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Optimising for fun

Optimising for fun
« on: March 07, 2012, 10:56:26 am »

Some random thoughts.

The problems I have with many games, AAA or AA games or even many indie games is, that they are optimised for being fun.
I enjoy them, of courese, they are made to be fun. But if I look for a different experience than fun or quick entertainment,
I have to look elsewhere.

Optimising for fun will trigger the same areas of emotions in the brain (I guess). Playing Tetris feels the same like playing Plants vs. Zombies or Call Of Duty. It is a different kind of fun than doing sports in real life. I would call it artificial fun or pre-designed fun. Canned fun. They optimize, polish and streamline their games for x iterations until they all feel the same.

I don't know how art could come out of this very narrow process of optimization.



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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2012, 01:09:18 pm »




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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2012, 02:54:05 am »






I disagree.  Many games are a lot of work! Embarrassed
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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2012, 04:44:00 am »






I disagree.  Many games are a lot of work! Embarrassed

Then they aren't games, they are a second job.
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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2012, 09:43:32 am »

Slight modification to my statement.

They optimize, polish and streamline their games for x iterations, until they are fun. And then those optimized games trigger the same emotion. Always the same emotion.
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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2012, 10:01:55 am »

I disagree.  Many games are a lot of work! Embarrassed

Chris Bateman makes a good point about this in Imaginary Games. Rephrased with the terminology used here, he says that games only turn into work when you stop enjoying them. Before that, they are casual. He talks about this in the context of grind in RPGs, claiming that players actually enjoy grinding. It's only after they stopped enjoy it that they start complaining how stupid it is.
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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2012, 10:03:01 am »

Always the same emotion.

I agree that that's a problem.
And definitely a point where such games differ from art.
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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2012, 10:40:20 pm »

Always the same emotion.

I agree that that's a problem.
And definitely a point where such games differ from art.

To draw upon Robert McKee's ideas about story (as I described briefly here), what these games provide is not "emotion" - it is a bunch of emotionally neutral changes in value, positive (with success) and negative (with failure).

In order to be "emotion" (by this definition), the neutral value changes would have to be tied to an emotionally resonant "mood" that provides context. Kind of like a wind instrument - the value change is the vibration created in the mouthpiece, and the mood is the resonating chamber that locks and amplifies the initial vibration into a pitched note. The better aligned the gameplay (neutral value changes), mood, story, and setting, the more likely that the player will experience emotion beyond the bland sweetness of virtual coins and levels.

This is not easy, but I believe it is possible. Lately I've been encouraged in this direction by the apparent success of my little (not)game The Love Letter. This article has a great discussion of how these elements align in The Love Letter to create an experience that is more than the typical neutral pleasure of gameplay:
http://www.slowdown.vg/2012/02/25/on-the-love-letter/
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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2012, 07:01:49 pm »

I disagree.  Many games are a lot of work! Embarrassed

Chris Bateman makes a good point about this in Imaginary Games. Rephrased with the terminology used here, he says that games only turn into work when you stop enjoying them. Before that, they are casual. He talks about this in the context of grind in RPGs, claiming that players actually enjoy grinding. It's only after they stopped enjoy it that they start complaining how stupid it is.

That's an interesting take, but I think there's a subtle distinction to make.  Grinding involves the same actions that you have been enjoying, but anything becomes tedious through repetition - I think it would be disingenuous to expect the player to keep enjoying the same action over and over.  It becomes grinding when repetition is used in place of actual content.  It's the quick answer to a number of questions - "How do we make sure we can advertise X hours of gameplay?  How can we make this epic item super rare?  How can we extend the experience without increasing our budget?"  Maybe some of those questions don't have good answers, but that doesn't make grinding any more palatable.  Grinding is exhibit A when it comes to game designs using psychological hacks to keep you addicted rather than offering an experience.
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Re: Optimising for fun
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2012, 07:43:54 am »

Grinding is exhibit A when it comes to game designs using psychological hacks to keep you addicted rather than offering an experience.

This not a problem for many developers and many players. Many want to provide addictive fun, and many want to consume it. In a Free World, this is Walhalla.

Personally, of course, I hate Freedom.
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