I had an interesting conversation here at work yesterday. We were discussing the merits of Farmville et al and I brought up (of course) Cow Clicker. One of the participants mentioned that because there are people that play Cow Clicker non-ironically that it failed. Additionally, this person said that Cow Clicker is in fact a good game because this person would enjoy it because of the “moo” sound effect.

Now, my response was/is: something that is enjoyable and purports to be a game does not equate to that thing being a) a game and b) a good or worthwhile game. Smoking a cigarette is an enjoyable activity to many but is not a game and not a healthy activity. The response to this was that it doesn’t matter. A game does not need to be “healthy” or what I called “nutritious” in order to have worth. It doesn’t need my “permission” to be worthwhile to be.

I find the argument interesting. I can see the logic. It would be easy to use my line of reasoning to pooh-pooh Dragon Lair back in the day, even though it helped lead to much more mature games in the future. So 1) is something that creates enjoyment inherently worthwhile? 2) is it okay that millions waste their lives (IMO) on –villes in the hopes that this some day it inspires something deeper that ends up being successful despite the sort of strip-mining design process?

Agree or disagree?

2 thoughts on “Worth

  1. I think we’re training folks who wouldn’t usually play games to digest more and more complex patterns – and they even seem to enjoy doing it! Folks in social games are making an honest effort to get closer to the art form we love. It’s a balancing act.

  2. You’re basically asking the Big Question. What makes something worthwhile? Is it okay that people ‘waste’ their lives doing some possibly unworthwhile activity? Is there any activity that isn’t a waste, ultimately?

    For me, the recurring themes that seem to drive our notions of worth: connection, not division; awareness, not ignorance; mindful growth and not rote comfort.

    To the extent that a game encourages meaningful interaction between players and gives them a safe environment to experiment outside their comfort zone, it helps reinforce attitudes and behaviors that are worthwhile in life. When a game divides players by only giving options to directly screw the other players (instead of impersonal competition for scarce resources), or is structured for judgmental mockery (like so many social table games), or rewards dull grinding, it reinforces the attitudes and behaviors in life that we find so abhorrent.

    It’s a lot easier to make games that are ‘fun’ than to make games that are ‘good’. Even more difficult is to make games that are both.

    What’s the best game you’ve ever played? Not the most fun or enjoyable necessarily, but the one that, after playing, you felt had actually improved the quality of your life?

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