294: Anything But Child's Play

Steve Butts

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Anything But Child's Play

Steve Butts may play games for a living, but things don't really get serious until his five-year-old son gets involved.

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Latinidiot

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I am now replaying Kingdom Hearts, and it's funny to see all the things that spellbound me as a kid but now bore me, and the things that I didn't even notice back then but are now fascinating.
 

Fappy

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This article got me thinking about my younger brother (about to turn 5). It appears that your son and my brother (I'm just going to assume their ages are relatively close), despite their proximity in age (i.e. demographic), have entirely different reasons for enjoying the kinds of games they enjoy. My brother plays video games simply because he likes to win. He REALLY likes to win.

When at home, I occasionally catch him playing a flash game (based off whatever cartoon he happens to be enthralled with at the time) with this incredibly intense look on his face. He cheers when he wins and gets incredibly irritable and frustrated if he loses (most of those games you can't actually "lose" mind you). I found this extremely frustrating when I tried to get him to play some of the games I grew up on (Sonic and Mario among other things) and found that it just pissed him off. When I was his age I played these (much harder) games and never got very far, but that didn't matter. I had fun just playing the game (whatever my reasons were), but he just can't handle losing.

I can't imagine how he'll be if he continues this behavior into his teenage years. I would hate to see him turn into one of those generic Xbox Live kids we all dread, or even worse... a tournament player (ewww).

Anyway, good read. Its nice to shine light on a concept gamers seem to forget (or simply don't understand).
 

Azaraxzealot

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Steve Butts said:
Part of it is the complete lack of pretense in my children's imaginary worlds, where cowboys and dragons and rockets and superspies can exist side-by-side, unshackled by genre boundaries or "mature" expectations.
i feel like i just had an epiphany here...
when we're forcing games to grow up and have all these high expectations of their narrative and such, then that is where we are not thinking of the children, not when we make violent videogames where you can shoot someone square in the nuts. videogames have always been about escapism and having fun, when we try to force our games to be mature and "grow up" they end up like Grand Theft Auto 4.

why should all the genres have to be separate and distinct from one another? why not cowboys and ninjas and aliens all rolled into one (Just Cause 2 did it fairly well with superspies, ninjas, jet planes, and rockets)?
 

TheKruzdawg

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I know there are a lot of games that I enjoy that some people can't stand, for various reasons. If I'm able to lose myself in it and become invested in the story, I'm having fun. I also think that if I can sit and near-mindlessly play a game and come out of a daze hours later and realize how much time I just spent playing, that is when I've reached a sort of gaming Nirvana.
 

SnipErlite

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Kinda reminds me of my motivation to play games. While for some I enjoy the storyline or an imaginative gameplay mechanic, the underlying part is that it's damn good fun.

If I'm enjoying a game I really couldn't care less if it looks like arse or is really unintuitive and difficult.

Interesting article indeed. Should games be far more focused on the fun? They may not do so well with some reviewers, who only seem to be bothered by good storytelling and easy/intuitive gameplay these days, but the sheer fun aspect should get far more success with their target market, the kids.

Oh, and Plants vs. Zombies is fucking awesome. I use a chilli for one zombie...although admittedly only if I have surplus fun.

Oh....I've just realised....I do focus more on the goal these days. I'm growing up, not playing just for fun any more...

That makes me sad =/
 

ProGrasTiNation

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Good article,my little one just fires the birds in angry birds straight at the groung or up in the air & gets more of a buzz than hitting the castles.
We all like games for different reasons,its why i used to by 4 diffent review mags in my teens,to get a broader view of peoples opinions.
 

ProGrasTiNation

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Good article,my little one just fires the birds in angry birds straight at the groung or up in the air & gets more of a buzz than hitting the castles.
We all like games for different reasons,its why i used to by 4 diffent review mags in my teens,to get a broader view of poples opinions.
 

huigho1215

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Sep 26, 2010
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This happened to me playing through pokemon both young and old. before I caught what I liked and thought were cool. the stats were arbitrary numbers that meant nothing. It was a blast to grind my feraligatr to level 100. now I know and understand the stats, that some pokemon are just better. Type advantages mean everything, and I can EV train my Golom's special defense. grinding is a chore, the magic and mystery is gone now that I understand. The games are still fun to me, and I still play them. But I'll never re-capture the simplistic Pleasures I once had with the games.
 

