Playing for fun

 Posted by (Visited 11106 times)  Game talk
Aug 302006
 

People play games to have fun, not to make the world a better place to live.

“People read books only for enjoyment, never to learn anything.”

We can just scratch off all those books — yes, entertaining books! — that we read because they introduce us to new things, give us a glimpse of different lives, teach us a little bit, challenge us, and so on.

“People look at pictures only because they are pretty.”

Oops, Picasso, toss that Guernica thing. Goya, quit doing those paintings about the Spanish Civil War.

“Movies are just entertainment, for fun, not to make the world a better place to live.”

Good, we can discard everything from All Quiet on the Western Front through Schindler’s List.

This is an inane statement; sorry to be so blunt, but… all media can be used for a wide variety of purposes. And fun and making the world better are not mutually incompatible. The sitcom Friends made the world a better place, in its small way, with constant messages throughout, even down to its annoyingly catchy theme song. Hell, even “fun” itself is making the world a better place in itself quite often.

To say that games cannot do whatever other media can do, that they are “just for fun” and have no other purpose, is to betray a profound contempt for games.

  24 Responses to “Playing for fun”

  1. Part of my ongoing thoughts on the Meaning of Games: “To say that games cannot do whatever other media can do, that they are “just for fun” and have no other purpose, is to betray a profound contempt for games.” Raph’s Website » Playing for fun I keep saying this to myself, but I’m not sure if I believe it yet.  I’d like to, but I’m just not sure games are there yet.  And, more importantly, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to change that.

  2. Part of my ongoing thoughts on the Meaning of Games: “To say that games cannot do whatever other media can do, that they are “just for fun” and have no other purpose, is to betray a profound contempt for games.” Raph’s Website » Playing for fun I keep saying this to myself, but I’m not sure if I believe it yet.  I’d like to, but I’m just not sure games are there yet.  And, more importantly, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to change that.

  3. The original quote is a bit of a moot point; I don’t intend to make the world a better place by playing, but as per your argument the sharing of ideas and expressions through any media will, indirectly as well as directly, improve the world through improving our understanding of it. The old saying “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a pretty good analogy for how media and the arts improve the world around us.

  4. Where’s the original quote from?

  5. The original quote is from here.

  6. […] “For Fun” Indeed Published by Nabil August 30th, 2006 in Uncategorized. To say that games cannot do whatever other media can do, that they are “just for fun” and have no other purpose, is to betray a profound contempt for games. (Raph Koster in response to a comment that games are played for nothing more than fun) […]

  7. I seem to recall playing a game on the Apple IIe that had me racing a car in a circle. The faster I typed in the words that appeared on the screen, the faster my car went. I think I learned something, but I can’t remember.

  8. Hmmm. I belong to what you might call a meta-guild of about 10,000 gamers

    http://www.theoldergamers.com/

    I’ll put up a poll to see how many play games to have fun and how many play games to make the world a better place. Since the two are not mutually exclusive or incompatible I’ll include BOTH as an option. I’m curious about what the responses will look like.

  9. I would have made the argument that the entertainment industry wouldn’t be making billions each year if it wasn’t improving the world in some way (if even only by bringing some amusement into people’s lives), but then again, the illicite drug trade is also a billion-dollar industry.

    But, of the individuals who could consume both, I would wager that far fewer account for the vast “success” of the drug trade than contribute to the success of entertainment.

    Point is (I think, anyway) that entertainment is not niche. If it didn’t contribute in some positive way, then I think it would be a niche. In fact, is there any worthwhile endeavor that doesn’t “act” to make the world a better place to live.

    I think some people may feel that something enjoyable is somehow trivial. And, perhaps, an individual game (or book, film, work of art) IS trivial, but collected these “amusing diversions” contribute a great deal to many people’s enjoyment of life.

  10. JuJutsu, I doubt a poll would garner any results worth a damn, because if you ask people the same about Friends, they’ll say they just watch it for fun too. Often people don’t even know that the medicine is going down. Those of us who design or critique games in depth, though, ought to know.

  11. I guess I missed the point. So for clarification are we talking about why people play games [the motivation to participate] or the consequences of people playing games [one of which can be the world being a better place]?

    I agree that those of you who design or critique games in depth ought to know …. about both.

  12. Is whether or not games have an inherent chance to make a deeper social impact even up for debate? “Hidden Agenda” was a very subtle geopolitical critique of America’s policy in Central America. “September 12th” is a more modern, less subtle version.

