Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: November 2009

The Art of Fun

A version of this article first appeared in the November 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine.  It’s an expanded version of this blog post.


Whether or not video games can be art has been debated for as long as game devs have been putting pixels together.  It’s a question that goes beyond mere academia – games as art brings professional legitimacy for the industry, and goes to the heart of the concept of games as protected speech.

Naysayers argue that video games will never tell complex stories, touch as controversial topics, or display emotions as textured as those found in film – largely because games are obsessed with ’fun’.  This argument suggests that until designers get out of the rut that is focusing on this singular emotion, art will elude us.

I feel like this particular line of reasoning completely misses the point of where the art of video game design actually lives.

Do games have to be fun to be successful? Almost certainly.

Does this mean that every game needs to push the same emotional buttons?  Or that games can’t be art?  No to both.

Let’s back up. Continue reading

Write Your Own Steve Austin/The Rock Romantic Interlude

I promise, more posts are coming.

In the meantime, apparently the future of player-created content is in wrestling games.

The Thesis-Worthy Story-Editor: Of all the new features this year, conveniently marked “NEW” in the game’s menu for people like me, the best and most interesting is the storyline editor. In the past, wrestling game fans could create their own wrestlers, customize move-sets and even, more recently, chain pieces of animation to create new match-ending finishing moves. In the new game, players can craft a storyline, mixing matches that include player-defined outcomes with story-advancing sequences. The latter scenes are comprised of WWE-related locales (rings, locker rooms, offices) with wrestlers, a variety of conversational and confrontational emotions, adjustable camera angles, selectable music and crowd-noise background sounds and, most importantly, player-written dialogue

My wife sent this to me with a one-word description: hoyay.


An excellent read:

Last weekend I wrote about how the big social gaming companies are making hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on Facebook and MySpace through games like Farmville and Mobsters. Major media can’t stop applauding the companies long enough to understand what’s really going on with these games. The real story isn’t the business success of these startups. It’s the completely unethical way that they are going about achieving that success.

Continue reading

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