An Anti-Gamer’s Journey of Fun ft. Space Invaders

Hey guys!

I’d like to start off by introducing myself, my name is Daniela Velazquez, I’m 21 years old and I’m from San Francisco, CA. Prior to my game studies class, the only encounters I had with video games were due to my brother, who is four years older than me. I’d like to think of our generation as the OG’s of video games, because we saw the evolution of video games and consoles first hand. I remember when our parents first bought us Atari 2600, followed by Gameboy, Super Nintendo, Playstation 1, Nintendo 64, and lastly the Xbox 1. Surprisingly enough, even though I was surrounded by game console haven, I’ve never been the type to play video games; I simply didn’t think of them as FUN.

*pause for reader’s gasp*

I believe fun is a term that varies depending on the individual. So, what is fun? In my opinion, fun is when I’m doing something that fills me with excitement, happiness, joy, laughter, etc. When I’m having fun, hours seem like minutes and I simply can never get enough of it. Fun seems to be personal in this way, because what is fun for many may not be fun for me and vice versa.

Similarly, Raph Koster, a game theorists, presents the idea of fun incorporated by the self. In one of his modern aspects of play as the self, he defines it as the experience of fun, relaxation, and escape. Which is closely related to my interpretation of fun. In Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster also touches on the subject of why video games “lack of appeal… to the female audience” (Koster, 106). He then explains that because there are very few female creators in the industry, hence why, the games are set up based on how male brains work. Including a lot of violence and formal abstract systems, that don’t typically attract women.

Another idea that supports my definition of fun is the experience of flow. This idea was introduced in class by Mihaly Csikxentmihalyi, which is known as the optimal level of play. It helps you get things done better, and results in a wonderful feeling of optimal experience. However, there are pros and cons to everything and in this specific case the disadvantage of flow is that it is all consuming, correlated to addiction and can easily be abused.

Sadly, while playing Space invaders for the last two weeks I didn’t experience myself having fun. Space Invaders, like most ancient games is very simple, yet challenging, which is what prevents me from reaching flow. The game only has two functions, which is to avoid getting hit by the alien’s missiles and to shoot them first. Having such simple functions makes it nearly impossible for a player to experience flow. There simply isn’t enough functions to keep the player entertained so instead they get bored more easily. Also, the graphics of the game are low quality and not what we are used to now a days, which enhances the visual entertainment for the player. Lastly, if a game is too challenging it can easily prevent flow since the player will be stuck in a place of anxiety, frustration and worry. The only times I was able to approach flow while playing were after going on a long streak of winning, and moving up levels.

I am aware my views on this game may be biased since I have a preference for games with a story line. Although, I believe that when Space Invaders first came out plenty of players experienced flow through it since it was new and there wasn’t much, up for comparison. An example of this would be of my siblings playing pac man when they were younger. They would compete with one another and sit in front of the screen for hours, never really getting enough of it even after mom would make them stop.

I hope you guys enjoyed my post, I’m excited to see my views on video games and play evolve; as well as share this journey with you guys!

Sources Cited:

Koster, Raph. A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Scottsdale, AZ: Paraglyph, 2005. Print.

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7 thoughts on “An Anti-Gamer’s Journey of Fun ft. Space Invaders

  1. Ok another classic game I played during childhood. Another classic retro game lets see. I agree on the In Theory of Fun for Game Design, Raph Koster also touches on the subject of why video games “lack of appeal… to the female audience” (Koster, 106). The main point of this lack of appeal is females (not to be sexist) generally do not enjoy playing games. Especially space invaders in which its kind of a shooter game until you die. I am sad that you actually did not have fun playing space invaders because I played this on my old atari system and had a blast. I guess its the lack of art since its retro and also it can be very difficult if your aim is not great. Me myself as a CSGO player focus on aim and when I play I dominate. I also agree on how fun is determined by the individual people like me who enjoys shooters will have more fun then people who enjoy puzzle games. I do disagree on how you said there is not enough functions in the game in since the objective is to shoot and not die.The point of the game is aim and win and in my case its enough, but this ties back to how you said that fun is determined by individuals not the game it self.

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    • I would counter this statement with Ludica’s understanding that the games made (shooters, etc) are not the only type of game available, just what the industry makes. This is the “hegemony of play” at play, and the result is that people can claim “[women] do not play games” when they have more of a history playing games than men in certain forms.

      This, of course, also relates to DVelazquez’s note that she prefers games with stories. It is important that these games with stories are, according ontologies we’ve covered, less game’y than these violent, action-oriented, rule based encounters. My suggestion: play a Telltale “game” next.

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  2. I liked that you used Mihaly Csikxentmihalyi’s theory of flow to talk about Space Invaders since most people didn’t use his work to discuss their game (me included). I agree that Space Invaders can be boring because you’re basically just shooting things. It’s interesting that you mention flow though especially because you said fun for yourself is when hours feel like minutes. So whatever it is that you find fun you still are experiencing some kind of flow even though it may not be a video game.

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  3. You do not find video games fun?! That is a travesty. I have been playing all my life and I agree Space Invaders is not fun. I just never enjoyed it.

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  4. I have to agree that games like Space Invaders are very repetitive and shallow, even if they’re hard. They’re not complex enough to keep people engaged. I just can’t enjoy games like those – I need strategic depth and/or a good story. The game industry’s historic tendency to only make certain types of games doesn’t just discourage women.

    You said flow can be correlated to addiction. I guess experts of any field can become obsessed with refining their craft, but from what I understand, people need to become highly skilled at something for this to become a risk. Was that what you meant, or is there another link to addiction?

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  5. Id have to agree with previous comment on how certain older games can seem less fun due to their repetitiveness. Although I did not place space invaders for this blog I do have previous knowledge on what the game is about. I have fun at the beginning when I first play and maneuver my way to complete my goal of destroying all ships, but as soon as I complete the task I find myself bored. Sure you can continue playing to gain a higher score or finish it faster than your previous time but you may soon find yourself sadly bored once again. Games like these lack variety, with their levels being almost the same just a little changed from the previous one forces the player to lose interest quickly. The only way around it to make things more interesting is to play co-op with a friend to add some competition into it but that also can become boring fast. i wouldn’t really consider it fun myself either.

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  6. The informal tone of your post is appropriate since the subject of the post is about fun. The gif you use is extremely satirical since it is from a movie which many gamers probably have not seen. You bring up the concept of flow and define that as your definition of fun. This is supported by your description of the game Space Invaders. I think to improve this post you could explore the idea of novelty fun and the joy you get when you experience nostalgia.

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