A “Fun” Experience

In A Theory of Fun in Game Design by Raph Koster, we are treated to a discussion on how fun is an integral concept of Game Design. Koster states that “Fun is all about making our brains feel good-the release of endorphins into our system. The various cocktails of chemicals released in different ways are basically the same” (40). We try to let these impulses loose by playing games that teach a different way of thinking.

On the concept of Fun, we had a choice between five different games. Those five games included Space invaders by Taito, Pac-man by Namco-Bandai, The Path by Tale of Tales, A Slow Year by Ian Bogost, and finally Super Meat Boy by Team Meat. For this blog post, I chose to play Namco-Bandai’s Pac-man due to the general availability and the easy skill cap that the game presents. Eat all the dots and do not get caught by the four ghosts that seek to capture Pac-man. Playing Pac-man was different because I am more comfortable moving in a 3d than a 2d space.

Over the last two weeks playing Pac-man was a chore for me. There was no overwhelming complexity within the levels of Pac-man. This leads to apathy in playing as you start to figure out the patterns of the ghosts over time. The only variation in Pac-Man that I noticed was how fast the ghosts were moving, forcing me to make faster decisions. Some of the decisions could lead to the player losing one of the two lives that the player starts out with. Overall, as I played the game, it became more entertaining and enjoyable as I was completing the objective and raising my high score. But when I messed up, I got frustrated and tried to figure out what I did wrong, so the next time that I played Pac-man, I could beat that level and get my score higher. Koster even states “Games do adapt, but perhaps not as fast as we might wish, since almost all of these games are still, at their core, about the same activities even they may involve different skill sets” (62).

I can see why games like Pac-man and Donkey Kong have such long arcade lives as they bred competition among others that have lasted to this day. Video Games have become more competitive since the inclusion of tracking high scores within the actual machine and not being written down by somebody as you could misreport the numbers and give yourself a higher score. People like Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe regularly traded the highest score for Donkey Kong between each other in 2007. Console games have even added score attack modes to replicate this and even games like Bulletstorm from Epic Games has used the score attack method as a prominent feature within the game. Some games have benefited from the inclusion of score attack as it has added to the replay value of the mode and it makes games that are cooperative in nature a little more competitive for every person playing in the same lobby.



7 thoughts on “A “Fun” Experience

  1. I remember watching that documentary years ago and was hooked! Pacman is incredible because of its simplicity, but it also provides a challenge. Going for the perfect score has to be extremely difficult mentally and physically.


    • Going for the high score is something that pretty much everyone does whether they mean to or not. It’s the rush of endorphins that you are going to overtake someone who was on the same list who had a high score.


  2. Remember when writing to stay on topic. You drift at the end of your third paragraph and then head off into talking about Donkey Kong, high scores, and attack modes. What are all of these and how do they relate to your point that Pac Man was fun, or not? Stay on target. Or, make sure you explain that you’re hitting a moving target by leading the reader from one place to the next.


  3. Pacman is an all time favorite. The structure of the game is just so simple and nice, other than that just work on organization a lot of this work could have been set up a lot nicer. Other than that your blog was great


  4. In the end when you started to talk Donkey Kong and high scores, it made me think about how back then all that we had in video games to compare skill was high scores, but now they have advanced so much that there is levels, high scores, points in certain category, etc. that show off a players experience. I like how you choose to tie in progression of difficulty in the game with Koster’s idea on “games on their core”, it can easily go along with Csikszentmihalyi’s concept on flow as well.


    • Most games today that doesn’t have a true score attack mode are games that are competitive in a different aspect. Most people try to go for speed-run records instead of high score runs.


  5. I agree with you a lot that PAC-MAN eventually does slowly turn into a bore. I wrote one of my blogs about PAC-MAN as well but I played it with friends around and it changed my experience a lot with just that. There was competition and also some bugging at who could get the furthest or chomp the most ghosts or who had the best strategy. All of the things you mentioned in your blog that you noticed made PAC-MAN an arcade staple because it bred competitiveness. It’s really surprising how a change of environment can affect your experience with a game. Do you think you would have enjoyed it more with friends? What about a different version of PAC-MAN?


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