From the Archive – Do games have to be fun to be good?

From the Archive – Do games have to be fun to be good?

The following words were written way back when in 2008 on my old, now closed, personal blog, There were an attempt, of sorts, to answer the question – do games have to be fun to be good? I chose to write this after first learning about Pathologic, and with the recent Kickstarter campaign to bring the game back, I thought it might be an idea to resurrect this piece. Please note that this is an archival piece of work and is an example of what my writing was like when I was 20, in University and very likely, a little bit drunk at the time I wrote this. Proceed if you dare.

Do games have to be fun to be good? This is a question which following Quinns take on Pathologic over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun has been running around in my head like a hamster does on a wheel. Or is that a mouse…anyway one of the points that Quinns raised in his examination of Pathologic was that while it may not always be a fun game to play, it was a good game.

Of course this statement caused some debate among the RPS fanatics, another issue that was raised in response to this detailed examination of Pathologic was whether current reviewing methods are really all that good.

That issue was raised and was based on the fact that in the preamble to the first piece by Quinns, Mr Kieron Gillen actually came out and mentioned that fact that under current ‘traditional’ games reviewing processes he had to give the game at lowly 52% in PC Gamer and this ‘traditional’ way of reviews limited John Walker to giving the game a 6/10 on Eurogamer.

Of course this is a different issue entirely and is one that is probably best left to people like Kieron, John and the other two Rock, Paper, Shotgun fellas to discuss. After all, reviewing games is part of their job, for me it is just a hobby.

So, do games have to fun to be good? For me the answer is a simple one, and I could just put that one single word down and be done with this, however I feel a bit of waffling on is required. Well waffling on is a skill I have learnt well so far during my university course, and it is one I am going to have to make great use of in my dissertation.

Anyway, what is my take on the statement/topic/question or whatever you want to call it at hand? Well I must say NO! I say this simply because fun is a perspective that varies wildly between different people. There are so many games out there and so many gamers out there that everyone is going to have different ideas on what makes a game fun.

Some may find Simulators fun, while others may find them boring and not much fun at all. The same can be said for First Person Shooters and Multiplayer Online Games. The whole notion of fun varies so wildly between people that the statement ‘games have to be fun to be good’ is utter bullcrap. I for one can have fun with many games, they do not all have to be good though. The same applies in reverse for me, I can find a game to not be much fun, but I recognise that just because it is not fun to me doesn’t make it a bad game.

Take for example the latest Sam and Max games. I had to review one of the Season 2 episodes and I didn’t really find it that fun. This may just have been down to my mind being a bit strange, but I could see that the game wasn’t bad. It may not have been brilliant but it wasn’t a bad game. Yet I didn’t find it that fun to play.

The same goes for Halo, while at times I had fun with it, for the most part I was pretty indifferent to it and just played on for the sake of it. Just because I didn’t find the entire game fun though doesn’t mean it was a bad game. On the most part it was pretty good.

So it is clear that a game doesn’t have to be fun to be good. It is purely our own persona and the way our minds work the defines whether a game is fun, and if we look at game from a critical perspective we can see that while we may not have had loads of fun with a game it was actually pretty good.

Time is dragging on and I have to be up for work in the morning, an example of something that is neither fun nor good there!

So to sum up my brief ramblings, a game does not have to be fun to be good. The idea of fun varies wildly from person to person. Whether a game is good or not can be seen by taking a critical look at it and by taking off those rose tinted specs.

After readings Quinns take on Pathologic I am fully prepared to start playing (when it arrives) a broken game that is not much fun, but that beneath those perceived flaws is actually quite good.

One thought on “From the Archive – Do games have to be fun to be good?

  1. For me I think there’s a big difference between a game being enjoyable and a game being fun. Portal 2 was a tremendously good game that in places had some tough puzzles. This made it enjoyable but what made it fun was the actors performances and the comedy tones.
    Tactical games for me are very enjoyable but certainly not fun. You can play for hours scraping for a tiny little advantage over your enemy even to eventually lose a game and all without breaking so much as a smile. This doesn’t make the game bad it just makes it challenging and still very enjoyable for people who like that kind of thing.
    Of course ‘fun’ gaming (in my opinion) is what most casual gamers are into. Things you can easily jump in and out of, that you can play with friends, and that give a satisfying outcome with minimal time spent.

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