I recently watched the exchange between Mr. Burch (may I call you Mr. Burch?) and Mr. Jaffe (fuck it, I'm doin' it) regarding games that aren't necessarily
fun. I also recently played Assassin's Creed, and I think these two great tastes will taste great together. Warning: there may be some spoilers ahead, if you weren't already disappointed by AC's shitty ending.
Assassin's Creed is a study in how to ruin the sense of immersion. This, the feeilng of being completely engaged by a work, is integral to any art form - and necessary, if the artist intends to evoke anything more than a shallow reaction - but it's arguably even more
important in games than in novels/films/porn/et al, because a game's hook is interactivity. And while it's easy to look at a painting's world, or listen to a description of a radio show's, and imagine you're there; it's much more difficult to convincingly allow a player to take control of actions and events in a world, and still have it mean something.
source image courtesy 2K Games/Wikimedia Commons
I also think it's interesting that Burch mentions BioShock as an esteemed game that doesn't really overcome traditional fun-mongering. It's true that what makes BioShock a masterpiece - the writing, the characters, the convincing game world - aren't really tied to the interactivity; you can drive the game forward, but other than as scripted by the game's writing staff, have no meaningful impact on it. Nevertheless, I thought the nuances of Rapture and its crazy-pants inhabitants did speak on a very human level, and Andrew Ryan is definitely a prompt for introspective and personal reflection.
Both of these games, if not living up to the ideal that games can be something other
than fun, are evidence that the industry is trying to add meaning to
the fun. It's clearly not easy, but I'm sure that, someday, there will be a game that uses the unique advantages of interactivity and audio/visual immersion to make you cry like Julia Roberts.
Post-script: Hi! I've been reading Destructoid for a while now, and have finally decided to ruin it by posting my bullshit here. So what's up with you?