What is a game for the future gamer?

2020-10-12

I’m reading Sid Meier’s Memoir!. He talks about what he thinks videogames ought to be. The context: he was thinking of the concept for Pirates! after having created many flight simulators.

Mostly I was tired of hyperrealism. If real life were that exciting, who would need videogames in the first place? The flight simulator genre, especially, was forever clamoring for more dials to watch, more flaps to control, more accurate wind speed and wheel friction calculations – and no one seemed to notice that it has turned into work.

Games weren’t supposed to train you to be a real pilot; they were supposed to let you pretend for an hour that you could be one if you wanted to.

(Meier and Noonan, 2020)

Sid Meier thinks videogames ought to be fun. In fact, he alludes to this in the book’s introduction with “…the primary job of the game designer is … to find the fun.” (Meier and Noonan, 2020)

This sentiment is echoed by Raph Koster in A Theory of Fun for Game Design. This could be “hard fun, easy fun, social fun, visceral fun”. The central thesis of the book is that “Fun is just another word for learning” (Koster, 2005). Chris Crawford also said that “Fun is the emotional response to learning.”

Tynan Sylvester elaborates on the fun (although he possibly doesn’t look at fun as “another word for learning”):

Unfortunately, game design discussions are still often shackled to the word fun

Fun is an emotion – that sense of frivolous, mirthful exhiliration you feel on a roller coaster or in a friendly game of pickup soccer. It’s a pleasurable emotion, and a worthwhile design goal. But it’s not nearly the only one. We only focus on it because of where games come from.

(Sylvester, 2013)

He then goes on to describe the other emotions we can feel when playing games, like “violent competition to provoke feelings of chest-thumping triumph” or “narrative to create empathy or wonder”.

This made me realise how far video games have come, and what we might still make in the future.

I can see a future world where the human race have reached a Utopia. We’re all clothed and fed, and want for nothing. We can spend all our free time doing whatever we want, whether it’s painting all day, travelling between the stars, or playing games. Not unlike Iain M Banks’ Culture, as told in The Player Of Games, for instance.

What types of games would these future humans play? Might a future human want to experience the dread of the war-stricken past? Might they want to experience jealousy in a monogamous relationship? Might they want to experience the deep sorrow of a parent who can not feed their sickly child?

Or would we always want to experience happiness?

To me, a theory of fun says that games are in many ways not just deliberate practice machines, not just a swirl of systems, but a space between the dust from which we came, and the dust we shall be, in which we can engage in the grand pursuit [of happiness].

Raph Koster (source)

Might a future human want to experience the dread of the war-stricken past? Sure, if it’s followed by a heart-welling victory over a mad dictator.

Might they want to experience jealousy in a monogamous relationship? Sure, if it’s followed by the rekindling of a lost love.

Might they want to experience the deep sorrow of a parent who can not feed their sickly child? Sure, if it’s followed by a breakthrough to safety and seeing your child grow up to be their best.

References

  • Meier, S. and Noonan, J., 2020. Sid Meier’s Memoir!. 1st ed. W. W. Norton & Company, p.68 & p.3.
  • KOSTER, Raph. 2005. A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Scottsdale, AZ: Paraglyph Press.
  • Sylvester, T., 2013. Designing Games. O’Reilly Media, Inc.
  • Raph Koster, https://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/gdco12/Koster_Raph_Theory_Fun_10.pdf

This post is part of my critical reflective journal.

This post was written during week 4 of the module Development Practice.

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