The mainstream public is so concerned with video games. Why? Because they’re fun. My 8 year old spends hours creating worlds in Minecraft but won’t do his homework, how can I make homework more fun? My teenage son is addicted to Fortnite and won’t get a job, how can I make getting a job more fun? My husband ignores me for hours to play Overwatch, how can I make our relationship more fun.
There seems to be this obsession with making other elements of life more fun, because video games are swallowing so much of our time for that exact reason.
Google tries to replicate this idea of fun by replacing stairs with slides and walking with scooters in their work place. Although this makes the environment employees work in a seemingly more creative environment aesthetically, it doesn’t actually make the work at Google more fun.
So how do we capture this mythical feeling video games have achieved, in other aspects of our lives.
The first thing that people need to understand, is that games aren’t intrinsically fun. They might be riddled with bugs, not appeal to your tastes or just not be well made. I don’t claim to be an amazing video game developer, the team behind Toren excel far beyond my capabilities in programming and art. Despite this, as a game, Toren isn’t fun. It seemingly has all the staples of a great indie game, but fails to flourish. The problem isn’t the lacklustre visuals, or focus on narrative over gameplay, in a game where the narrative actually falls flat.
The reason it fails to invoke a sense of fun brings us to our second point. Games aren’t fun because they are games, they are fun because they invoke a sense of play. We play sports, play instruments and play video games. By playing something, we can understand a few simple rules. We are choosing to learn several elements, until we are good enough to perform said elements on our own, at which point we receive a reward that gives us a sense of accomplishment.
By learning to play guitar you reach a point where you can play a song by memory. You can then perform that song to friends and family, and feel a sense of pride and praise for your hard work paying off.
School doesn’t invoke this sense of play in most people because after learning something new in maths they can’t see an obvious way of applying it to the real world, therefore leaving them without a sense of achievement or reward. So maths isn’t fun, because it doesn’t provide instant gratification. The same can be said about your job. If you work in a monotonous field, you aren’t learning new skills, and the work you actually do doesn’t pay off. It doesn’t make you richer, or lead to immediate career growth. Often the money you do make goes towards taxes and bills. There is no reward, no sense of play, it’s just a means to an end
Video Games work the same way. For that exact reason, we can break down why Toren isn’t fun. There is very little to learn in regards to gameplay, so you can’t master the game and there are no real narrative, progression or gameplay pay offs. It’s just a subpar experience you stumble your way through. I don’t mean to be harsh, making games isn’t easy and neither is filling players with a sense of fun. If it was so easy to create a fun experience, the world would have mastered it. School and work would be the best thing ever.
Yet to me it seems pretty simple to translate over the same ideas within games to your real life. I’ve enjoyed work far more in the last few months than I have in years. I’ve been a freelance games journalist for some time, releasing 1 to 3 articles a week. Originally I was a reviewer, then a news writer and then a feature piece writer. Since June last year I’ve been writing pieces about how the games industry relates to political, social and personal issues. I love writing about games, but the work I produced never lead to any real career growth and most of my pieces got lost in a sea of articles from other writers.
In December of 2017 I founded Quiet Stories, a brand dedicated to creating meaningful video game related content and giving often unheard voices a place to speak. Yes we are working on some bigger projects, but we post articles too, very much in the same style as the work I did for other websites as a freelancer. However I now produce a new piece every single day, so I can actively see my progress building. It’s my brand and I feel like I’m working towards something. You’re going to struggle in a game if you only play once or twice a week. To get good there needs to be a daily commitment.
I get up every morning and ritually spend 20 minutes meditating and smoking. You could almost see this as me gearing up for the day, in the same way that you check all your weapons and level up before heading out on an in-game mission.
I post one article/ podcast/ video on the website every day. This is kind of like completing a side mission. It takes a small amount of time, but gives you a sense of accomplishment none the less. Then I work on one of Quiet Stories bigger projects, chipping away, learning and getting closer to a finished product. This is just like pushing through a games campaign; unlocking new skills, progressing on your journey and moving ever closer to the final boss. If I come to a hurdle or experience a massive failure, I don’t give up. Do you give up after your first boss death in Bloodborne, just because it’s hard? No, you push through, grind and eventually find the right tactic to combat this immediate challenge. So take this philosophy and implement it in your own life.
Life is what you make of it. Video games are fun because we learn, we progress and we see success. It’s hard for a company or a school to replicate this, because needed specifics vary from individual to individual. So YOU have to turn your own life into a game. You can recreate this simple set of steps, just like I have, in any aspect of your life. So keep grinding, keep learning and reach that final boss and kick its ass.
The final boss being life, not your actual boss.