Monday, December 12, 2011

What Is Fun?

I still think a lot about Tim's post, and what I said a few months back about it. What brings this to the surface, today, is the discussion around the World Of Tanks pricing model (commented on here). I'm not going to expand on that discussion (yet) but I've been asking myself over the last few days: what is fun?

What is it that is fun about gaming, and specifically World Of Tanks? Obviously I like tanks. That should be pretty obvious, so a game about tanks will be fun. I also like PVP, so again, WoT hits the mark. It's also pretty casual and anti-social friendly so, again, ding-ding-ding. Beyond this, however, I'm wondering about the mechanics of the game.

If I like tanks, and casual, lobby-based PVP why do I worry about credits, gold, or tech trees? I have numerous lower-tiered tanks I absolutely love (Su-26, Ram II, M4, KV-13) and win with on a consistent basis. Over that last few days I've been complaining that WoT makes it hard to run higher tier tanks so the question I ask, is why do I bother? If the game-play is fun, why do I stress about the upper tier tanks and their lack of income?  I could easily play (for free) with my elite, lower tier tanks and that, in itself, should be enough.... shouldn't it?

Is it then, not the game-play itself, that is fun, but the progression/collection element of the game? I like to think the 'grind' is a pain-in-the-butt but I not only participate in this, I focus on it. Regardless of the many fun , self-sustaining (credit wise) tanks I have elited (and therefor no reason to 'grind' experience) I keep working on new, higher tier tanks which I know will 'cost' me more money, credits, and time. I have unlocked the top Russian TD tier, and am pursuing both the IS-4 (tier 9) heavy tank, and the E50 (tier 9) medium tank.

These tanks may be 'more powerful', but so too will the competitors I face, so in reality, the lower tier tanks should fulfill my PVP-cravings....but still I look ahead. I'm not involved in Clan Wars, so the end-game for me is simply more of the same (random battles). It must be, then, that the game-play itself is not the only draw. The thrill of earning a new achievement, or driving a new tank, must also be a strong element of what keeps me interested. This really bothers me as I am among the first to argue that people should have fun with a game, and not worry about 'grinding' as fast as possible to the end. What's going to happen when I have all the tanks I want, then? Will I still want to play?

Games are like gambling. They play on the brain's desire to be rewarded, and our drives to collect and achieve. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (unless you're a horrible gambling addict and then it will cause some problems) but it bothers me that my stated reasons for playing, and my actual playing behavior are so very different. Perhaps a little too introspective, but hey, I'm a blogger and without that, what the heck would I talk about? I'm also coming down with the flu as I write this, so perhaps it's all just a fevered rant......

Do you have any collections which are (mostly) irrelevant to game-play in your current games? What is it you find 'fun' about games?


  1. You know I think about this a lot and so far haven't been satisfied with my attempts to write about it. What I will do tho is try to facilitate you further writing about it ;) by answering your question.

    In WoW - from BC up through the end of LK - my Paladin had several sets of gear in her bank. Some for nostolgia (a shield or sword that I went through a lot of trouble to get and/or was with me for a very long period of time) and some because I hoped one day for an Appearance tab (that I never got, as I stopped playing long before Transmogrofication).

    In Skyrim, I've enjoyed filling every bookshelf in my house with various texts...not all of which I've gotten around to fully reading yet. My thief went so far as to steal the hard-to-find dwarf books from that museum, just to fill her own collection.

    In Fallout 3 I kept unneeded skill books around to fill that book shelf with.

    I am convinced I'll do the same in TOR. It is some sort of a ritual or custom that seems built into me.

  2. Collecting is definitely an age-old obsession/pastime that started a very long time ago. I've found some things during my career as an archaeologist from a very long time ago that I believe were keepsakes that had no apparent practical purpose.....and we only have to look at the orchid craze of the Victorian era to see the lengths people will often go through.

    It's no wonder then, that these activities are wired into games. We like them, and in an online game where keeping the player around (satisfied and paying) is crucial, there has to be stuff to keep us busy.

    For me knowing that, and accepting it are at odds, at least in World of Tanks. The developers both depend on this, and anticipated the 'tank collector' as evidenced by the ability to purchase extra garage slots, for gold only, for the tanks.