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August 30, 2006

EL405 Theorizing Fun (without progress)

Just to be clear, since I'm blogging for two classes this semester, I'll try to post the class number in the title of my entries so no one gets confused... especially me :)

The reading in "A Theory of Fun for Game Design" really got me thinking about all the games I've played in my lifetime, all the games I've known and NOT played, why I didn't play those games, why I chose to play the games that I did. It's like psychoanalysis. Trying to analyze myself, however, isn't very easy since I don't remember thinking "I don't want to play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (or other equally reprehensible game) because it's [insert one of Koster's reasons here]."

I just know that I like what I like. Don't we all.

I'll be honest: I own two video-games total (this is on par with my movie collection of three). I own a version of Sonic the Hedgehog for Playstation 2 and the Japanese game We <3 Katamari, also for Playstation 2. Now I hadn't even ever considered purchasing any games for myself before I knew a certain individual and, as an active "gamer," he suggested that if I liked these games so much why didn't I just get them? So I did.

I don't know what those two games say about me and my "gaming personality," but I do enjoy the sorts of games like Sonic, Mario, and race games. I blogged last year about Mario Kart and my grace in losing. I blogged earlier this year about Katamari. My choice in games is simple, I suppose: cartoony, colorful games with an end in mind. Those little missions are nice, but I don't care to be defeated on a regular basis. (Games that offer me a chance to get familiar with things before pummeling me are welcome. Games that require extensive knowledge of the controller and/or extensive chunks of time to play need not apply...)

I was happy to see that Koster tells us the difference between games and stories (p. 88). As a literature major, I think this distinction is actually pretty easy to see, considering that any games with stories that I've ever been exposed to have been pretty lame (and usually full of grammatical and spelling errors as they're most likely translated from our Japanese game-creator friends).

What I wasn't happy to see, however, is that the list defining games v. stories also aligned with the male gamer traits v. female gamer traits (p. 102)--leaving the controller in the guy's hands, and the stack of books for the ladies (p. 106). Koster tells us that there are inherent gender differences between gamers. I'll agree. However, I do not agree that the gaming industry is forcibly stuck in the rut of 14 year-old boys. Get creative, folks. Enough of the "drive a car around and shoot stuff," "find a hooker, tie her up, and have your way with her" games.

Yadda, yadda: they're a "power up" (p. 83-85). I could care less. Even if the story is terrible, I wouldn't mind seeing something break the mold that Koster reminds us of (p. 76), the "primitive behaviors" that are typically taught and reinforced by games. If technology is taking gaming to such an advanced level, then why do our games still focus on such base, neanderthal behaviors?

Posted by KarissaKilgore at August 30, 2006 8:48 PM


The gender issue in videogames continues to be a problem, I've found, because many "girl-oriented" games are terrible. If you look at a number of games that are released that specifically target women (there aren't many... and the ones that do target women are usually for girls under 16), they are rushed to market and buggy as heck.

Not every game has to appeal to both genders (just as most movies and television shows don't appeal to both), but the ones that do usually succeed. RPGs and games like Harvest Moon come to mind. As well as most platforming and racing games, like Karissa mentioned. These games are great, and they usually sell well because they are doubling the size of their audience by including both genders of gamer.

Posted by: Mike Rubino at August 30, 2006 10:06 PM

My 4-year-old daughter got very excited when she saw a game called "Kitty Luv," that lets you pet and raise a little kitten. I tried installing it on three different computers, and once I finally found one where it worked, the interface was so complex (in order to pick up a brush you have to click a button, go to a store, click on one of the categories, scroll down to where the brush is, buy the brush, then do some more clicking to switch to the "brushing" game, at which point your pointer turns into a hand with a brush, at which point you can brush the kitty) that we found it simply not worth the trouble. That game came in a cute pink box, but it was a monster once I got it on my hard drive.

So this comment has two purposes... one, to acknowledge Karissa's frustration with assumptions about gender, and two, to note one example of a game marketed to girls that is just not well-designed. (To be more precise, it lacked an "easy play" mode that would appeal to very young players.)

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at August 31, 2006 9:06 AM

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