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Three Moves Ahead Episode 171 – Fun with 3MA

June 2nd, 2012 by Rob Zacny · 7 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


Tom Chick, SMG studios designer David Heron, and Jon Shafer join Rob to reflect on their various issues with “fun” and how we relate to games. It’s a rambling discussion about what we want from games, how we want to talk about them, and whether enjoyment is possible without fun.

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Brian

    I found the initial discussion of decision making in Diablo 3 to be a bit confusing. It seems to me that there was some mixing of ideas here: making mutually exclusive decisions vs. making those decisions have permanence. Diablo 3 is full of mutually exclusive decisions, but NONE of them are permanent. They can always be undone and made again. As Tom has pointed out on QT3, this allows the average player to explore the full breadth and depth of the game system.

  • NotJeff

    Here’s my take: When I talk about a “good game” I am not really talking about fun. I am talking about the extent to which the subject under discussion exemplifies a “game” vs. an “activity”.

    In my mind, an activity can be fun (and many things sold as games are more like “activities”.

    A game (as opposed to an activity) is typified by making decisions that are informed, non-arbitrary, and consequential.

  • NotJeff

    Whereas Candyland, Chutes&Ladders, a slot machine, and blackjack are activities (and possibly good or fun activities, depending on your inclinations), they are NOT “good games”.

  • Brian

    I get the first 3 examples, NotJeff, but I don’t see why blackjack doesn’t qualify as a game? It has distinct choices to make throughout. If you make the wrong choices you will lose more money than you win. If you make the correct choices consistently then you will win (slightly) more than you lose (ignoring card counting here). It can theoretically be reduced to there being only one correct choice at any given time, but then I guess chess can theoretically be reduced to that as well, just at exponentially more computational cost. I don’t think the existence of a correct choice should preclude something from being considered a game, as long as there is an actor with finite capacity making that choice.

    IOW, I would also argue that Tic-Tac-Toe is a game, not an activity (albeit a poorly designed and easily solved one).

  • Joe

    I appreciate Tom Chick’s dislike of the term “fun” in game reviews. On a similar note, I hate it when game reviews describe activities or some game properties as “satisfying.” Maybe I’m a less engaged gamer, but nothing about games provides me with satisfaction. More descriptive terms should be used unless it gives me food when I am hungry or performs sexual favors when I am, umm, in that mood.

    “The trophy is dying alone.”

  • spelk

    Picking up on something Rob mentioned, about his description of actual play being a way to get over the experience of a game, rather than spelling it out in bullet points.

    This is exactly the reason I don’t “review” games as such, I prefer to document the play itself, in After Action Reports (AAR) with all the emotions and decisions that come along with it. It serves several purposes, it gets over the mechanics, it presents an actual full run through of the game, so you see the beginning, middle and ending. If after reading the AAR, the player’s appetite has been whetted, then they’re probably going to enjoy the game. If they appraise the play itself, and find it lacking, or perhaps they don’t finish reading the AAR, then the game is probably not for them.

    Pros and Cons reviews are needed, if you want snappy info about the game, but ultimately – especially with deep and lengthy strategy or wargames, it’s not enough. It’s much better to follow through the play, and the decision process, and you’ll get a much better feel for the game that way. Plus it serves as a half decent tutorial, that may give more insights during play than your dry tutorials from the game developer.

    AAR’s are often written by people who enjoy playing the game, not a bunch of time strapped devs who are there to build the game and sell it.

  • NotJeff

    There’s definitely some wiggle-room in the neighborhood of blackjack (and tic-tac-toe), Brian. I would say that chess is a game but (in my headspace) blackjack and t-t-t are activities because of how TRIVIALLY calculable they are. (Caveat #1: I’m ONLY talking about blackjack where you know nothing about the deck, count, etc. Caveat #2: If you don’t KNOW blackjack or t-t-t, they ARE games, until you figure them out. Then they’re activities. If I ever figure chess out, it’ll get less interesting!)

    That is, tic-tac-toe is an activity in exactly the same way Candyland is an activity: both are slavish adherence to a program known completely, in advance.