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Should Games Be More Boring? 180

Posted by Zonk
from the are-talking-like-drake-and-the-ninety-nine-dragons-boring dept.
An anonymous reader writes "At Gamasutra, serious games creator Ian Bogost is making the case that video games should be more mundane, particularly discussing of Nintendo' Brain Age: 'It's certainly a very different kind of game from Halo or even Miyamoto's own Zelda series, games that allow the player to inhabit complex fantasy worlds. Instead, much of Brain Age's success seems to come precisely from the ordinariness of its demands.' Would games become more accessible if they tapped into everyday things a little bit more, as opposed to spiralling off into fictional realities?"
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Should Games Be More Boring?

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  • Umm.... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Drakemaw (797274)
    No
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by buswolley (591500)
      Hmm. Exactly. Why is the article equating boring with games like Brain Age? Maybe games which don't have a whole complex world in them can be..umm what's that word.. oh yeah.. FUN. Complex games can be boring.. Quite a lot of them are.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by stOPHER978 (996221)
      We do have boring games.. World of Warcraft. In fact boring games are equivalent with easy games.
  • Boring vs Diverse (Score:5, Informative)

    by Raindance (680694) * <johnsonmx.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:37PM (#19240879) Homepage Journal
    Of course games shouldn't be more boring (with the caveat that games should stay away from pressing peoples' addiction buttons).

    But yes, I think it would be good (for developers and for gamers) for games to break out into more genres. Here's a quote from Rod Humble, Executive Producer of The Sims, which neatly sums up a good way to think about this:

    I don't know if there's any fixed lifecycle for the Sims franchise because I think that it can go a lot more places. Part of the mandate that I had when I took over the position is to really break this franchise out into a more mainstream audience. So the way I like to look at the franchise is walk into a bookstore and take every video game you know and just place them on a shelf in the bookstore. And I think you'll find they tend to cluster a lot in certain areas in the bookstore. And I want the Sims to fill up the rest of the bookstore.
    • by rossifer (581396)
      Exactly. TFA makes the case that not all games should be romps through exciting fantasy worlds. It doesn't say that exciting games are a bad idea, just that game companies and distribution channels would be wise to have a larger perspective on what constitutes a potentially successful game.

      My take on what he's saying: other companies should be more like Nintendo, and there's nothing stopping them from growing the gaming market (the same way Nintendo is successfully doing) once they decide to put away thei
  • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:38PM (#19240885) Journal
    Just to get the imaginative juices flowing for developers here are some great ideas:

    Virtual paint drying
    Virtual grass growing
    Virtual lawn mowing
    Virtual gutter cleaning
    Virtual root canal
    Virtual hoop-pushing down a virtual dirt road with a virtual stick

    I'm sure developers could take these a long way and I'm sure we can all agree we greatly anticipate the results
    • by SQLGuru (980662)
      I've played some of those!!!!

      http://www.seanbaby.com/nes/egm.htm [seanbaby.com]

      Layne
    • Virtual Baseball.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by rkanodia (211354)
      I'm looking forward to 3D Stuck In A Meeting.
    • by Hatta (162192)
      You laugh, but Harvest Moon [wikipedia.org] is a great game.
    • This is exactly what I've been saying about second-life. In second Life, I stand up, walk outside, consult my map, get in my virtual car, sit in virtual traffic, and go to a virtual zoo to see a virtual Kangaroo. On google, I type "kangaroo" and get a bajillion hits about kangaroos, with everything I ever wanted to know right in front of me. If boring games would sell, Second Life would be the new Warcraft
    • Virtual lawn mowing actually made for a pretty entertaining game [llamasoft.co.uk].
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Actually, my company Awesome Power Games is creating some very exciting (because they're unexciting) games.

