What Does It Mean When Video Games Are ‘Fun’?

What Does It Mean When Video Games Are ‘Fun’?

If you have a spare 30 minutes and feel like thinking about video games for a while, you could do a lot worse than this interesting talk by Ian Bogost. The word ‘fun’ is as common and dead as any word we use to describe video games. What do we mean when we use that word, and would we be better served by eliminating that word completely? Very interesting questions.

Ian Bogost came to Australia a few years back and asked many similar questions in a talk he gave at Macquarie University. I remember feeling pretty affected by that idea. I immediately decided I would use ‘fun’ less, because that word was restricting me, and it was restricting communication. I decided that instead of using the word ‘fun’ I would try and say the thing I was really trying to say when I said the word ‘fun’.

So yeah, I guess you could say this was a ‘fun’ talk.

Thanks Ben!


  • Link isn’t working.

    I haven’t had as much fun with video games since playing Crash Bandicoot 3 on PS1. I played that everyday with no memory card so I beat the game every time I played it. There has been plenty of great games this generation but I don’t think I’ve had fun with any of them. San Andreas I had plenty of fun, doing whatever I wanted. I never got passed the train robbery. With GTA 5 I mainly did missions and some goofing around in story mode and online. I enjoy games but I doubt I would ever have a fraction of fun with a game as much as I did CB3.

  • What I focus on now is fun multiplayer. My personal preference (and call me a wuss if you want) is multiplayer with no pressure or competition to perform. As I come from a single player background, I hate the idea of having to compete to be good at a game, and if you’re not good then constantly losing is no fun at all. Social interaction without having to worry about winning/killing the other player etc. Games like Just Cause 2 Multiplayer hit this nail on the head in my opinion. With 1000 people on the map, everyone is dying all the time, so no one cares. When you do die, you can teleport wherever you want and get back to your hijinks. There’s no pressure to perform, and it’s just a casual blast.

  • For me it’s just whatever can put a smile on my face. It doesn’t have to be during the gameplay; games that are tough and require a lot of brain-work wouldn’t give that kind of response, but when I complete the challenge (whether it’s solving a puzzle or playing a good match in 1v1 StarCraft (I don’t necessarily have to win to have fun, in fact these days I hardly ever do)) I can sit back and smile and think, “wow, that was fun!”

  • I think, just because a game is fun, doesn’t mean, by necessity, that it’s good, and more likely, just because a game is good, doesn’t mean it has to be fun.

    Take Spec Ops: The Line for instance. That shit ain’t fun, but god damn it is a great game. Now take Saints Row – that game is stupidly fun, but is it a rewarding, challenging experience? Not really, it’s a toy you get bored of after a few hours.

    I think ‘fun’ to video games is an aesthetic detail now. ‘Fun’ is merely a quality, and not a driving goal; games have matured to aspire to different or more emotional responses from players. Still though, everyone has a different definition of ‘fun’ anyway.

      • I think it is rewarding.

        I think it boils down to the fact that fun is such a general description. I think it only really applies if I were to review something like Pac-Man or Pong, but when trying to describe your experience with a game like Shadow of the Colossus, I think fun just falls incredibly flat, haha.

  • I get a little tired of people telling me video games are supposed to be, at their core: fun. Which I think is a pretty darn short-sighted way to look at any creative endeavor. If video games are only supposed to be fun at their core then I’m going to go and read a book. At least they can be interesting, challenging or insightful and not just one stupid noun.

  • I gave up on “fun” as a metric for games ages ago. It’s too wooly a term, and there are too many ways to enjoy a game that aren’t necessarily “fun”. I’ve also occasionally played games that are “fun” but where I would really rather be doing something else.

    The word I usually use is “entertaining”, but that doesn’t really fit either. Fundamentally, a game is good if I would prefer playing the game over doing something else, and there are all sorts of reasons that might be the case.

    Of course, this works out differently for any given game for any given person. There are some popular games that I would pay money not to play.

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