Douglas Wilson and Miguel Sicart’s article made me think of a discussion with a friend about watching movies with sad endings. He seemed to believe that movies should always make the viewer feel good in the end and that a sad ending would leave the viewer sad. He could simply not fathom why someone would purposely subject themselves to feeling sad. I tried to explain that it is not simply that people enjoy feeling sad. It is that people like to have their normal, daily way of thinking challenged. This facilitates engagement with the world around them. If we are always getting what we want out of everything we interact with, where is the challenge in that? And anyway, it is not reflective of the realities of life and viewers want to feel they are being treated as intelligent, thinking creatures who can handle a little bit of sadness.
I think this is what Wilson and Sicart are getting at in their “academic manifesto” (7). We all already know this as English majors, but to think of it in the context of gaming seems unexpected. But like any maturing genre, gaming is exploring its relationship with its players and game designers and these questions are inevitable and important.
A great quote is “an abusive game designer is like a virus – one which avoids killing the host in order to better propagate throughout the population” (7). The propagating of the population infers that by challenging the player, the player will be inspired to grow and mature in their way of thinking. To think outside of the box, if you will. To be innovative. New ideas do not come from safe thinking. Creativity is often born out of adversity. In life things do not always go our way and they are not easy and sometimes life is as boring as driving a bus for eight straight hours. In being challenged, the player could come to understand that winning is not the be-all-end-all. Aerosmith said it best “Life’s a journey, not a destination…”