      Computer Linguistics Marathon Lecture is a breakthruogh game offering no less than ten hours of uninterrupted computer linguistics. Can you spot the mistake the lecturer made when descibing finite automata? Will your bladder hold? Can you sneak out to pee and possibly buy something to drink without the lecturer noticing? And while you decide whether you want cola or mineral water, will you miss somet
  • Instead, much of Brain Age's success seems to come precisely from the ordinariness of its demands.
    Are they talking about Brain Age or Animal Crossing?
  • Simulators are the way to go, simulate everything thats possible to simulate, so far I've sailed boats, driven busses, flown airplanes and got shot to death without even leaving my desk!
  • ...and I hate it when food tastes good.
  • Silly Guy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mephistophocles (930357) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:41PM (#19240969) Homepage
    Heh no. I sort of he's coming from but he missed the boat, badly. I think that what developers should try to understand is that there is no "magic formula" for creating a good game. You can't feed the "fun" factor into a checklist and hit every point to get a good game. I think that in order to design a good game, it's necessary to try to think in entirely different terms. Great games are born from innovative and creative concepts, which are then mobilized using creative and fun stories, interfaces, graphics, etc. I'm not at all saying it's a crap shoot - I'm saying that once you start thinking in terms of formula, you lose the creative aspect of the game, and arguably, the fun factor as well. And that's what makes a game great - and of course it's also what ultimately makes it sell.
    • by drawfour (791912)

      You can't feed the "fun" factor into a checklist and hit every point to get a good game.
      Really? I heard that's why Duke Nuke'Em Forever is taking so long...
  • Anti-Drama... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 7Prime (871679)
    I think it partially stems from the fact that the US, in particular, has this sort of aversion to drama and abstraction, in general. We seem to prefer the "realistic" to the "fantastic", partially because fantasy and mellodrama offend so easily. In fantasy, and mellodrama, the audience is required to open up themselves in various ways, emotionally and imaginitively, that I think a lot of people feel a bit self-concious of doing. It's also kind of a macho thing too, guys aren't supposed to be emotional or pa
    • Re:Anti-Drama... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zegota (1105649) <rpgfanatic@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:59PM (#19241411)
      "Fantastic" does not apply solely to games with swords and dragons -- GTA is fantastical in many ways. Furthermore, GTA sold well mainly because it is a fun game. There have been other games that have tried to copy the same style of storytelling and "realism" in the GTA games, but without the fun, and most of these games haven't come close to copying GTAs success. However, I think you a very flawed in saying that realism wins out over fantasy in America. Final Fantasy is still one of the top selling game series. Madden is up there too, however. Shows like CSI and Grey's Anatomy, though hardly 'realistic', are probably not considered fantasy and are very successful. Shows like Lost and Heroes, however, are very fantastic and also garner fantastic ratings (well, Lost is falling, but that is for other reasons). I think my point is that American culture embraces a mix of both dramatic realism and escapism nearly equally. Some people completely shun realism, some completely shun fantasy, but most are okay with both.
    • by Dogtanian (588974) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:35PM (#19242147) Homepage

      I think it partially stems from the fact that the US, in particular, has this sort of aversion to drama and abstraction, in general.
      You're kidding, right?

      I sincerely hope this isn't taken as a troll, but George W Bush himself always came across to me as someone playing a movie-style president for an electorate brought up on the same thing. Not just the gung-ho mentality, but the whole package.

      Maybe I'm wrong, but my gut reaction is that you're so soaked in this that you can't see it. Or are you implying that US society is much *less* influenced by images in popular culture than others are?

      And you have an aversion to abstraction? Advertising and branding, the red-blood of All-American capitalism *is* abstraction of values. How else does a simple tick-shaped "swoosh" symbol, or some pretty white writing on a red background saying "Coca Cola" have so much meaning? It's not that Nike goods or Coca Cola are so much better than the competition; it's that they have so much imagery associated with them. It's bordering on hyperreality [wikipedia.org].

      I think this sorta explains the rise of GTA over fantasy games,
      GTA realistic? It's not exactly Ridley Scott's "Legend", but it's still a white boy's safe fantasy of black urban life.

      but I think it also begins to explain the distinction between Brain Age and fantasy/drama titles.
      Wasn't Brain Age/Dr. Kawashima a Japanese success to start off with before it did well in the US? The stereotype of American entertainment isn't "small-scale realism", it's big-bucks blockbusters.

      I appreciate that there's been a move to "reality" TV in recent years, but if your reality shows are anything like ours in the UK, then they're contrived situations set up like a lab experiment designed to provoke drama and edited to play out like a real-life soap.

