Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Re: Addiction is Quality?

I thought I'd follow up on some comments from yesterday. Hopefully Ethan doesn't feel picked on, since I agree with everything he wrote and liked his feedback; but it prompted more thought.

Ethan pointed out that addiction could also be called "fun." This seems utterly appropriate because players are clearly engrossed from moment to moment. However, I wonder how often the intended experience is to make players feel addicted instead of afraid, sorrowful, powerful, etc. Though I admire games whose sole purpose is to be engrossingly addictive and many players prefer this kind of fun to the exclusion of others, I wonder if many times, designers and players get engrossing experiences confused with engrossing addictions.

I'm not sure what the point of my musing is. Perhaps because I care about greater purpose in games, I find myself wanting to parse the term "fun." Some insist that the "purpose" of a game is fun, and nothing more. I can see how "fun" could be used as a catch-all term that covers an "immersive experience," but I don't think it's fair to those who think games' only worthwhile endeavor is entertainment without higher purpose, nor is it useful to those trying to enable greater purpose, only to have it confused with addiction.


  1. Was pretty busy yesterday, so I just got around to checking this. I enjoy the discussion, too, so don't worry about that. : )

    When I talk about "fun" I mean it in the sense that it's described in A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Basically, pleasure is the brain's mechanism for rewarding us for (and motivating us to continue) doing things it's evolved to consider valuable.

    That definition doesn't distinguish well, though, between desire and pleasure, and they are definitely separate things. This article on the subject is fascinating. Wanting and pleasure are actually tied to different chemicals in the brain. They can be induced independently, and people often mistake desire for pleasure.

    As far as game design goes, I feel like the pursuit of "fun" (I believe this generally is desire more than pleasure) for its own sake is irresponsible. I think I've made comments about that here before. : ) It may seem like a reasonable goal but the end result can detract from people's lives rather than improving them.

    In my opinion the "fun" in games should be important but secondary to the goal of creating something of value, something that can improve people's lives in some way. That could be in teaching something useful, inspiring imagination, helping open the mind to new ideas, promoting relaxation, or something else. Sure, games do these things already, even those which are designed primarily to be "fun." But imagine if they were created with another goal in mind.

    Since "fun" is the brain's learning/motivation mechanism, setting it as the goal is ignoring responsibility for what the game is actually teaching. "I just want to create entertainment," is a cop-out, to me. Games do more than just entertain, whether they are intended to or not. I actually wrote a blog post about this a year ago (I had to dig it up to find the link to the article above).

  2. Nice comments and great brainfeed. I'll dig into that article a little later.

    The point I deviate on is it being irresponsible to make games for desire's sake, which I also remember us going back and forth on before. I hesitate to condemn something because it can detract from people's lives when it isn't necessarily true that it will.