On games not having to be fun

I’ve written in the past about the fact that I appreciate stories which build an emotional connection in order to create a compelling experience, even if this is done so at the cost of ‘fun’ in the traditional sense. With that in mind it’s heartening to see that the concept is starting to gain ground with mainstream, triple AAA developers as evidenced by this recent article over at IGN regarding Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry. While I’ve only dabbled with the Assassin’s Creed games so far the fact that the writers of the game have deliberately included aspects they knew would leave players conflicted is, to me, a big step forward.

One of the missions that the article discusses is a deliberate no-win situation, where the player is confronted with a sinking ship full of slaves and is unable to rescue them all. In doing so the writers aimed to strip away player agency in order to make them feel what the character is feeling. While this approach works when the players are receptive in similar situations it often backfires, with players instead feeling cheated by the fact the situation was set against them. The problem is that players have come to expect that the game will show them what they can do and then expect that every situation put in front of them can be solved in that manner. Or to put it another way when all you have is a hammer everything begins to look like a nail.

The problem though is that not every problem is a nail and even when it is not every nail needs hammered. Especially when that nail is in your foot.

Ok that analogy didn’t quite work. But you know what I mean. Hopefully.


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