      If reality TV reflects anything, it's the increasingly artificial and contrived direction modern society is moving towards, everyone's life played out as 15 minutes of TV fame.
    • I don't think it has anything to do with drama, or abstraction. It just comes down to the fact that for many people including myself, we *don't* like pretending to be dwarfs, fairies, wizards,warlocks, or even giants. People have their own definition of fun, and thats okay. Just because its not fantasy doesn't mean its not "creative" or "not boring". Believe it or not, their is a reason why Seinfeld and not firefly is the greatest tv show ever, and it has nothing to do with how "boring" one is or how much o
      • Sorry fro replying to my own post. I just realized that my post had nothing to do with movies. Oh well. its a good title anyways. It will most likey be modded down because someone will think I'm dissing fantasy and or firefly.
      • by dangitman (862676)

        their is a reason why Seinfeld and not firefly is the greatest tv show ever,

        Seinfeld is the greatest TV show ever??? In which miserable reality is that true?

  • by Rachel Lucid (964267) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:41PM (#19240975) Homepage Journal
    Having a few 'mundane' games is one thing, particularly if we're talking Nintendo's type of mundane in terms of Nintendogs, WiiPlay, and the like.

    The fact is, Fantastic games are what sell systems. I begged for my first PlayStation (one) thanks to Spyro the Dragon, and had Sega been on the ball a little more, NiGHTS would've let 'em sell quite a few more systems too. Brain Age is an okay game, but when I reach for my DS, I have Elite Beat Agents, Mario, Sonic, Cooking Mama, FF3... you get where I'm going with this.

    Brain Age is a good secondary game as a 'pick up and play' offering. It's NOT what made the DS a success.
  • Zonk: (Score:2, Funny)

    If by games, you mean Slashdots Games category, I really do not see how it could be any more boring.
  • by theStorminMormon (883615) <theStorminMormon AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:43PM (#19241011) Homepage Journal
    I notice the actual question has to do with fantasy realities, and that the motivation is making games more accesible. This is analogous to saying "should we stop making fantasy books so that people read more books?" After all, not everyone is for 800-page novels with dozens of characters (often with unpronounceable names) and make-believe politics and geogrpaphy. Not to mention magic and possibly mythical creatures.

    So should we stop writing fantasy?

    How about we just keep writing fantasy, and also let people interested in straight-fiction just read straight-fiction. We can also have mysteries, educational books, sci-fi, horror, philosophy, etc.

    Why criticize a genre to "help" a medium? Computer games are a medium. Fantasy games are a genre in that medium. If there's great response to brain age: make more games like it. There's no more reason to cut fantasy than there would be to cut the fantasy section of a bookstore.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Headw1nd (829599)
      I think if you look at his quote "Some proponents of serious games have unfortunately suggested that such games are opposed to the commercial, entertainment games that have come to define popular opinion of the medium." you can see that he's not interested in making games less exciting/fantastical, but rather making more unexciting/less fantastical games. Fantasy games would continue to exist in the numbers they do now, but alongside them would exist more mundane games. As a result, the culture as a whole
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      How about we just keep writing fantasy, and also let people interested in straight-fiction just read straight-fiction. We can also have mysteries, educational books, sci-fi, horror, philosophy, etc.

      No. There can be only one!
  • One of the most addictive games I've ever played.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:43PM (#19241023)

    Would games become more accessible if they tapped into everyday things a little bit more, as opposed to spiralling off into fictional realities?


    Hello Ian and welcome to the games industry! (You noob.)

    You might want to look up games such as The Sims, all the various Simpsons spin-offs or even Skate or Die or Paperboy from a previous generation. (i.e., its been done many, many times before.)

  • Gah (Score:4, Funny)

    by toolie (22684) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:43PM (#19241025)
    This article reinforces my belief that most people are complete and total idiots and don't have anything better to do than show everybody else how much they just don't get it.

    Yeah, yeah, I know... kind of like this post.
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:44PM (#19241037) Homepage

    If you want "boring", there's a place for you in Gold Farming. [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by wrook (134116)
      Strangely enough, when I'm stressed out I enjoy fishing in WoW. I challenge you to find a game more boring than this.

      But the problem is that I eventually level out and I have to go find the next book to keep getting better. But the book cost money. So I have to go find money. And then I need to up my real level to read the book... So off I go on a quest to level up.

