Games are not supposed to be fun

There's this guy Yehuda, from Jerusalem, who writes a weblog about games. And the guy is a game maven. Let me tell you.

So, just the other day, this guy writes a blog piece titled: Games are not supposed to be fun. Honestly. That's what he wrote. And he has some good stuff to say about games and art and fun, and how easily one can get in the way of the other.

But me, I think that not only are games supposed to be fun, I think fun is a lot more serious than we admit. I think that fun games about serious things can get even more serious than games that aren't any fun at all.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Blogger Kris Bordessa said...

To deviate slightly, we recently had the opportunity to play a game of Scrabble with a group of good friends. We teamed up, adults with kids and nine of us sat down for a fun game. Whoops. Make that seven of us; turns out that one team was there to win and they play by the rules without exception. My kids have played “off the board” when they had a word that was close to working. We let our kids look at the dictionary before placing a word. Apparently these things are both “against the rules”.

Now, knowing that this is a very competitive family, I wasn’t surprised by their sheer determination to win. What I was surprised about is how quickly this game turned into a less than fun event for the other players. This wasn’t because the rest of us were “poor sports” and didn’t want to lose. Rather, the concept of cheering each player’s word placement was lost. Players no longer oohed and ahhed over a clever word. Their focus shifted to keeping track of points. While competitive players will likely say ‘that’s what the game’s about!’, I think it’s a shame. A game that my kids have enjoyed in the past, a game in which they learn spelling skills, ASK to use a dictionary, and learn new words, became a single-focus mission: score the most points at all costs.

It was an interesting look at two very different ways of doing things. And while I can see the drive that comes from wanting to win, I prefer to encourage playing a game for fun rather than getting all serious about it.

Blogger Bernie said...

To concur entirely, bless you Kris, o Defender of the Playful, for sharing this wonderful story. It exemplifies a truth so simple and deep. I've been teaching it for more than 40 years, and look forward to teaching it the rest of my life.

Blogger Nathaniel Todd said...

I understand what kris is getting at here, and there is some validity to this point. For a casual game (not part of an offical competition or tournament of some sort) to be entertaining and fun players really need to play with a little lightheartedness and keep a fun spirit throughout. This being said, what makes a game a game is that it follows a certain set of rules--there's nothing wrong with house rules so long as everyone agrees on them at the start of the game. What you had was a bit of a communication problem--the two players were there to play a serious game of scrabble by the rules. There's no reason you can't have fun playing that way, but it sounds like they were not goodspirited about the whole affair. Especially with children I understand your variation on the game--in fact, that seems to make a lot more sense for kids since it would make for a much better teaching tool. Problem is scrable by the rules and the way your kids typically play are very different games and not really playable at the same time.

Basically I understand your frustration, but I wanted to defend the concept of taking games seriously, because I do take them seriously. It is possible to play by the rules strictly and still have a fun & cheerful time. Sounds like your friends might have thought they were at the scrabble world championships, however, and were really at odds with the rest of the group.

"I prefer to encourage playing a game for fun rather than getting all serious about it" ... I prefer both simutaneously. Happy gaming!

Some of my thoughts on the topic:


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