Games aren’t about beauty or delight.

At the end of chapter 5, Koster writes, “Games aren’t stories. Games aren’t about beauty or delight. Games aren’t about jockeying for social status. They stand, in their own right, as something incredibly valuable. Fun is about learning in a context where there is no pressure, and that is why games matter.”

Throughout the chapter, Koster presents an interesting take on the relationship between games and stories. He writes, “It’s as if we are requiring the player to solve a crossword puzzle in order to turn the page to get more of the novel.” (page 86) I have noticed this in many games that I have played. However, Every Day the Same Dream is an exception. Even though parts of the story are revealed after completing tasks in the game, the very act of doing those tasks over and over again contributes to our experience and understanding of the story. In this case, game play is not separated from the narrative, but rather, the two are intertwined. And, in my opinion, the game play enhances the story, instead of other cases where the story is used to enhance an otherwise mediocre game.

Playing Don’t Look Back caused me to somewhat disagree with Koster’s statement that games are not about beauty or delight. Again, I believe that games may not be solely about these things, but at the same time, these aspects can certainly be involved in games and game play. “Delight strikes when we recognize patterns but are surprised by them”-we recognize patterns in Don’t Look Back,¬†as the game play is rather similar to games such as Super Mario Bros., but are certainly surprised by the end of Don’t Look Back, “when everything falls into place” and we realize what the whole game has been about. (page 94) This realization is similar to Koster’s claim about beauty – “Beauty is found in the tension between our expectation and the reality.” I would imagine that approaching the game with no knowledge about what the game might really be about certainly results in tension upon reaching the end of the game. Who would have expected that a seemingly simple game (though perhaps difficult to beat) with simple graphics could convey a rather complex, deep message?

One thought on “Games aren’t about beauty or delight.

  1. Professor Sample

    Nice reading of Every Day the Same Dream. I initially included the game on the syllabus in order to talk about procedural rhetoric, but it’s just as important to talk about the game in terms of narrative and gameplay, which as you note, really do depend upon each other here.

Comments are closed.