Games, particularly those of a digital nature, are fun; that was my original motivation for taking an interest in this module. We certainly derive pleasure from playing video games, whatever reason it is that drives us, but like nearly everything in the world, games can have an ugly side – certain elements of them can inflict ‘pain’, whether it’s seeing the dreaded ‘Game Over’ screen or the frustration of just not being able to move on to a new level. But despite these ‘pains’, we still keep faithfully playing. Why? What generates this fun, or indeed, pleasure?
One of the theories of fun we studied in this week was that of Rewards. Steven Johnson in his ‘Everything Bad is Good for You’ (2005) suggests that our continued pursuit through sometimes ‘painful’ hurdles in games is due to our human need to achieve rewards in our life. He says this ability in games overcomes any appeal other features may have, i.e. amazing graphics, the ability to act in a way you could never in the real world.
Let’s look for rewards in the game I’m currently fixated on, Final Fantasy XII. There are different types of reward to be found here. I particularly enjoy ‘Rewards of Glory’, for example, though there is no real impact on play, I find watching cut scenes as I get to a certain point in the game to be a pleasurable interval. There are also ‘Rewards of Sustenance’ which are extremely helpful; receiving a nice handful of health-enhancing Potions after obliterating a particularly nasty baddie is always a nice boost.
I found that Barry Atkins’ comment, ‘our pleasures in games that would occupy even the most skilled player for 30 or more hours are necessarily fragmentary and incomplete’ (We Are Having Fun, Aren’t We? Pleasure and Aesthetics in Narrative Videogames) can be easily applied to RPG’s, and therefore FFXII. Rewards are fleeting. We know they will not last for long, but the anticipation and excitement of the next reward lurking around the corner will drive us on, even if ‘pain’ is waiting for us too.
To summarise, it can be accepted that games do not have to be fun sometimes. However, we can relate to the need for rewards in real life, within games. So for a treat which can be so readily available, why wouldn’t you play?