    *Everything* we do has a context, and thus everything we create has the chance to have an echo of changing the world for the better or for the worse. Game crafters often forget this, but it doesn’t mean their products have any less effect on the society that demands them.

  13. Aufero wrote:

    People play games to have fun, not to make the world a better place to live.

    Two words: serious games.

    Serious Games Initiative

    Serious Games Source

    Serious Games Summit

    Nobel Prize Educational Games

    Serious Games in San Diego

    Social Impact Games

  14. I guess I missed the point. So for clarification are we talking about why people play games [the motivation to participate] or the consequences of people playing games [one of which can be the world being a better place]?

    I agree that those of you who design or critique games in depth ought to know …. about both.

    Well, it’s both, really.

    As a consumer: People participate in entertainment. But in pretty much every medium, people do not do so solely on the basis of one possible reaction or one possible emotion. We can choose between two equally fun games based on other virtues the games have, for example. Here it’s not about making the world a better place to live, but about self-improvement. We watch an entertaining drama rather than Jackass or America’s Funniest Home Videos because we think that it’s worth watching the drama instead.

    As a culture: Here’s where we speak of making the world a better place. This is more on the developer’s side, by means of the messages they choose to put in their content. And make no mistake, virtually all entertainment carries a message. In fact, the most populist entertainment is marked by the crudest, most simplistic, most pedantically presented messages — the villians are cookie-cutter evil, the good guy is always self-sacrificing, and you always rescue the innocents.

  15. This is interesting considering chapter eight of Ian Bogost’s Unit Operations, called “An Alternative To Fun”. You’re cited quite heavily in the chapter, and Bogost seems to be argueing in counter to the idea that the magic circle is a profound barrier and that fun should be the focus of all game design. I guess what you’re saying is that, yes, there is no such thing as “just a game” but that fun is still a central harmony of good craft. Is that accurate? If so, how would you analyze Bogost’s Disaffected!?

    Hmmm, that was an intersting gliche in english grammer, just now.

  16. […] Playing for fun on Raph Koster Playing for fun on Raph Koster People play games to have fun, not to make the world a better place to live. “People read books only for enjoyment, never to learn anything.” We can just scratch off all those books — yes, entertaining books! — that we read because they introduce us to new things, give us a glimpse of different lives, teach […] via Raph Koster […]

  17. If you walk away from a game happier or more relaxed, you’re very likely to be nicer to other people.

    If you walk away from a game refreshed, you are more likely to be able to concentrate on your “real” work, whatever it might be.

    It seems fairly straightforward to me.

    Incidentally, the same goes for the illegal drug industry. Prohibition was and will always remain a really stupid idea.

  18. people play games to have fun….they pick which games to play based on the subject, plot, and mechanics….and they keep playing because they feel there is more room too grow…more to accomplish, more to experience, basicly, more to learn, and of course, the social interaction aspect.

    several of the large development houses recognize this, but they tend to take shortcuts at the expense of the consumer…games are more expensive then other forms of media, and for many consumers, once they have been badly burned once, they will not go back for a second helping.

    a real problem we’re having now is the focus on “casual gaming” which is completely unviable….it is a cottage industry that big names have their eyes on, targeting the masses with the expressed intent of making games that to use an analogy, would be like making a movie with the intent to have viewers say “yeah, I watched it, didn’t really pay too much attention though, I guess there are worse ways I could have wasted a few hours”

    I’ve played alot of great games over the years, and most of them taught me things, sports, strategy, history, culture, deep thinking, precision reflexes, etc etc…..in recent years however, it seems there a much smaller number of games out there….there are just as many (if not more) different boxes in the stores, but many are just carbon copies of other games, that really add nothing to the art, and are simply the digital entertainment editions of the car porn, tough guy, and prop comedy movies.

    and although off topic, I agree with Cael…prohibition is a really, really stupid idea.

  19. quiet420 wrote:

    a real problem we’re having now is the focus on “casual gaming” which is completely unviable

    Says the anonymous user whose alias includes the term “420”…

    The IGDA Casual Games Special Interest Group published a 119-page whitepaper (PDF) detailing the casual games market, industry, and products. In addition, Parks Research has also identified three segments—Social Gamers, Leisure Gamers, and Dormant Gamers—that account for 53% of the online gamer population and 56% of the retail revenue.

