Fun Isn’t Everything

By William Shelton

At E3 this year Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé said something I want to talk about. It was something I was glad to hear him say and something I think speaks deeply to Nintendo’s core design philosophy, but none the less it is a statement I hate. He said “if [a game] isn’t fun, why bother?” While I’m not try and argue that video games need to stop being fun, that would be ludicrous, I do have to ask why this line of thought is so prevalent in the gaming community. Every other form of Art has its masterpieces that are not meant to be enjoyed in a way you could call “fun”. From Bosch’s “A Violent Forcing of the Frog” to Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List”, a lot of great art can be unenjoyable and even downright hard to sit through. Not only do I think games are capable of this as well, a few have ready proven it can be done.

Spec Ops: The Line is a great example of this, if a little cliche to talk about. In a lot of ways the game is a complete mess. The controls are far from tight, enemies act in predictable ways and spawn in obvious “video game-y” locations. On top of that, it had it’s fair share of bugs as well. I remember spending 10 minutes trying to shoot out a window in order to move the plot along, only to restart the mission and have it break almost instantly. There just isn’t a lot of enjoyment to get out of “Spec Ops: The Line”.

But it is a game I think every one should play. Released in 2012, Spec Ops: The Line came out near the height of the “Modern Warfare” craze and was a damning critique of both the genre and the culture that made it one of the biggest phenomenons in entertainment. While it would be easy to look at the games mechanical flaws and say it was shoddily made, in fact almost every part of it was expertly crafted. The poor controls and obvious enemy spawns help reinforce to the player that they are in fact playing a game. Unlike most other games were the control scheme is made to help the player forget about the hunk of plastic in their hands, Spec Ops never wants you to forget that you’re playing a game. It wants that fact in your mind at all times. Because the game soon starts asking you to do things that are meant to feel wrong. The games enemies are American soldiers, Not just that, they are the player characters countrymen. Through out the game you are constantly killing your own people, and you’re aware of that from the nearly the very start of the game. Then there is the games famous white phosphorus scene, when you kill hundreds of civilians. The question is, why? Why do you do these horrid things? Because the game tells you too. The game asks you to commit war crimes, and you do, because the game told you to and thus it must be the right thing, right? Spec Ops: The Line was designed not to be fun in order to ask why a game about armed warfare should be considered fun in the first place.

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Some have argued that Spec Ops failed in it’s message by not offering the player a choice. I’d argue that it did: You chose to keep playing.

Another game well worth you’re time despite not being a whole lot of fun is Loneliness by creator Jordan Magnuson. Loneliness is a masterpiece of minimalism and a game that taught me a lot about myself. You play as a single pixel and you can beat the entire game in about 5 minutes by simply holding the up key. As you play other pixels appear, all of whom scatter as you approach. After constant rejection you may choose to stop interacting with the other pixels, much like I did. Or maybe you hold on to hope, enthusiastically greeting each new cluster as they appear. There is no wrong way to play Loneliness, but how you choose too speaks volumes. I never realized just how poorly I handle rejection and abandonment until I played Loneliness and was forced to confront it. After the second group ran off I started to avoid any other groups I saw. Just like in real life, I had been hurt and I isolated myself in return.

I don’t think it is passable to create an experience like this that manages to be fun. Loneliness, depression and isolation are not fun emotions. As such, really getting a player into that head space requires engaging them in ways that are atypical to gaming and antithetical to being “fun”.

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Loneliness is mechanically boring, but i highly recommend giving it the five minutes it asks for.

I don’t want to see a world without my big dumb action games in it. I will take all the Uncharted’s, Overwatch’s and Mario’s this industry wants to throw at me. But there is a whole host of human emotions and experiences that games can address, and I also don’t want to live in a world were developers chose not to engage with that material because they don’t know how to make it fun. Fun is great, it’s important. But it isn’t everything.

In Case You Were Wondering, Kingdom Hearts 3 still Exists

It’s been over a decade since Kingdom Hearts 2 was released. We had an entire console generation come and go without seeing another real installment in this franchise. This kind of wait would kill most other franchises in other forms of media. But unlike other long awaited returns like Half-Life 3 or Beyond Good and Evil 2,  there has at least been a decent drip feed of information regarding this newest Kingdom Hearts game to make the wait not as tedious as it could have been. “Not AS tedious” being the key phrase there.

But in all honesty, after watching this i am kind of impressed, as the game doesn’t look like it’s been 10 years in the making. It’s hard to explain what i mean: i last played the games when they were re-released on the PS3, where i marathoner my way through the two main titles. This footage feels like, had i been playing this then, it would have been right at home in that collection. That’s pretty miraculous in my opinion, as you would think that over 10 years either something would have changed or the style would have become out dated. But no, this looks just as fun as the original games did. Even though i’m one of those weird-o’s who likes the more complicated side of the franchise more than the “Disney self-insert fanfiction” stuff the series made it’s name on, i’m still excited for this and i’m really happy to know it’s at least looking like it’s been worth the wait.

