July Roundup: ‘Pure Fun’

It’s probably really cheeky to start off this roundup by saying how much fun I had reading the contributions, isn’t it? Well, I’m going to do it anyway: I had to much fun reading this month’s contributions!

On a more serious note, as Nick Hanford notes in his own contribution for the month, while there is a great deal of discussion out there on “play” as a concept, there is far less available on the equally squiggly concept of “fun.” So, the next time someone goes looking for “fun,” I hope their search brings them here. Let’s review the prompt for the month before we move into our discussion of “Pure Fun.”

Nicholas Hanford posed the question “Is fun meaningful? Is the creation of fun equal to the creation of meaning? Or does something always have to tag along with fun for meaning?” I think these questions resonate loudly, whether we consciously address them or not, in the discussion of videogames. What’s your take? Have you experienced pure fun while playing, or is fun tied to the meaning of the experience? Does a player bring fun to the game, or the reverse? Is it reciprocal? Is fun more accessible in some games than others, and if so, why? This month, I want to hear your thoughts on fun, meaning making, and where the two meet.

Joseph Dwan kicks us off this month by examining the marketing trend in games that tells us making our own path is fun. Yet, whether this fun is made in open world games, or games where players set their own goals,  Dwan finds them only amusing at best. For him, fun happens when he’s taken on a quest or a journey with defined characters and stories. In other words, Dwan’s fun needs narrative context.

Beginning with the concept that everything exists in context and that nothing exists in isolation – including fun – Leigh Harrison discusses how the storytelling in Witcher 3 contextualizes actions in the game, but its systems fail to do the same.  Ultimately, Harrison arrives at another question about fun, asking “Is it simply the case that fun things accompanied by not fun things actually generates more fun for the player?”

Over at Haywire, Salvatore Pane considers why he is willing to accept movies and books as art pieces that need not be enjoyable to be appreciated, but is less able to extend the same acceptance to games.

Charlotte Hyde discusses her need for fun and for play in times of stress, but also how the purity of play as a worthwhile pursuit becomes culturally trivialized as the pressure to work and produce increases.

In his contribution this month, The Rev 3.0 writes,”Fun comes from the interaction of subject (the player) and object (the game), an interaction which gives birth to an experience.” For The Rev, NiGHTS into Dreams creates an experience of pure fun. Yet, for The Rev, this isn’t a game that needs or should have a sequel. It wasn’t any one piece of the game that could be repeated to make another edition equally “fun.” Instead, this game’s elements worked in such harmony that the experience of fun itself was presented.

My fabulous Blogs of the Rountable co-host, Mark Filipowich,  joins us this month with a piece considering how Saint’s Row IV invites pure fun in an incredibly enjoyable and nuanced way, even while the existence of “pure fun” is, itself, an impossibility.

Over on his blog at The Thesaurus Rex, Taylor Hidalgo uses Mass Effect as a framework to discuss the human need to be part of a narrative experience. Hidalgo states,

In part, some what what I find the most fun in gaming has very little to do with gaming itself, and a lot to do with humanity. I want to get behind my heroes. I want to wait with baited breath for every new detail, every little twist, every word of dialog or hint of depth sequestered behind something new. Some of the purest fun for the human mind comes from not just being a part of a narrative, but needing to be.

On his new blog at Better Games, Better Gamers, Dan Lipson reviews the meaning of  and conditions for “flow” before questioning whether flow is actually essential to fun. Lipson then proceeds to use Diablo as a test case for the question.

This month, the last word goes to Nick Hanford, who inspired our theme for the month. Hanford suggests that, “we have to treat pure fun as a kind of double-edged sword.”  While fun helps us turn off our minds and find enjoyment, that that uncritical turning off is also the precise danger of fun. Give this, Hanford moves to pose the question, “How do we ensure that we can construct a kind of pure fun that is responsible, sustainable, and conscious?”

Thank you to the participants for such enjoyable reads! If you haven’t already, feel free to use this code to embed the links in your blog (provided your publishing platform allows iframes, that is):

In closing, a few things: thanks again to Mark Filipowich for taking over all Blogs of the Round Table responsibilities while I was away taking my PhD quals. We have a really great and supportive team here at Critical-Distance. We also have a really committed and hard-working team here. If you support our efforts, consider pledging to our Patreon.