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A psychologist's thoughts on how and why we play games

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Not Just Solid Food, But Real Food

Things have been quiet around here because I've been striving to get published elsewhere!  Today I have an article on Medium Difficulty: Not Just Solid Food, But Real Food. Please read it!

Last week, John Walker over at RPS wrote an editorial asking that games grow up and try taking on more serious themes.

For goodness sake, even Jennifer Aniston movies have more to say about love than all of gaming put together, and what Jennifer Aniston movies have to say about love is, “Durrrrrrrr.” Where is our commentary? Where is our criticism? Where is our subversion? Where is the game that questions governments, challenges society, hell, asks a bloody question? Let alone issues. Good heavens, imagine a game that dealt with issues!

 I found Walker's argument to be fundamentally flawed, suggesting that games are serious or worthwhile if and only if they have serious themes.  This is wrong for several reasons:  First, we already have lots of games that pretend to be about serious things but are utterly boneheaded.  Next, there are plenty of games, some of them thousands of years old, which are taken seriously and respected by all despite their lack of theme - consider Chess or Football.  Finally, since games are meant to be won, serious concepts like love or death will be reduced to things to be won or lost.

Theme doesn't make a smart game.  Smart gameplay makes smart games.