Okay, this post is pretty much a response to the latest episode of Extra Credits, Beyond Fun. Now, even though I love the show and want you to watch it, I am not really commenting on what they say, which boils down to, “Games can and should be more than just run, fire, kabowie, zoom, blop, save the world!” However, it is the use of the word “fun” within the episode that I disagree with.
You see, I agree with Borderlands 2 and former Destructoid writer, Anthony Burch, who once boldly stated that “Fun is not enough.” I also agree with Jim Sterling where in an old episode of the Jimquisition, that I could not find, where he said that fun is crucial. All while agreeing with Bhalspawn when he stated that fun is the point of gaming. I think that all four of them are correct, but not all of them share the same definition of fun.
Recently, I’ve been going through a second playthrough in Deus Ex Human Revolution, when I noticed that I had collected some flavor text that was an unsent email from a father to his wife. He was assuring her everything will be okay, and work is going great, with the email right next to some revolver ammo in his cubby hole of a hotel room. What was my reaction? It made the experience a lot more enjoyable. I would go as far to say that it made me have more fun searching through the city of Hengsha. Yet at the same time, I was silent for a moment, then wandered off and read more about the world. All while smiling like a kid on Christmas Morn. Not because I like things to be dark, because I like seeing them done well.
I had similar experiences reading the short tragedies in Lost Odyssey, and throughout the entire run time of 999, well, after the initial hour of adjusting to the genre. Hell, even with Berserk, I cried three times during the night where I plowed through the end of the first arc, which featured disgusting rape, the complete destruction of a likable man, both physically and spiritually. And what I consider to be one of the most awful images of all time… However, I still can’t think of a single time where I had more fun reading something!
Yes, Extra Credits called this engagement, but looking back on 999, a game so bleak and miserable that the title of the Japanese version of its sequel is Extreme Escape Adventure: Good People Die. I can not think of a single word that describes my thoughts on the game more than “Fun”. In order for someone to be truly engaged in something, they need to be enjoying it, and if you are enjoying something, would you not say that you are having fun? After all, that is one of the many variants of fun’s definition, a source of enjoyment.
I am not trying to say that Extra Credits is wrong for wanting less of what I refer to as “Basic Fun”. In fact, they could not be more right. I think that “Basic Fun” is not enough for an entire industry to become something that could rival books, film, or music. Yet without any form of fun, you do not have an industry, you just have a bunch of boring collaborations of 1s and 0s. And as a whole, the entire point of art, or really any form of entertainment, is to have a good time. Who’s to say that it is not fun to analyze something? I formally do it with nearly every game and show I encounter. Why do people want to hear a tragedy, get frightened, or see something unsettling? Because that is the fun of it!
There is nothing quite like being silent for a minute after you finish something and then fully dissect what made it enjoyable, and what made it fun to experience. Yet, to quote a show called Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, which is some of my favorite “Basic Fun” in recent memory “You know how there are those times when you go see a movie and think, I don’t care what that’s about. I just want to see something blow up for Christ’s sake and mind my own damn business. And is that so wrong? No. In fact, it couldn’t be more right.”
Fun can be whatever the hell you want it to be, it can be deconstructive, insightful, or it can be a guy getting shot 7 times in the face. Although, the game industry, and probably most industries should focus more on the first two, not that there’s anything wrong with it, its just a tad saturated. There are so many flavors in the world, that it’s silly to have the same one every single day.
Have a positive or Negative response? Please leave one in the comments, I really would love to get a discussion going! Even though I feel like this should have been said a million times by now, and probably better since I rushed to get this done.