This video (the first in a series) focused on aesthetics.
What makes a game “fun”? How do we know a specific
type of fun when we see it? Talking about games and play
is hard because the vocabulary we use is relatively limited.
In describing the aesthetics of a game, we want to move
away from words like “fun” and “gameplay” towards a
more directed vocabulary. This includes but is not limited
to the taxonomy listed here:
Game as sense-pleasure
Game as make-believe
Game as drama
Game as obstacle course
Game as social framework
Game as uncharted territory
Game as self-discovery
Game as pastime
For example, consider the games Charades, Quake, The
Sims and Final Fantasy. While each are “fun” in their own
right, it is much more informative to consider the aesthetic
components that create their respective player experiences:
Charades: Fellowship, Expression, Challenge.
Quake: Challenge, Sensation, Competition, Fantasy.
The Sims: Discovery, Fantasy, Expression, Narrative.
Final Fantasy: Fantasy, Narrative, Expression,
Discovery, Challenge, Submission.
Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, Robert Zubek
MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research
James Portnow apparently has a couple more, but so far the EC crew has only mentioned Competition (the desire to win). Looking at this list, it’s pretty easy to say what I crave from video games and leisure in general: primarily narrative, fantasy, and challenge. The other desires are less intense for me.
My favorite video game, FFIX, excels in narrative and fantasy. In fact, it was the one of the first games to make regular use of game dynamics as a narrative device (especially the characters’ progressive ability curves; you have to be looking for it), and it has the most engaging characters of all the Final Fantasy games, which is saying a lot. This is why it doesn’t matter that the battle system was by far the worst (and why it doesn’t matter that FFX had the best battle system).
My second favorite, Guitar Hero (and similar), delivers heavily on challenge. When it ceased to be challenging, I picked up a real guitar and beat my head against it until I could learn some metalcore songs. And that’s why I have no doubt I’ll eventually become a proficient musician- that desire to overcome progressively bigger challenges is overwhelmingly strong. So much so that the other core aesthetics take a backseat.
Take a look at the list and see if you can determine what is important to you. If you can explain what you want, it’s easier to obtain it.