Playtonic to JonTron: Nazi Punks Fuck Off

It would seem that Playtonic had once brought on famed Youtuber and recently self-exposed Xenophobe Jontron for some voice work in their up coming game Yooka-Laylee. That partnership seems to have been ended after JonTron…well…you know….went on a racist rant about how immigrant are evil. While the games odd language and vocal distortions could have made it easy to hard hide the fact Playtonic were working with him, it’s nice to see people taking a stand against this kind of hatred and bigotry. Really the only bad thing about this story was i couldn’t settle on which version of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” to post, so i had to use both. And that’s a good problem to have.

What The Fuck Sony: Everything Trailer and Impressions

A few months ago Sony shocked the world by promoting “Life of Black Tiger” and “Skylight Freerange 2” on the official PlayStation YouTube as well as access to the PlayStation  store. These were not just bad games, these were “never to be finished steam early access” bad. I don’t know why Sony gave these games the attention they did, but the only reasonable assumption i can make is that the creators had some dirt on Sony CEO Kaz Hirai that he was desperate not to let get out. If so, those two must have let something slip becuase here we are again, asking “what the fuck sony” as an unbelievably bad trailer for an even worse looking game gets featured.

To Everything’s credit, it is more ambitious than those other two crimes against nature. The ability to zoom from the molecular level to a galactic one is, admittedly, an interesting concept. On top of that, the idea that it all matters, that a grander or more complex scope isn’t inherently more important, that’s something i can get behind. But then the gameplay starts and all i can say is “what the fuck sony?”

Did all the games budget go into that pompous voice over? Did the dev team thing ambition meant they didn’t need to do some basic fucking animation? I mean….the animals just fucking role around. I got more fluid movement out of little wooden animal figurines as a child than these guys got with modern technology.

And the trailer just….keeps….going. This motherfucker is over 10 minuets long. 10 minuets of pseudointellectual rambling and awkward gameplay.

I can really only see two good reasons as to why this trailer even exists: the game is not ready to be shown but something had to get pushed out, or the PR team fundamentally does not know how to properly market it. Then there is the potability that this is exactly what the game is like, this is exactly how the team behind it wanted you to first experiences it and whoever runs the PlayStation YouTube took a big hit of “everything” and said “yup, that looks like a quality product we want to promote.”

 

Addendum on PS+ January Games

A little while a go i wrote a small peace on the upcoming free games on PS+. In the post i mentioned a worry over the fact that “This War of Mine: The Little Ones” was one of the included games, and too my knowledge that was a DLC and i worried it may force players to buy the main game in order to play. Well, my buddy over at Cheap Boss Attack  said that it would be the full game, and i was going to leave it at that as i wasn’t sure 11 Bit Studio would ever respond to my inquiry. But, to my surprise they did in fact email me back confirming that the PS4 addition of the game was simply named after the expansion and would be playable for anyone who picks it up next month.

PS+ Free games for January 2017

While not all the games i’ve gotten from my PS+ membership have been great, i’ve been more or less happy with having paid for it. Next months roundup should have me excited as this are both games i’ve been wanting to play for a while now but never had the chance. But something has been bothering me: The Little Ones was DLC.

While i am currently trying to get some kind of compensation as to whether or not The Little Ones will play as a stand alone game for those who download it as a part of the promotion, i’ve gotten no word as of yet. If not, then this strikes me as an incredibly tactless way to get people to buy the main game. With how well reviewed and beloved it was, there really shouldn’t be a need for this kind of thing.

If and when i hear back from either Sony or 11 Bit Studios i’ll make an addendum post clarifying their position.

Yooka Laylee Capital Cashino Trailer

The more i see of this game the more the exact same issue pops out at me: the levels seem almost lifeless. I’ve said before that in game that may not be an issue and that i can’t say for sure until i get my hands on it. That remains true now, but this trailer does help illustrate why i’m concerned. Look at the part at around 23 seconds in when the character pulls the lever on the slot machine. Look at the vast empty space that surrounds it. Look at how there are almost never more that three enemies on screen in big open spaces. I really hope i’m wrong about this: i really enjoyed what little i played of Banjo Kazooie as a kid and want to see more games like it and after Mighty No. 9 i’d really appreciate one of these throwback games to…you know…good. But for right now, i’m worried. i would love, LOVE, to be wrong but until i hear from reviewers i trust that it’s good i’ going to have to lower my expectations.