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Games are not supposed to be fun

6:51 PM on 08.03.2007 // Eliza Gauger

This comes from a tip dropped over on Ectomo: a post on gaming blog Yahuda that challenges the universally-held notion that the primary, and perhaps sole purpose of games is to be fun.

Games are not supposed to be anything. Games are a medium, like movies, books, and painting. The problem with games, and the game industry, and gamers, is that no one has ever thought about games as other than a) how fun they are, and b) how many people play them. Everyone believes that a better game is one that sells more or that more people play.


The author goes on to point out that paintings, books, movies, and other media have long since moved on from pure entertainment purposes, to a zone where they can serve alternative or additional purposes.  Paintings, the author points out, are no longer required to be purely decorative to be worthy of praise and appreciation. 

I've presented this hypothesis to several people and receive similar responses: if fun is no longer required in games, what's the point?


It's an intriguing question.  And my forays into "art games", and games whose driving purpose is not to be fun, but to teach or to be artful, have taught me that these games are boring, and that I immediately want to stop playing them.  I think one could argue that a painting could be high art, even if it compels you to stop looking at it, but I opine that the looking is as much a part of the experience of the painting as what the painting itself portrays.  If one is not looking at a painting, one is not experiencing it.  The same goes for games.  The minute I stop wanting to play a game, my experience with the art of it is crippled.

So I submit that instead of changing our expectations of games, and eliminating our expectations of fun from games, we elevate the experience of fun within a game to the level of art.  Fun is an element of games, just as color is an element of paintings.  I think the definition of "fun" can be expanded to mean a sense of gratification from interacting within elegant design.  

Roger Ebert infamously stated that games would never be art, as they require audience participation.  This argument is mindboggling to me, as any piece of art, once it actually departs the skull of the artist, requires audience participation for validation.  Even if the only audience is the artist himself, his gaze and consideration completes the art object.

I'm interested in the opinion of the Dtoid public: how would the definitions of "art", "fun", and/or "gaming" have to shift in order for games to be regarded with the same respect as paintings, movies, and music? 

Games Are Not Supposed to Be Fun [Yehuda] 

Eliza Gauger,
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