Loonerinoes

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I remember a game called Genewars...it was made by Bullfrog and came out...mid-90s or so I think? Somewhere thereabouts. Anyway, I remember just playing this game on and on in my early teenage years. It was just so delightfully wierd, like an RTS only a hell of a lot wackier. It had units, but the most efficient way to make more units wasn't to produce them from factories, but to breed them (since the units were animals of 5 different types and even moreso, you could interbreed them so as to get for example a birdmule that was an airborne carrier unit)

And damn it got messy. Plus you had to raise plants to feed them too, or at least give them fresh carcasses. It was unlike anything I'd ever played before. The mechanics were frustrating to no end too. It really was a mess of a game when it came to the mechanics, so frustrating that I'm sure it deterred many players from giving it so much as a second glance. But when I was in those years, I steamrollered all the way to the final end of the game. The very shoddy gameplay just didn't matter...the context and the setting and the idea of it all...was just so beautiful to me.

A year ago or so I popped its disk into my old computer for nostalgia's sake. I liked it...but I couldn't get past the 6th stage. The mechanics just got to me. Oh sure, I still thought about it fondly afterwards but...I just didn't feel as if I wanted to make the effort anymore. Maybe if I had more time or simply more enthusiasm...less worries about the future and more living in the here and now? Who knows. But age certainly doesn't just add something to the way we experience the world...it also takes something away too. Though, it takes more with some and less with others I guess.

Nice article indeed.
 

Steve Butts

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XxRyanxX said:
However, most cases now kids that aren't even teenagers yet take it to seriously. Like CoD for example: They don't play because it's fun or that their Dad has influenced them to get involved, but that they want to win. It's ok to want to win, most games (or all) are based around that category. But, they take it to far and become very harsh when they aren't winning. To me, they lose value in why they play which of course Gaming is suppose to be entertaining and even bring people closer together like this Article.
Thanks for the kind words. There was a longer section in the first draft of this article that included a bit about the way my boy handles winning and losing. I took it out because it veered away from my main point, but it definitely speaks to your experience. My kid generally has very little problem losing to the computer, but he can get very upset when losing to an actual person. The distinction between "I lost the game" and "You beat me" is quite dramatic in his mind.
 

duchaked

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this made me smile (until he got to MoH, can't say it was one of the greats but I enjoyed it, as I did with Force Unleashed...ish)

makes me feel bad for getting so worked up when gaming with my little brother...just for the fun, man!

and of course if I had a kid, I hope I could game with him too...but of course also go outside and run and play there too (you know, be healthy haha)
 

Xman490

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I agree with the concept of "fun" your son has. "Fun" is not always as goal-oriented as it is experimental, like Minecraft. As Yatzee said, "Alright, there are skeletons in it... but that's not what you're there for." Sometimes, when I was tired of doing missions in GTA IV, I'd just drive over street lights and pedestrians while watching them fly from their motorcycles (which is the only way I play it now, thanks to the character durability of online multiplayer).
 

randommaster

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Steve Butts said:
There's a really good article on this subject by Mark rosewater that you should read. It's called Timmy, Johnny and Spike and does a great job of explaining why people play games. I've found that this explanation goes a long way towards understanding why people enjoy different aspects of games.

Personally, I prefer puzzles and RPGs where you have to manage resources carefully. One of my favorite examples was playing through Pokemon Soul Silver where I restricted myself by not fighting any wild okemon and not buying anything from the shops. My brother prefers action and FPSs and any kind of game where he can mow down hordes of enemies. Our playthrough of Tales of Symphonia was rather interesting, with me managing the party build and the majority of the puzzels while he did most of the fighting.
 

CKalvin

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Sep 21, 2009
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Great article, it's going to provide plenty of food for thought for today's musings =)
 

Nooners

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And my inner child rejoices upon reading this article. Mr. Butts, thank you for posting this. Now I propose a challenge to all modders/indie game developers out there: make a dinosaur/robot/ninja/alien game! And DO IT NOW!
 

maxcubus

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One of the best articles I've read in some time, really got me thinking and even made me laugh out loud. Watching a child play with anything not just video games is fascinating how they can seem to be doing it wrong but have twice as much fun, it messes with your head a bit.
 
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Great article, and a subject about which I've thought before. I will enjoy games that are poorly rated and repetitive (completed all games in the Dynasty Warriors series) but which nonetheless provide a lot of fun for reasons peculiar to me.