Damion Schubert has another insightful and provocative post up that addresses his philosophy of game design. In this case, he’s talking about the role of interactivity as it relates to fun.
Why are Bioware games considered among the best story-telling games in the world? Many reasons, including some traditional ones (a focus on characters and cinematography, for example). But one lost on many observers is Bioware’s insistence that the narrative is interactive – the player must be able to make choices, and the choices should matter.
So where does Fun fit in?
I happen to subscribe to Raph’s theory of fun, at least as it pertains to video games. His theory is that fun is what happens when a player encounters a game system, is challenged by it, learns it, masters it, and then takes it to the next level.
Put another way, ‘fun’ is the result of successful interactivity. And if you start with the idea that interactivity is the basis for art in games, then it stands to reason that, not only is it possible for fun games to be art, it is very likely that games that will be considered great works of art will be fun. [emphasis in original]
I would just want to tweak that position slightly in that, when he says “the player must be able to make choices, and the choices should matter,” it seems we aren’t talking about interactivity so much as “agency,” or rather, talking about the way agency, that feeling of being able to make choices that matter, is a core emotional characteristic of a player’s enjoyment or “fun” in a game. Or maybe its just that I’m a player and not a designer.