We all know what a large group of players call pretentious, games like Braid, Passage, or game designers like Jonathan Blow etc. But I have this feeling that the word pretentious has become a very meaningless word in the video game community, I mean, I can kind of see what players mean when they call a game pretentious. They usually call games pretentious if there is some kind of meaning behind it, or a more or less artistic intent. But why do they do that?
Maybe they think the fact that a game tries to have a meaning is pretentious, because video games are a medium where any kind of artistic intentions have no place whatsoever, because....hmmm, why do some people think that actually? I believe because these people incorrectly think that art is the opposite of fun and because they incorrectly think that games should only be fun, whatever that is - no one knows - really, and can't be or rather shouldn't be anything more than that, just little distractions on the side of the road called life.
I now (arrogantly) claim that this way of thinking is actually dangerous and just false. But where should I start? Let's start with the art is the opposite of fun thing, alright? So, why do people think that art is the opposite of fun? Well I believe if some people hear the word art, they have certain, mostly negative, associations, maybe they think of hipster douch bags with sungalsses and a cigarette in the hand, or weird modern paintings (I have to admit that I've seen two or three that, I think, are actually kind of cool... I'm sorry...), or you know, just very boring stuff.
That is simply not true, yes art is often very (maybe sometimes laughably) serious, sometimes you can really get the impression that a lot of artists have forgotten what fun (whatever that is) and enjoyment are, but there is a ton of stuff that is fun, colorful and enjoyable. And I claim now that there are actually not many (or at least not as many as you might think) videogames games that are truly fun, but I will say later why I think that. I bet there is a movie or book that just makes you happy, and that is a lot fun and that is also thought provoking at the same time. You see, you can make a movie with a very bleak basic tone, but you can still make it hilarious and thus more bearable and thus even bleaker. Wittgenstein believed that the most horrific things can only be discussed in the form of jokes, you can see that in satire, but we don't have many satireistic games. The GTA games and also I think the Saints Row games are to a certain point very anarchic and satireistic. I would call these commercial, fun yet serious art.
But what about the pure innocent fun, or is that an oximoron perhabs? You see I'm from Germany and the German translation of the English word "fun" is "Spa▀", so we have different words and perhabs also slightly different meanings. So I'm not sure here, but I will ask the question again, what about pure innocent fun? I would argue that this can't really be found in video games, toys are innocent fun, but video games are different. The only innocent fun game I can think of right now is Noby Noby Boy
, but people don't really want to call it a game, - we are in a time, where we are actually redifining that word, so maybe in the future we will also call Noby Noby Boy a game, like Robert Yang said: "Don't care about what games are, rather about what they can be."- they rather call it a toy, because there are no goals.
So why exactly can't video games be innocent fun in my opinion? Well video games, by definition, teach you something, - you can't learn how to use a gun through Counter Strike or how to make a good pie through Cooking Mama - because video games are a closed formal system with rules and you have to learn these rules in order to play the game. And learning these rules, or learning how to perfect the game can have an impact on your life and on your character. Video games can directly influence you, often in rather subtle and unconscious ways, thus they can't be innocent fun, because there is always a bit of seriousness inherently to them (not to forget the investment of time and money).
Let's get to the question why I think that there are not that many fun games. I bet you've already seen, or read how thousands and thousands of people say that they're having fun with games like CoD Blops or World of Warcraft. I think that they're actually not having fun, I think that they don't really enjoy themselves while playing stuff/garbage like that. I don't want to criticise the players here, but rather the CEOs of Activision Blizzard, because these guys don't seem to understand what kind of impact their products have on people, or they don't care. Games like WoW and CoD are treadmills, they're designed to keep you hooked for as long as possible, with fake rewards, eye candy and stuff like that. They're just pretty empty and meaningless and just a waist of time, they're like drugs. I would say that there are alot of games like that and the developers and publishers of these games are simply irresponsible. That is a shame.
"What are fun games then?" I hear you ask. The most fun games I've played in my entire life are actually board games, I've never played a game, where I was having so much good fun with my family, like with Galaxy Trucker, designed by Vlaada Chvatil.
Now, why do I think that video games don't always have to be fun ( if there is one that is truly fun)? Well I think that the argument that Anothny Burch (he used to write for Destructoid) made is pretty good, just focusing on fun is limiting the mediums potential and doing that is just plain stupid. Games are going to be big in the future, there is an ever growing audience, the stereotype will disappear, there will be a larger variety of games and it will affect our society and what it means to be a human in the 21st century in a way that we can not imagine at the moment. Again just focusing on fun (even though mostly board games only seem to be able to really reach that at the moment) would be simply retarded. There are so much more concepts and ideas to explore, commercial art like GTA is good but sometimes I also just want to look at a flower or something , if you know what I mean.
Remember how I called games like CoD a drug, because they are so grindy and fake? Well there are people in the industry who are aware of their responsibility and who create food as opposed to drugs. Who is doing that exactly? Jonathan Blow for example, he is offering us delicious food and he puts fucking years into these things just to provide games to us of which he thinks are improving the quality of our fucking lives! And what do some players call him? Pretentious hipster douch.... What the fuck people!?
This guy knows his shit.
Sorry I was getting a bit upset there for a second, I don't want to insult anyone, or tell anyone to like his games, but just show a little respect, alright? Then we can live together in peace and harmony and everything.... And there are more devs like him (most of them indie), Jason Rohrer is a good example, again you don't have to like his stuff, but just appreciate that he is trying to give us food instead of drugs.
Have I forgoten anything? Not sure, but I believe that this is all I have to say for now... Please tell me what you think, am I talking bullshit or do you agree with me?
Thanks for reading!