August 30, 2006

First impressions of an old foe: Videogaming Fun 101

The layout is fun. Fun. Fun. But I'm left wondering if the book would've cost half the price if the cartoons were left out. Oh never mind. I got it on sale on

I guess my first, first impression of A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster was that of disgust. I don't like games post-Mario. I think I got extremely dizzy once when a 3-D game got stuck in "View the Room" mode, swinging me round and round. I don't like game shows, and simulation situations freak me out. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled about purchasing books about games or their design.

However, I'm warming up to it all. Koster's book is fun to look at, even if I do not find playing games, especially Interactive Fiction with its specific syntax, a pleasureable experience. The cartoons on the right-hand side of each page are enough to keep me reading, and the text of the book is making the foreign a bit more local.

I took a jaunt down memory lane while I was reading up about videogaming. I thought about my experiences with the illusive princess in Mario, and how I pretended like I was playing arcade games, watching the demo, when I'd already spent my allowance on notebook paper and stickers.

Koster left me wondering, however, would saving my money to play the videogame have been a better investment? In fact, in one section of the book, he relates that women may develop spatial relationship skills that become permanent after playing games, thus, perhaps putting women on par with men in that area. I don't know how that could affect me, per se, but it's interesting that a) women do not possess that skill to the extent men do and b) we can learn it--FROM A VIDEOGAME.


Koster's ongoing dialogue with violence and innate processes is perhaps the most interesting part, though. Cheating and stockpiling are to prepare the player for the uncertain journeys ahead. Life, I guess, but with more ka-booms.

"This is what games are for. They teach us things so that we can minimize risk and know what choices to make. Phrased another way, the destiny of games is to become boring, not to be fun. Those of us who want games to be fun are fighting a losing battle against the human brain because fun is a process and routine is its destination."

So now I know why some of my friends come to class looking ragged: not from staying up working on that paper, but for the indefatiguable search for fun, when it was there all along in each ka-boom and bullet wound.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at August 30, 2006 2:07 PM | TrackBack

Score one for the women, Amanda. :) We can take a deficiency and learn a skill from a game. Men, though? Well, sitting in front of a screen with a controller and a poorly written plot line isn't teaching anyone any verbal skills or sensitivity... On the other hand, however, since Koster seems to think that games will always be targeted towards the violent, primitive, and "battle for routine" I'm wholly surprised.

I'm not sexist, I just wish that the games directly targeted for females weren't so darned stupid. I have yet to see one I like.

Posted by: Karissa at August 30, 2006 10:08 PM

FYI, Mike just made a nice comment on my blog with a bit more insight to the games that -are- directed towards females.

Just thought I'd share that as a follow-up.

Posted by: Karissa at August 30, 2006 10:11 PM

When we talked briefly about female gaming in Media Aesthetics, it seems as if games focused toward women involved making relationships. Since I haven't played any games intent on reaching a female audience, I don't know, but Karissa (or anyone) did you find this to be true?

Posted by: Amanda at August 31, 2006 10:13 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?