David Kennerly writes essay to annoy Tom

Fun is Fine: Toward a Philosophy of Game Design


Quick summation: Art vs. Fun, the eternal struggle. Games aren’t narrative. Fun is important! No, really, fun is important! A very strained metaphor involving cheesy Sting lyrics.

The essay is poorly connected, relies heavily upon appeals to authority, and strains to make a game’s ‘fun-ness’ a pretentiously haloed ideal.

I think the writer was trying to make a good point, but got lost in trying to convince people that ‘games are Important’. (note: capitalization of ‘Important’ is meant to mock people who do such things, no mentioning any names) If game design is an art, then the rules and presentation and interface are the tools, in the same way that paint and brushes and canvas are for a painter, and scenery, props, actors, score, foley, film, and camera are for a director. It’s in viewing the picture, watching the film, or experiencing the play of the game that the observer interacts with the artifact and is affected by it. If our ability to describe the quality of a game is largely confined to explaining whether it was fun or not, that’s because we don’t yet have enough experience with experiential art, and are too involved in the production of the artifact itself (play), to develop a sophisticated vocabulary for discussing the artistic aspects of game design. (Although I believe people are working on such a vocabulary.) We use fun to games that are well executed, even if we have difficulty describing the specifics of what make it fun.

I now expect those who have studied art theory and philosopy to demolish my hastily constructed thesis from the poorly constructed essay, and for Tom to rip off my head and piss down my neck for bringing up ‘fun’, a joke almost as old and tired as the beret.

I feel uncleanly Koontzian for even posting this thing. I need to shower.

My favorite part, in the section on card games and chess:

“Like Steinbeck’s classic, “Of Mice and Men”, Spades is a two-player struggle of the lower-class worker invented around the Depression Era in the US.[27] It’s been enjoyed for many decades by working-class men in situations much like many of Steinbeck’s characters. In the game, the partners bid on what points they can make, not unlike such plights of the Depression—and post-industrial labor in general. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my Army mates, at multiple duty stations, played Spades during downtime. A good Spades player learns a lot about the condition of the post-industrial service-oriented laborer. He learns that self-evaluation and teamwork trump individual excellence.”


That whole section made me laugh. He’s trying so damn hard.

I’m frightened that he got that message from “Of Mice & Men.”

The author’s certainly mastered pretentiousness…

But I’d say it’s hard to capture the “fun” genie in a bottle. All I know is that I know when I’m having fun and when I’m not. The rest is horribly capricious and unpredictable beyond knowing a clumsily-designed game (buggy, bad interface, incomprehensible visuals, annoying audio, unclear goals) isn’t any fun in the same way that an unbathed supermodel covered with manure ain’t sexy.

Primates love to play. Humans love to keep score. It’s probably some sort of tribal warfare instinct deep in the hindbrain doing the horizontal jimmy-jammy with the cerebrum in a world changing too fast for our genes to keep up.

And just remember: it’s all fun and games until you wake up and find out you’re just a human battery.

Did I actually read “horizontal jimmy-jammy?” Just checking…