Monday, 12 August 2013

Video Games Don't Need To Be Fun

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about Spec Ops: The Line. It mainly consisted of me persuading him to buy an play it. Unsuccessfully, however. I don't know if it was my pitch, or the fact that he doesn't particularly like linear shooters, or the fact that I said the game 'wasn't fun' (which it isn't). He seemed startled by the fact that I spent 10 minutes rambling about the thing then proceeded to call it un-fun. He then asked 'Why would I want to play a game if it isn't fun?' No, not just shooters, which is understandable, because what's the point shooting foreigners to death if you don't get a raging, racist hard-on. He said 'Why would I want to play a game if it isn't fun?' A Game. Just any game. As if all games are supposed to be fun.

A year prior, I also had a heated discussion with a friend about the same topic. He said 'Games are supposed to be fun, that's why they're called games.' It seems the popular opinion is that games are intended to be fun; that they only live to deliver fun. The 'Games' thing really ties into that, almost as if 'games' are synonymous with 'fun'. And it's true, 'games' are synonymous with 'fun'. They're also synonymous with 'distraction'. The gaming industry has evolved enough to become an artform of sorts. We're still working on it, but we're close. I think it's time to shake off the name 'game' the same way Comic Books were then called Graphic Novels.

With Comic Books, because automatically assume it's a lighthearted, fun distraction, primarily for kids, which is untrue, but also understandable. They're called comic books. Comic. Comedic. With the name Graphic Novel, it implies it is as serious and a Novel, but contains animation. Film Critics don't look down upon Pixar because they're animation-focused, so why should Literature Critics look down on Graphic novels simply because they're animation-focused? This can be related to games too.

To me, Video Games are the most interesting medium there is. Not the best or the most artistically profound, but the most interesting. It's interesting as in there's so much to do. Whole genres and ideas that haven't been explored, and all it takes is a little money. All this creative prowess in the industry that can make some of the greatest game experiences; they never lift off due to a lack of money. So we have different consoles, different platforms, different means of playing a game, unlike film, in which the only variation in the experience is what size/quality the screen is. No, we have Steam, XBLA, PSN, Browser-based, iOS and OnLive, all which offer different, unique experiences. What does literature have in comparison? Paper or Kindle? Pff. Also, the artistic side. We can explore worlds, role-play as other people as if they're real living people, discover the undiscovered, tell entire stories though a world. How awesome is that?

Yet, this isn't reaching it's full potential. We're still held back by the idea that is has to be 'fun'. So we shoe-horn Gears of War-like shooting into The Last Of Us, we add ridiculous amounts of blood to BioShock Infinite, and we add loads-guns to a bloody Stealth game (you know who you are, most stealth games). It's silly and unnecessary, and it's halting progression in our medium.  It seems there's only one main theme in triple-A games: fun. And that's it. There are a few exceptions, yes, but imagine if all movies only had one theme, or if all books only had one theme. It would suck, an yet the same happens with games, and people don't seem to care. This is in issue here, an issue involving a medium we all love, that isn't getting the respect and attention is deserves by other mediums.

I don't want all games to stop being fun and start being serious, we can of course have a mix here, like District 9 or Juno, but I do want to see more games prevail as artistically relevant and not just a mindless time-waste like most of television. I recommend you watch this video. This guy expresses my points in a clear manner, as well as being a cool, talented guy.

A good way to stop developers making mind-numbing shooters is with the power of money. If Valve make another masterpiece, go give em some money. If Ghibli make another awesome JRPG, give em some money. If Epic Games make yet another mind-numbing shooter, don't give em your money, and encourage everyone else to side with you. We are not consumers, we are champions. We are going to champion your games, not consume them. We control the success of your product, we are not bloody cattle.