      Thereby destroying my tranquil, boring game.
      • by dbIII (701233)

        Strangely enough, when I'm stressed out I enjoy fishing in WoW

        I find it ideal for when an ex rings up to boast or complain about her current boyfriend. I can pay attention to the fishing instead and just make occassional non-committal noises when appropriate. Before WoW I used to put the phone down and wander off when I couldn't take it anymore and come back a minute or two later - but with WoW I can be rude wihout appearing to be! It also works with long phone calls from relatives that give you all th

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by fractoid (1076465)
          Not really on topic but why do you take that crap? Just say "I'm not interested" and hang up. The only reasons I can think of that you'd not do so are either (a) you want to get back with her (in which case she doesn't sound worth it, she's treating you as her cuddle bitch), or (b) you're "still friends" (which probably actually means (a), since if she was really your friend then she wouldn't do that to you, but at least you're admitting you won't get back together.) Or, I guess, (c) is that you don't care
  • Ordinary != Boring (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:44PM (#19241049) Homepage Journal

    It's absolutely ordinary for there to be shootings in South Central LA, but it's not boring.

    To say Brain Age is boring because the tasks are ordinary displays stupidity and a lack of vocabulary. Rather simple vocabulary, I might add.

    Also, the link is to the third page of the story, which is where Brain Age is discussed, but it is bad form.

    Enough about the stupidity of anonymous cowards and their story submissions, on to where I talk shit about the article!

    The article is just pathetic. "television is so familiar, it's not even startling to think about television programming produced solely to discuss other media forms." This is in response to a comment about TV shows about making movies. But there are movies about making things, and on this planet we call them documentaries. This lack of ability to stop and notice reality pervades the article, which is split into three pages to garner ad impressions, but has little enough content to have been on one page of this size.

    His summary (which is not actually a summary - this not being an essay, but a meandering rant) follows: "we should want games to be more boring. Not just some games, we should want many of them, maybe even most of them to be boring, so that the ones that are not can become the Casablancas of our future medium." What he seems to be saying here is that we should want games to be crap, so that the non-crap can look even better by comparison.

    Say it with me: mundane does not equal boring. Sure, most things which are mundane are also boring. But then there's sex.

    • by Cornflake917 (515940) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @02:36PM (#19242157) Homepage
      It sounds like the guy who wrote the article just wanted some attention. He probably just thought of the most incorrect statement he could make and went with it.

      Here are some more statements he could have made that would grab people's attention:

      "Games with animals turn gamers to bestiality"
      "Wii games should cost $500"
      "Gamers might contract gonnorhea from the PS3"
      "One-Dimensional Games: An untapped market"
      "GTA4 should not have cars in it."

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Sure, most things which are mundane are also boring. But then there's sex.

      Tell that to my girlfr-- I mean: Hear, hear!
  • by HanClinto (621615) <hanclinto.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:45PM (#19241057)
    Mundane != Boring.

    This title is just wrong. Zonk, is there any way we could please change it?

    Mundane [answers.com] means commonplace, everyday, ordinary. Boring means uninteresting. Not the same. The article is not saying that games should be less interesting -- the article is saying that games could do well to apply more to real life, and to real skills (I.E. Smooth Moves having players balance brooms on their hands).

    I'm all for making games more mundane -- I think it's a great idea, and it's a phenomenal idea for making games ultimately more fun. If "fun" is about learning patterns (as Raph Koster [theoryoffun.com] posits), then it only makes sense to build off of patterns that are found in real life (hence why driving games are so much fun).

    However, I'm [b]not[/b] in support of making the games boring.
    • DMCA Takedown Request

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      Remember, you are always welcome to try out our shareware version "First Gestation" for free for up to nine months.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR (28044)
      Well what it comes down to is the author finds these games boring and makes the common mistake of thinking everybody feels the same.
      Everybody thinks different things are boring.
      I like to read books about physics but I could care less the name of Madonna's husband/boyfriend.
      To me the fundamental structure of all of creation is more exciting than a celebrity's love life.
      But let's face it I am in the minority.
      • by kalirion (728907)
        Well what it comes down to is the author finds these games boring and makes the common mistake of thinking everybody feels the same.

        I can already see the next headline for a topic regarding the teaching of evolution in schools:
        "Should Our Tax Money Sponsor Condemning Our Children to Eternal Suffering In Hell?"
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:46PM (#19241091)
    When i wake up after my Halo induced nap.
  • Brain Age's success doesn't come from being "ordinary," otherwise the myriad of chess, sudoku, and crossword games would have brought in massive sales. Its strength is derived from its accessibility and simplicity: not everyone has the time, energy, skills, or desire to learn complex building trees, resources management, or practice their trigger finger. Every man, woman, and child above the age of seven can add simple numbers, count objects, and match things. Further, the assigned tasks are short and menta
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      Sometimes its nice just to sit down and play for half an hour. I was playing Zelda Twilight Princess (GC) last night, and I already had 2 key shards from the second dungeon from when I saved last time, I was right up to the point before where you fight the big fat rolling stone guy. It still took me an hour to finish the dungeon. And it's not like I got particularly stuck on any section. I spend another half hour running around the town afterwards collecting stuff, and buying new items. I like the game
  • More BORING? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Psx29 (538840) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:49PM (#19241159)
    I think this is just phrased so bad, maybe brain-age is boring to you. But it's obviously not boring to all those people playing it and enjoying it. If something is boring why the hell would people enjoy it? I personally find all those MMORPGs boring as hell but to my friend who is addicted it's like crack, I mean I don't say "Should more games be boring--just like MMORPGs". Anyway just a bad title....
  • How About (Score:3, Insightful)

