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.