[MUD-dev] Fun in Games

Koster Koster
Wed Apr 24 08:54:33 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: David Kennerly

> A fine game does not preach.  In Schindler's List, Hamlet, Lord of
> the Flies, American History X, and The Grapes of Wrath, the author
> communicates to the audience how to feel about the holocaust,
> murder, power addiction, territorial threats, or economic
> depression, respectively.  It's no coincidence that Spielberg is
> famous tear-jerking.  It's within the art of the movie.  Whereas,
> in a game, the player is not told how to feel about a any of
> these, such as holocaust.

Nonsense. There most certainly is a difference between a first
person shooter about blowing up aliens and a first person shooter
about a white supremacist who shoots blacks and Jews (an unfortunate
recent development in the modding community). The latter is
explicitly designed to tell people how to feel about

Just as there is a difference between a free-form mission based game
involving cars, and a free-form mission-based game involving cars
where the bonus points are gained by having sex with prostitutes for
money, then running the girl over with your car and retrieving the

By all accounts, the latter example, Grand Theft Auto 3, is
tremendously fun. One of the best games of the year. It's also
morally reprehensible, and it's quite evident that making us enjoy
the morally reprehensible is quit within the art of the game.

Now, personally, I was one of those way back when who thought that
the furor over DeathRace 2000 was a tempest in a teacup. I am also
an ardent defender of free speech. So I don't have much of a problem
with these games existing.  But I also think that the attitude that
games don't carry such freighting is naive and pernicious.

> Yet each player does feel something, at least subjectively.  Each
> player possesses ethics, which was a term created to define the
> proper way to play the game of Western Cvilization.

> One who goes beyond the narrative medias' mindset may watch "The
> numbers lead a dance" (Sting).  Sessions of Civilization (Sid
> Meier), Chess, Go, Settlers of Catan, and Diplomacy have included
> holocaust, murder, power addiction, territorial threats, and
> economic depression.  To those inclined to perceive, the fine game
> reveals, "The hidden law of a probable outcome" (Sting).

> A fine game gives insight into the human condition, if you
> believe: The world resembles a game, and all of us are
> players--our moves finite, our consequences irreversible.

All completely true. Games, as all our art forms, hold a mirror up
to humanity. I think the concern voiced by myself and others is that
by and large, games like Civ, Chess, Go, Settlers of Catan, and
Diplomacy *reward* holocaust, murder, power addiction, territorial
threats, and causing economic depression. EG, they are by and large
power fantasies. If you believe that the essential element of a game
is fun, then you must concede that power fantasies need not be the
only subject or thematic heart of a game.

Which brings me back to the statement, "why don't we fix the fact
that comic books do a better job of portraying the human condition
than our games do?"  There are many ways to provide fun, as you
cite, and frankly, we as designers tend to explore only a very small
subset of the possible means of doing so.

FWIW, despite the extensive quoting of my writings in your original
essay ;) my main quarrel with your entire premise is that online
worlds aren't just games.

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