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Games don’t need to be fun to be good

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    Red Dead Redemption 2 games fun good

    I just wrapped up Red Dead Redemption 2. I think it is one of the best games of last year. After 60 hours of gameplay, I felt fully immersed in the world of the West. I was invested in the story and the emotional rollercoaster that came along with it. After putting the controller down for the last time, I marveled at how great the experience was and how engrossed I had been.

    However, it was not a game where I consistently had “fun.” At times, the gameplay was repetitive, even arduous. There was no fast travel system embedded in most of the game. I spent dozens of hours riding across terrain that mirrored that of my home state: Colorado. I spent hours on end without action. Yet, despite the consistent lack of thrills, I still felt like I had a fulfilling and rewarding time with Red Dead. I am happy I played the game, even though it was not necessarily fun for every minute I spent with it.

    Other forms of media are similar. Some of my favorite movies and books are filled to the brim with adventure and excitement. They kept me on my toes for their entirety. However, some of the best books and movies I have experienced were not fully entertaining though every page or every scene. Instead, many of them took time to build up an arch of emotion or an important message that made investing time a more-than-worthwhile experience. The same is true with many games today.

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    I loved playing Guacamelee 2 last year because it was consistently fun for nearly every moment I spent with it. But I equally enjoyed playing Red Dead, even though it had a fraction of the excitement. I came away fulfilled with both experiences, regardless of their amount of “fun.”

    When games were in their infancy, the goal was to create a fun gameplay experience. The technology was rather limiting, so creating a deeper emotional experience was rarely possible without compromising gameplay. Nowadays, developers are free to craft adventures with fewer constraints. As a result, we too must adapt our understanding of what constitutes a “good video game.” I no longer believe any single element is required to constitute an exemplary form of the medium. A game can still be fun and be great; the element of fun is still important. However, I no longer believe a video game needs to be fun in order to be good.

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