Where Did The Fun Go?

‘Game – an activity that one engages in for amusement’. I’ve lifted this definition directly from the Oxford Dictionary. In other words, a game is something that we play for fun, to stop our big human brains from imploding on themselves with the stress and banality of day to day existence (unless it’s Risk, of course). Growing up, videogames were a large part of my activities that I would engage in for amusement, mirth, frivolity, and plain old fun.

I bring this up now, because more and more frequently, I feel like the fun has been drained out of games. First the colours were eradicated in pursuit of ever more convincing photorealism. Soon after, the absence of colour led to the draining of fantasy, and with the fantasy slipping away the escapism soon followed… and with it, the fun.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I realise that, if you look closely enough, there are still plenty of opportunities for fun in modern gaming. I regularly find myself laughing away with friends in an evening game of Battlefield… but, I would present the idea that it’s the company making the fun rather than the game itself. Played on its own, I find Battlefield lacking a hook. The mechanics work well, the graphics are splendid (if you like brown and grey) and the rewards system seems to hardwire itself into the pleasure centres of your brain, like so many lab rats being given treats for pressing the right button. But therein lies the problem… it’s so structured. Everything must be played within the rules and regulations of Battlefield, which themselves are rooted firmly in ‘reality’. Frankly, it’s suffocating.

It’s a world that makes you take it seriously. Battlefield 3 (and CoD, et al) are serious business. Glance at the chat window when you innocently shoot a team-mate in the face. It’s as if you’ve dug up the remains of any self-respect they once had and raped it in front of them. It’s as if you’ve taken the beloved family pet and launched it towards the moon with a home-made medieval catapult.  Give me my colour back. Give me my playground. I’ll play by your rules happily if they’re not the ones I already follow. Let me play rock, paper, scissors instead of playing a real boss fight. Allow me to build up the music track as I shoot viruses inside a computer mainframe. Let me fire abandoned turtle houses at my 2-stroke wielding friends. Let me have fun!

With every sequel, every brown and grey release, every tightly-scripted Nathan Drake adventure, I sink a little lower into my chair. I feel like the guy that likes to buy his bread and milk at the corner shop, but now have to force my way through supermarket giant after giant just to get there. Sure, the giants have everything, but it’s so cold. Clinical. Impersonal. And full of so many other people, all looking bored, stressed and agitated. Would I rather go to Tesco or play Uncharted? I’ll just have to hope that I have a cardiac arrest so that I don’t have to choose.

What happened to four of you sitting around a TV playing Timesplitters, shooting at grenade-chucking monkeys, and laughing when said primate blew your legs off for the umpteenth time? Where have the winner-stays-on Road Rash sessions gone? Has everyone chucked away the plastic guitars for fear of upsetting their neighbours just one more time? Are we all so jaded and rooted in the drudgery of daily life that our gaming habits have to follow suit, buying the same old sequels to the same old brown games? Get in line everyone, your overlords have decreed the entertainment for the year! All hail lords Activision and EA!

I say we revolt. Rebel. Shout it from the rooftops – we want fun. We want that pure, unadulterated joy of discovery, fantasy, emotion and escapism.  We want to see distant worlds, encounter fantastical creatures, and suspend disbelief. We want to be transported away from here to somewhere new. We don’t want to just be a number.  There is a serious point here. We all know that the beaten path is flat for a reason; it’s well-trodden, and therefore the path of least resistance. These games are massive because they’re well done – there’s no disputing it. But man cannot live on another’s direction for all time. Here is my challenge: take a side road once in a while. Branch off. Challenge yourself. Discover something wild, new and exciting.  Above all, have some fun.




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2 Comments

  1. Chris-Toffer says:

    Well written dude. Nice piece!

  2. MarkuzR says:

    I totally get this. I was talking to the developer of Tiny Troopers last week and saying how I am one of those graphic whores where everything needs to be eye candy otherwise I start to lose interest, unless it’s a REALLY good game. Going against my whoredom, anyone who knows me also knows that UFO: Enemy Unknown is my all-time favourite game and, these days anyway, the graphics are dodgy as hell. Doesn’t stop me playing it. Because it’s fun.

    I was really enjoying Tiny Troopers when Kim mentioned that they’d actually designed it for tablets and I had to admit that I couldn’t get to grips with those shitty virtual joysticks on any touch-screen games I’d played. He then reached down and whipped out his iPad, fired up the game on that, and let me play it. I loved it. It was SO simple, and the graphics were just very cartoony with no photo-realism whatsoever, but it was FUN. I even said to the guy, that I had more fun in those few minutes playing his game than I had playing 100+ hours of Skyrim.

    The more we evolve as gamers, the harder we are to satisfy… but the developers are trying to push the envelope in ways we’ve never seen before, in an attempt to satiate. If only they’d stop pushing the envelope and actually OPEN it, they’d see a note reading “stop pissing around and give us some fun”.

    Awesome read.

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