    by svendsen (1029716) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:49PM (#19241169)
    Use existing graphics, cut your graphics/sound/artist dept. down by 80% and use the rest of the time to make an interesting game. Doesn't matter the genre, just make it fun/interesting/etc.

    Look they are people out there who are all over ass sweat on the body they just shot. Great. Too bad ass sweat doesn't actually make the game good.

    Given X the total time from start to finish how much of X is not on something relating to actually game play experience?
    • Too bad ass sweat doesn't actually make the game good.

      So are you saying that ass sweat doesn't add to the game in any fashion? Instead of hiring artists, they should hire a ton of designers to work on one game? Because you do know, those are 2 different jobs. The designer isn't like "Damn, I wish I didn't have to animate these characters because then I could focus on making the game good." Graphic and good gameplay aren't mutually exclusive. I hear the same debate in the visual effects field too - "Oh, put
      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        Mostly true, but there is one argument to be made: Modern top-tier games are much more expensive than previously (which expensive GFX contribute to), making the big game companies less willing to try something radically different. OTOH, the really outstanding games often have graphics that aren't the apex of what's currently possible - think Katamari Damacy or WarioWare.

        I think we just need more attention on small game designers - while Epic can make good games they're not going to put massive amounts of
  • by ConfusedSelfHating (1000521) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:49PM (#19241175)

    Accounting: The Game

    Paperwork IV: The Redemption

    Diablo III: Excel spreadsheet edition

    1080p Crossword Puzzles

    Starcraft 2: Zerg Human Resources

    Grand Theft Auto V: Insurance Adjuster

    Half Life 3: You actually work out the half life of a given element

  • Some no....that is why we have a variety of games available....
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @01:51PM (#19241233) Homepage Journal
    Games are distractions. Viewed from a clinical perspective, they are all chores. Why should I blow up the bad guy's superweapon again? Or take out that legion of storm troopers trying to kill me? Why should I bother solving some random number puzzle to access this door?

    Most gamers would reply, "that's different!" But is it really? If you're not all that interested in video games, living out a fantasy like that might not be interesting. In fact, it may very well feel like a chore. (

    (As a side note, this is why I stopped playing first person shooters save for those that take place in fictional universes that interest me. e.g. Elite Forces. FPS games were becoming a repetitive task of "avoid the zombie attacks, shoot the bad guys, avoid the zombie attacks, shoot the bad guys." Online gameplay was marginally more interesting with, "shoot other guy, get shot by someone else, shoot the other guy, get shot by someone else." But I digress.)

    Generally speaking, when you view or interact with entertainment you are looking to invoke an emotional connection of some sort. A highly developed sense for a particular form of entertainment allows one to appreciate complex forms of it more readily than others. Meanwhile, some just want forms that evoke a simple reaction to a simple form of that entertainment.

    To use music as an example, Beethoven can evoke a lot of emotion in those who have developed an ear for classical music and enjoy such music. Others prefer a more direct approach of a shouted out emotional state as found in Death Metal Rock. Still others are looking for a quick attack/release cycle of emotions as found in pop and techno music. (Ever notice the 90's techno always dropped the background music for a few seconds at the height of the song? It's a cheap trick, but it has serious emotional and cognitive impact on the listener.)

    Taking this back to video games, it's not the chores themselves that make Brain Age interesting. It's being placed in a situation where you have to react and think quickly. Simple math and puzzles are used as the vehicle for such tests. For some players, the pressure being placed on them to get a better score is reward in of itself. This is similar to the reward one gets by blasting through a shoot-em'up while avoiding the gazillion+1 enemies that are hogging the screen space. Pressure is put on you to perform, and a certain reward is felt when you achieve a good performance level. One can even be proud of their achievement by sharing their score with others. In the old days, this meant entering your initials into the arcade machine. For Brain Age, this means having a normalized and easily relatable score to brag to your friends about.

