I had a quick exchange with a fellow blogger on Twitter the other day that I’m still thinking about. Basically, I made the assertion that If a game is more fun, generally speaking, than it would be more successful. It seemed like common sense at the time. We play games to have fun, thus the more fun a game is, the higher the demand for the game (higher volume) and the more money a game should make, regardless of what business model it has chosen to use. My fellow blogger politely pointed out the flaw in my equation. Fun is a variable, and it’s not the same for everybody. As difficult as vague concepts can be for an analytic mind like mine, I can appreciate that he/she is, in fact, correct.
Fun is a complicated formula, and I suppose that is why some games succeed (sometimes despite all odds) and some games fail. All games start as an idea, and whether that idea is original or a carbon-copy of an existing successful idea, I’m fairly confident that when the game is merely a concept, those conceptualizing it are confident in it’s fun-ness. So, what happens between concept and failure? Have the wrong elements been given focus? Has the market changed? Was testing feedback inaccurate/not representative of the larger player base? Did the development focus too much on the business model and not enough on the game?
This also led me to wonder about what I consider fun. Action combat? As long as it’s not too mash-y or twitch-y. Crafting? As long as I can actually use the items for my characters. Social? As long as the interactions are civil and focused on having fun. Ah, there’s that word again! On some level, my having fun is dependent on my definition of fun aligning with others’. So, in order for an MMO to be fun, there must be multiple people who agree on what “fun” is, they must find each other, and they should participate in those aspects of the game together as often as life allows. I suppose this is why MMO’s are constantly trying to be everything to everybody – in order to maximize the number of like-minded groups who find their game fun. It’s a tough mission to accomplish, and each game fails on some level. Unfortunately, those failures are typically dwelt on by a vocal segment of the (sometimes ex-) player base, which can lead to the perception of general/overall failure among those who would otherwise consider the game fun.
I think this was the point that my fellow blogger was trying to drive home to me in 140 characters or less. It’s also probably a good reason to continue to evaluate what we personally think is fun, why we think so, and make sure we’re not influenced by the vocal segment of the population with an axe to grind. Unless, of course, the axe they’re grinding is also yours.
Featured image by Tom Hodgkinson on flickr