Do Games Need to be Fun?

David Cage, who already has a reputation for bashing his own groundbreaking game, Heavy Rain, went on the record saying that he does not plan on making his next game fun. Beyond: Two Souls was first shown at E3 2012 and has been garnering attention from the press and gamers alike because of its impressive graphical presentation and moving storyline (at least, as far as its commercials and previews have shown). However, with the knowledge that the game is not designed to be fun, perhaps it is worth scrutinizing whether or not a game needs to be fun to be good.

In the early days of gaming, being fun was the only selling point of the game: graphics for classic arcade games were all minimal, and only their gameplay elements were left. Gaming has come a long way since then, with more intense physics and graphics becoming a standard and storytelling becoming a major element in each game. Being fun is still a huge part of the game, and it’s the main point that hooks fans through gameplay videos or demo kiosks. If a game doesn’t look fun, then it probably won’t be a success. But if we are trying to move past the notion that gaming is for kids, perhaps it’s also time that we move past the concept that all games must be fun.

Major titles like Heavy Rain, Shadow of the Colossus, and Final Fantasy X all have sad endings despite being critically acclaimed, and I am sure there are many more both in the spotlight and out of it. While they did have a bit of a focus that kept them fun, they each aimed for giving an experience rather than entertainment for the gamer. Experiencing the game wasn’t always fun, and might have actually been ominous, and the ending to each game wasn’t necessarily rewarding, but they were all still memorable to gamers.

Like movies, books, and television shows, games can have a wide range of genres and storytelling formats. Too often these games have fallen into the same rut: good versus evil, good wins against evil, everyone goes home happy (sometimes even the antagonists!), despite a wide range of storytelling methods available to developers. Games offer an interactive experience that movies, books, and television shows have difficulty emulating, which gives them a huge advantage when it comes to immersion. Now that games have evolved to impressive graphical and physical standards, it’s about time for the stories to catch up.

Simply put, games no longer need to be fun. As long as a game gives an immersive experience, gamers and critics alike get their money’s worth out of it. David Cage has the right idea: instead of developing games for profit, it’s time to move on to the art and storytelling aspect of it, and give the gamer an experience. Anyone who’s played games on old and outdated consoles can agree that it’s not the fun mechanics or easy control scheme or above-average graphics that get remembered favorably—it’s the journey through the game.