    My end point is that these games aren't "boring" at all. They are just as interactive as other forms of gaming. The only difference is in the audience they appeal to. Just as country music appeals to some while death metal rock appeals to others. It takes all kinds.
  • Fantastic settings implicitly demand that the player makes an effort to understand the world that the game is situated in, whether it involves magic, borderline-magical technology, or just plain weird situations. A mundane setting obviates that, but at the same time it strips the whole arrangment of any mystique that it might have otherwise had. Part of the presentation, and of the draw of the game as a whole, is its trappings-- something like Brain Age doesn't need a backstory like Warcraft or the Lord o
  • ... everything needs to be "dumbed down" for the masses these days? *sigh*
  • by Xymor (943922)
    IMHO, games like any kind of media, should have various genres and kinds to appeal to different types of audiences.

    Usually people that are into jet-lee movies aren't into Woody Allen movies and people into Gershwin aren't into 50cent.
    I find Britney Spear songs train-wrecks, but a lot of people must like it seen how many million albuns she's sold. Same with Pokemon and most Nintendo games.

    Make several diferent games in several genres targetting different audiences.
  • I think that the magazines for home PC and console games tend to cater to the hardcore crowd - guys that can love games and will spend hundreds of hours on them. They have wanted difficult games or the games will be poorly reviewed.

    Unfortunately that may only apply to 5-10% of the gaming public. What Nintendo has been doing is making games for everyone else. What nintendo has done is gone to make games for casual players, non-traditional gamers (like brainage puzzles), and cross-age groups. Sony doesn't
  • by dj_tla (1048764) <trbekolay@shEULERaw.ca minus math_god> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @03:16PM (#19242861) Homepage Journal
    It sounds like the writer of this article does not really grasp the reason why Brain Age, and for that matter, all games, are fun. Brain Age is fun because we learn as we play. Halo is fun because we learn as we play. Brain Age does this transparently; openly offering challenges to the player that test certain skills. Games like Halo do the same thing: we are constantly seeing new challenges that test our skills to navigate, aim, conserve ammo, etc. Games are not fun when they are too hard, as there is too much noise and we can't get a worthwhile signal out of it without excessive effort filtering out the noise. I don't particularly like FPS's, nor do I enjoy jazz music, and you could say it's because I don't understand it enough to learn from it. Games are not fun when they are too easy, as we feel that we've grokked [wikipedia.org] the game, and there's nothing else to learn from it. After you hit the glitch level in Pac-man, what's the point in continuing?

    The author clearly shows his lack of understanding in this quote: It is a game of chores, really, not of challenges. Games like speed arithmetic and number tracing actually become maddeningly dull after only a short time, but many players persist because they want to have the sensation of keeping their minds sharp. [...] [It] makes people feel as though they are improving their long term mental health. It satisfies a mundane need for personal upkeep.

    I played Brain Age daily until I unlocked the final challenge-dealie (I think it's the one where you say the numbers instead of write them?). Then I stopped. Along the way, it was nice to see improvement in each challenge over time, but after a while I would plateau, and that game would stop being fun to me. I kept playing so that I could unlock the other games, as they would offer me new situations to learn. If all the games had been available to me at the start, I would have stopped playing far earlier, and that unlock system is one of the great ideas that other games of Brain Age's ilk have adopted. I would love to know how many people keep playing regularily after all challenges are unlocked and they are not seeing significant improvements.

    Of course, all of this is not something I thought consciously as I was playing. I realized it after reading A Theory of Fun for Game Design [theoryoffun.com]. A great read, and really has made me think twice about why I enjoy some games and not others.
  • boooooring. thank god i beat that addiction. all it took was a divorce. phew... i got off easy.
  • Games are all about escapism and fantasy fulfillment. The last thing I want is a weekly shopping simulator.
    If I want boring and mundane I'll log into life 2.0.
  • by Dracos (107777) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @04:12PM (#19243757)

    Games should go back to being games, rather than video based reincarnations of choose-your-own-adventure books or 120 hour movies with semi-interactive cut scenes (by which I mean the actual game play in between the cinematics). Games have put eye/ear candy above game play and plot for the last decade.

  • I was waiting for just the right moment to introduce my new games!

