matters'?

I propose we stop talking about talking about videogames and start talking about making videogames.
Why not do both?
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isaac
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2009, 01:48:29 AM »

I propose we stop talking about talking about videogames and start talking about making videogames.

Naw, let people talk about academic stuff if they want to... I personally don't partake very often, but I always enjoy reading an intelligent discussion about game design. It's not like one can code/pixel/design 24/7 without going insane! It's also impossible to intelligently talk about game design without having gotten your hands dirty before. All things in moderation!

On fun: eh, whatever. Doesn't really matter too much either way. People are gonna keep making 'fun' games no matter what you call it. Having better language to describe the specific feelings would be nice though, and as game design progresses specific jargon will rise up (or has already been created and I just don't pay attention) that is more useful.

[this post comes to you via a bottle of cleanskin wine I found in my cupboard. It's probably all bollocks.]
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BMcC
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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2009, 02:10:44 AM »

Um, I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about game design, I'm saying we should.  That you guys seemed to have missed this illustrates my point pretty well...

Why not do both?
Because one is fruitless and inane and the other is useful!  I'm not going to lay out the multitude of reasons this is true, that should be obvious by now.  (Also, I'd practically be doing what I so despise!)  Just take my word for it. Tongue

The meaning of words is not game design, it's linguistics!

Edit for clarity:  I'm talking about arguing semantics vs. discussing game design here.  But look, now I'm arguing about arguing about semantics, so I guess you win!  Smiley
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 02:26:30 AM by BMcC » Logged

jwaap
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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2009, 02:21:49 AM »

Bullshit, fun is everything a game is about. You might not be able to make something simply fun, but you will notice when something is. Fun is a must.
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Alex May
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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2009, 02:27:00 AM »

Bullshit, fun is everything a game is about. You might not be able to make something simply fun, but you will notice when something is. Fun is a must.
What I find fun is not the same as what you find fun. Now what are you going to do?
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Gainsworthy
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2009, 02:30:09 AM »

Not play the same games? Take each other's opinions with a grain of salt? That's not a bad start, I suppose. I always assumed our ethic was make games that WE, as an individual, wants to play. And cater to everyone else later.
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Alex May
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« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2009, 02:42:04 AM »

That's the point. By talking about fun in general, you're overlaying your idea of the word onto everyone else. It's lazy. If something is or isn't fun to you, you should think about why that is and try to explain it in deeper terms than this highly subjective three letter word.
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Loren Schmidt
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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2009, 02:49:12 AM »

Zero player games can be worthwhile. Art games can be worthwhile. There's also a tremendous amount of skill involved in making a 'fun' game (and though I feel differently, it could be validly argued this is craftsmanship rather than art). Many kinds of endeavors are valid.

So everybody, group hug!
 Hand Shake Left Grin Hand Shake Right

On the topic of 'fun'-
I'm not really one for semantics. But I think the solution here is being more specific about what exactly appeals about an activity. There are a lot of different kinds of fun. For instance, I think a game about gardening would appeal to me. So instead of just saying 'it's fun', I should elaborate and say I like taking care of the plants, organizing the garden, seeing it develop over time, and being in an environment I created.

But maybe a simple description like 'it's fun' has some merit in certain situations. I think our intuitive response to art, whether it's a painting or a game, is important. Sometimes you just look at something and you really connect with it. You don't need to take a step back and analyze to know that something's working. Sometimes people don't necessarily know how to articulate why things resonate with them.
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BMcC
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2009, 02:57:22 AM »

Haowan: That's very true.

At the same time, if someone has an entirely different paradigm of fun, there's little to no point for me (as a game designer) to understand it or how they define it.  I'm not going to make a game I myself don't enjoy at its core -- it's hard enough working through projects I love!  They'll find the things they like, or make them themselves.

Re: words --  Okay, so, "fun" is an ambiguous word.  Ambiguity has its uses.  And there are other words.  In English, lots of 'em!

(Goodness, I'm doing it again.)
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Zaratustra
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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2009, 05:17:15 AM »

Agreed2. Saying 'games should be fun' is like saying 'food should be tasty'.

You'll be facing an uphill battle though, because of three things:

1) Gamers don't know why they have fun playing a game
2) Game designers don't know why the game they made is fun
3) The tigforums prefer to argue the meaning of words without looking at a dictionary than actually discussing goddamn game design.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 05:23:36 AM by Zaratustra » Logged

konjak
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« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2009, 06:37:31 AM »

Now this is stuff of ivory towers.
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TeeGee
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« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2009, 06:49:58 AM »

I propose we stop talking about talking about videogames and start talking about making videogames.

Fixed.
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Tom Grochowiak
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« Reply #15 on: January 07, 2009, 08:04:14 AM »

This entire thread makes me somewhat uneasy, since by trying to get rid of "fun", you're already breaking your own rules and trying to impose your definitions on other people. "Fun" is perfectly descriptive, you just don't think so because your definition of "fun" is too vague.

Arguing over semantic is peeve of mine. Obviously there are people that think of words in a different way than you do. Why would you debate about it? It is much more important to discuss the meaning rather than the words used to describe that meaning. The meaning we're discussing right now is a problem with descriptions being too vague. But right now it's boiling down into an argument about what exactly "fun" curtails or should curtail.
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Zaphos
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« Reply #16 on: January 07, 2009, 08:25:20 AM »

Edit for clarity:  I'm talking about arguing semantics vs. discussing game design here.  But look, now I'm arguing about arguing about semantics, so I guess you win!  Smiley
Oh, sorry, I think I misread your earlier post.  I agree with what you've said, then Smiley
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Mr Dumle
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« Reply #17 on: January 07, 2009, 09:05:58 AM »

You might say that calling a game fun is vague. But when you then say: it's beautiful, then I can say that calling it beatiful is also vague. If you then say that it's beautiful because of the lighting or atmoshpere I can say that that too is vague. Catch my drift?
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Ivan
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« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2009, 09:17:08 AM »

Well, I think that by getting rid of "fun", most people mean that games should not simply be entertainment and I tend to agree. Like, watching Robocop is fun, but I wouldn't describe watching a Tarkovsky film as "fun", and I think that we need more of the latter. Nothing wrong with fun of course, I just think that games need a new genre Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2009, 10:44:04 AM »

Edit for clarity:  I'm talking about arguing semantics vs. discussing game design here.  But look, now I'm arguing about arguing about semantics, so I guess you win!  Smiley
Oh, sorry, I think I misread your earlier post.  I agree with what you've said, then Smiley
Hahaha, right on. Cool

I propose we stop talking about talking about videogames and start talking about making videogames.
Fixed.
Hm, I would not disagree with you. Tongue  (Though, of course I see the benefit of discussion.  I wouldn't be moderating this forum if I didn't.)

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