    As described in the whitepaper, “Over the past few years, casual games have gone from a cottage industry to one of the highest growth areas in the overall video games sector.”

  20. “People read books only for enjoyment, never to learn anything.”

    We can just scratch off all those books — yes, entertaining books! — that we read because they introduce us to new things, give us a glimpse of different lives, teach us a little bit, challenge us, and so on.

    Reading and playing games aren’t at all the same thing, so that comparison isn’t particularly useful. Of course people read for other purposes – taking in information is basic to just about every human activity.

    The theory of play has entire educational disciplines devoted to it, most of which have as their basic lesson “learning can be enhanced by a sense of fun.” That doesn’t mean that people will necessarily play educational games purely for learning purposes, unless that’s the only method of learning a topic available. The educational games that lose sight of the fun factor tend to be dreary and boring, which hardly helps the learning process.

    Much of the point to educational and “serious” games is to inject a sense of fun into a cognitive process, and thereby enhance memory and cognition for that process. If there’s no sense of fun, what you’re doing isn’t a game; it may be a tutor, a complex mnemonic, a financial contest or a simulator, but it’s not a game. The point of “serious” games is to make the desired activity fun enough to enhance it.

    (The comments often made when competitive games turn serious reinforce this sense of the word – “He’s not playing anymore”, “It’s not just a game to him”, etc. are used when competition has overwhelmed the sense of fun.)

    “People look at pictures only because they are pretty.”

    Oops, Picasso, toss that Guernica thing. Goya, quit doing those paintings about the Spanish Civil War.

    “Movies are just entertainment, for fun, not to make the world a better place to live.”

    Good, we can discard everything from All Quiet on the Western Front through Schindler’s List.

    Now we get to the meat of the argument – whether games are identical to other art forms. Art and creative expression aren’t defined by whether they’re fun, but on their beauty, the message they convey or the feeling they produce in the observer.

    There’s just one problem with defining games that way: it doesn’t fit any dictionary definition (and, since dictionaries are mostly descriptive these days, any common-use definition) of the word “game” that encompasses MMOs. The analogies to Guernica and Schindler’s List don’t fit, because there’s no definition of painting or cinema that says they have to be fun in addition to being awe inspiring or thought provoking.

    Games are an art form that requires fun as part of the mix. That’s not to say they can’t convey information, or be as beautiful and inspiring as any other art form, but if it’s not fun, what you’re doing isn’t a game.

  21. Bah, lost sight of the original quote I was defending.

    People play games to have fun, not to make the world a better place to live.

    Yes, people do play games for other reasons than just to have fun. I can experience Guernica or a Bach Cello Suite purely due to a school assignment on them, for instance. However, if I’m not seeing what makes them unique pieces of art during that experience, I’m unlikely to return to them, or to their art forms.

  22. Forgot one:

    To say that games cannot do whatever other media can do, that they are “just for fun” and have no other purpose, is to betray a profound contempt for games.

    Conversely, I would argue that to say that being “just for fun” betrays a contempt for games is to betray a contempt for fun.

  23. Morgan, I fail to see how you advanced the discussion at all by mentioning my “anonymous status” or the term “420” in my name…whatever, enjoy your “victory”.

    Anyway, a special interest group created for casual games tells you casual games are good? Shocking! A company that companies pay to find creative ways of telling them what they want to hear, told them what they wanted to hear? Amazing!

    Go back and read my original post. If you have any comments of your own that don’t come from some party with questionable financial interests in the field, in response to what I wrote I will be glad to discuss them with you.

    The only thing I will add to my initial statement at this time is that development of “casual games” is a backwards approach to a straightforward problem.

    Morgan Ramsay said on August 31st, 2006 at 8:55 pm:
    quiet420 wrote:

    a real problem we’re having now is the focus on “casual gaming” which is completely unviable

    Says the anonymous user whose alias includes the term “420″…

    The IGDA Casual Games Special Interest Group published a 119-page whitepaper (PDF) detailing the casual games market, industry, and products. In addition, Parks Research has also identified three segments—Social Gamers, Leisure Gamers, and Dormant Gamers—that account for 53% of the online gamer population and 56% of the retail revenue.

    As described in the whitepaper, “Over the past few years, casual games have gone from a cottage industry to one of the highest growth areas in the overall video games sector.”

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