    Xtreme Standing in Line at the DMV

    Supermarket Shopping Ultra

    Malfunctioning Soda Machine Assault Omega

    Dog Poop Scooping, Tournament Edition

    Name That Smell, North Jersey Edition ... and my flagship product

    Goofing of at Work II: Slashdot Boogaloo

  • by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope.gmail@com> on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @05:02PM (#19244615) Journal
    I think what makes brain age different than every other game is that the sole focus of the game is self-improvement; it's like an RPG where you are (rather than control the main character). Let me explain.

    In most RPGs, you get better primarily by gaining levels or acquiring new equipment. In Zelda, you get a new boomerang or a better sword. What's unique about brain age is that rather than doing better because you got the +10K dagger of Pwnage, your skills actually improve. You become better at adding and lower your "brain age". It's just like an RPG; you gain rated levels based on how you perform, but the focus is on your performing better, rather than giving your character special skills or equipment that allow them to perform better in your stead.

    I can't think of too many other games where the focus is on self-improvement rather than avatar-improvement (or just simply a high score).
  • is a move away from fancy graphics in some types of games that don't really benefit from them...

    RPG's especially don't need spectacular graphics, and rarely use them well. Typically, square's games in particular have become fairly boring and cumbersome as the games have stopped being about gameplay and plot, and turned more and more into an engine for showing off a bunch of artwork and cinematics. Very few games in the genre (except maybe the zelda games, and to a lesser degree FFXII) used the transition to

  • I've thought about this a lot lately and I've come to a conclusion that is essentially in agreement with the article.

    I don't really want a lot of fictional reality in my games these days. There was a time when I did, (paper & early computer RPGs) but I've since decided that many of these games take up way too much time for no real payoff. I think they can be as bad a drug habit for some folks and I am somewhat disturbed by the proliferation of MMORPGs. Don't get me wrong, there's a place for these g
  • There certainly is a need for more mundane games, however I think the issue is not just 'Halo' vs 'Brainage'. I think the underlying issue is a little different. When I look at todays games by far most of them are simply inspired by other games, it sounds rather obvious, but I think its a major reason why the big publishers produce so little interesting stuff. Developers should not limit their source of inspiration to other games, but simply get the inspiration from real life, books, movies and whatever, bu
  • Probably more people playing Solitaire on platforms from cellphones to hot Vista boxes than World of Warcraft will ever get. I don't know precisely what, but there's something to be learned from the success of Solitaire as a game on computers.
  • by tgibbs (83782) on Wednesday May 23, 2007 @06:34PM (#19245707)
    I think the author's point is a good one, though poorly expressed.

    Probably a better way to put it is,

    "Should there be more games that are cerebral or contemplative rather than action oriented"

    Put that way, the answer is probably yes. There are a lot of activities that people enjoy that are not excitement-oriented. And there have always been games that tapped into this kind of entertainment: board games, puzzle games, virtual pets, classic adventure games, resource management games, weird abstract games. Games like Brain Age reveal that this category is hardly mined out. But the factors that make such games enjoyable tend to be more unique and difficult to anticipate than, say, first person shooters, so they will probably always remain a minor component of the market.
  • [...] Nintendo' Brain Age: 'It's certainly a very different kind of game from Halo or even Miyamoto's own Zelda series [...]

    And if anybody cared to check playing population, they would have found say 5-10% overlap of said demographics.

    To start playing Brain Age, you need no previous knowledge. You can take it any time for five minute ride. And since it's portable DS game it can be always with you.

    Halo is shooter. To many normal people games about going around and killing others are ... repugnant.

  • by Frozen Void (831218) on Thursday May 24, 2007 @05:21AM (#19250035)
    1.Games for people who want to have fun.
    2.Games for people who want to have challenge.(e.g. Skill based games)

    Bith tyopes have some fun,and some challenge but game focuses on something singular.
  • Should Games Be...?

    The first 3 words are completely bogus. Asking what games should be, or stating what games should be is nonsensical. It makes as much sense as asking what a book should be about. Games, like books are a subjective experience based on whatever the creators make them into; which may or may not be what the creators intended.

  • In relation to the controls? I know this is a bit off topic, but at this point I can't handle 34 inputs for a game! I topped off at Resident Evil (which was say '97). Even RE2 added a bunch of button combos to do stuff that I couldn't handle.

    I'm not a great gamer, but it would be nice if I could just even play the game.

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