Have you ever played the Nintendo Wii? You know that old console that was the idea of the future of gaming a few months ago, where you’d wave around a controller playing tennis or something, and then break your TV? It was a really fun concept, actually. You could play games in a 3-dimensional space and bring in a whole new level realism to your games. You could be the swordsman, the wizard, the tennis player.
Have you ever played the Xbox Kinect? It’s a rather new addition to the Microsoft console; no controllers, just a system emitting lights so you can wave around in a 3-dimensional space, you could play sports, you could dance and enjoy yourself, you could be a fantastic Jedi knight in quality adaptions, or look after some virtual animals. All you had to do was stand in-front of your TV and wave your body around.
Have you ever played the PlayStation Move? It’s Sony’s addition to the PlayStation 3, somewhere between a portable lamp and a cordless Nintendo Wii. Just like the Wii, except actually 3-dimensional, you wave your arms around like you’re trying to break your TV. It’s not a novel concept, but it’s enjoyable. You could play as an archer or… a bowler. There wasn’t much.
This is what constitutes as “fun” nowadays. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy, and have enjoyed, all of these in their own time. Except the Move, that was done to death before it was even released. I like what the Nintendo Wii did for families; made video games a family-fun time, accessible for all, and frankly Wii Sports was almost as bad as Monopoly at causing fights.
I enjoy the Kinect, too, because of the freedom Microsoft gives with it. You don’t need to pick up a controller. It’s responsive. You can use it and develop for it with Microsoft-made tools to do some cool mods that Microsoft never dreamed of. You can explore and have fun with whatever you learn about the Kinect.
So why am I even talking about this? It’s simple, really. I haven’t had fun with video games in a long time. They’re almost a chore to me. Don’t misunderstand me – I enjoy them, but sometimes I want to have a boat-load of fun like I used to.
Take Far Cry 3 for example, which is a really enjoyable game. The detail is stupendous, the concept and execution amazing. But it almost felt like a chore, grinding animal pelts for items so I could not suffer my explorations in the wilderness. And that’s not the only game, too, where the chores get in the way of fun.
I realised this the other day when I played a little indie title released in 2012 called Super Hexagon. It’s a simple game; you’re a triangle, you circle around the hexagon in the centre and you avoid the walls for at least 60 seconds.
I was shocked that that was all there was to it. I had to avoid the walls. So far, I’ve racked up several hours playing it just trying to beat my high-scores; more hours than I’ve spent gaming in months. There was no hidden agenda. No secret levels to unlock. Just avoid the walls. And it is the most fun I have had playing a game for years.
When did detail and reality get in the way of fun and enjoyment? I understand that “big” games – Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry 3 come to mind – could not be simplified to create proper enjoyment. But why have irritating little systems to just make people keep playing longer? I don’t want to spend 10 hours looking for a rare flower on the top of a hill to make a certain potion that gives me a 1% increased chance of finding the item for the recipe for my super weapon. That’s not fun to me.
Perhaps the issue isn’t with the games; perhaps it is with me. Having played a lot of games, maybe I’ve come to know what to expect, and that’s why the indie genre speaks out to me – developers take steps in a new direction to improve their craft, and I can appreciate the hard work they put into things. Perhaps as I mature, I find myself enjoying different mediums more than the ones I grew up with. Who knows.
But one thing is for certain. I’m rarely having fun with something I’d been enjoying my whole life, and that isn’t ideal. I like playing video games. It’s something I’ve always done to relax and enjoy myself. Having half of that deal isn’t what I envisioned.
Maybe the next series of consoles will change that. I hope it will. I hope that with more budget comes more creative freedom to explore ideas that have never been explored. Audre Lorde, a famous activist, once wrote that “There are no new ideas, just different ways of making them felt” – and I feel that this should not apply to the gaming industry, an industry where creativity comes to shine in ways that no-one ever perceived, and stifled ideas are no more. I would enjoy it a lot more if that were the case.
By Tom Robinson
Do you still think video games are enjoyable but not fun?