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Nichollan

What is the purpose of games?

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Recently I've been quite a bit disillusioned because of some personal events. It has left me confused as no previously held values seem to add up anymore, and in desperation I've tried to seek out a new understanding of what kinds of thinking is more likely to lead to success. In this search I've come to suspect that games that challenge the mind could guide me to answers... but the thing is, quite a few of the more popular games will only give the illusion of success however you wish to proceed - the only thing you need to succeed in these games appears to be patience. It could appear as though these games' function is primarily to massage people's egos - which leaves me somewhat disgusted. I could probably just seek different games, true, but I still think the topic i worthy of discussion - what is the purpose of games? What should the purpose of gaming be? What function does games currently have?

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I'd say that the most common is Enjoyment. So now the question is what make people happy. I'd say success. They want to succeed at something, finish majhong in less than 1 minute, reach top level, become the world leader.... So I'd say that a good game need to have goals that the player can reach before getting stuck by boredom.

You still have some special class specially with the coming of MMO where player don't play but work in a game in order to sell their labour for real life money but that's another story....

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Quote:

It could appear as though these games' function is primarily to massage people's egos - which leaves me somewhat disgusted.


Ok, let me ask you something, do you actually play video games? Video games provided a form of relaxation and fun. Depending on the game it can also be a stress reliever. You shouldn't fault games but video game players. A video game is an inanimate object, controlled by a player. People are the driving force behind games. If an ego is being massaged, then it's probably a result of the person playing that game. Perhaps they feel defined by the game. A video game never plays itself for twenty-five hours, it takes a person to play it. Ergo, (yes I know, Ergo, on a gamedev forum :)) it is a person that is responsible for their own actions. If an individual lives solely to exist in a video game world, then that person has a problem, but if they use it as a means of challenge and relaxation, it's fine.

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@noerrorsfound: The function is reproduction, I can't tell the meaning.

@Game_Coder2009: Very well, so games can be used as an instrument for ego massaging.

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Games have many purposes, entertainment is probably the most important one. In competitive games, winning from or working together with your peers can be gratifying, especially in games that require some skill or intelligence. These kind of games don't differ much from sports like tennis or football, apart from the fact that sports usually train (and damage) your body. Games, and especially MMO's, can be used as a temporary escape from your ordinary daily life. The 'time-for-ego' trade is especially large in MMO's, as other games usually offer more than just artificial labour. A good game can deliver well-developed and lifelike characters, create a story close to the quality of some books, and achieve the entertainment value of a good movie by creatively blending together a symphony of sound, artwork and gameplay.

The biggest drawback to playing games is that they barely add anything to your pool of abilities, especially computer games. The twitch-skills you might develop in an FPS simply don't have any use outside the FPS, and your level 60 character in any RPG will only impress a handful of people. The success that is achievable has to be achievable by anybody, or else you'd frustrate your public. The only thing that can be asked is your time, and games pretty often are just there to kill your time, unless you develop or design them and could write gaming down as research.

It is my opinion that people simply have too much time nowadays and don't value time as much as it should be valued. This leads to people playing a game all day long, for multiple days in a row. The goal then often becomes 'to finish the game/these quests', and instead of enjoying yourselves, you've actually started to work through a game. Instead of letting a game rest once a dead end is reached, and to continue later on, people go online and check a FAQ, destroying the fun derived from solving a problem. Games rise from the function of pastime to where they take up a significant part of people's lives. That is not to say that this is wrong or bad, but it simply isn't agreeable with my conscience.

All in all, the use or uselessness of everything can be argued nowadays. Western people generally don't believe in God or any other religion anymore. But religions provided mankind with a meaning to life, and with a belief in a certainty. Century-old values such as compassion, equality, freedom and so on, were grounded on the firm basis of a faith. Without such faith it becomes necessary to rethink the actual value of these values, but we still take most of our values for granted without even rethinking them. The wikipedia article on nihilism is an interesting read in that context.

Games could have, and sometimes do have, more purposes though. It is interesting for example to note the way games like Fallout 1 & 2 use a historical perspective of the future as their starting point, to go on from a hypothetical situation where the world did plunge into nuclear war. Both these games also posses interesting criticisms of society, and come up with situations you would normally never experience. A game could diversify people's opinions on war by giving them a realistic experience, within boundaries. Games, just as some movies and books, could and perhaps should offer people with insights into the world, society, should criticize values and opinions. Why not make a game from the perspective of a terrorist for once? Books like Thomas More's Utopia, Jonathan Swifts' Gulliver's Travels, Orwell's 1984 and other parodies and satires deliver entertainment while simultaneously criticizing society. Perhaps Deus Ex did something similar, but I can't really remember any other game that took up such a wonderful task.

[Edited by - Feldrin on July 24, 2009 8:41:42 AM]

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Play is how animals learn. Games are structured play. The ego boost you mention is one of the pleasant side-effects from the realisation that you have learned something (such as how to blow someone up before they do the same to you).

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