What makes a game fun?

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Our venerable two-handed knife wielder @McStabStab asked this elsewhere. Reproducing his paragraph here, to make it easier for you to quote:

Is it overcoming its difficulty by developing good timing and use of skills through repetition (Dark Souls, Cuphead, etc.)? Or is fun something that comes from the other elements, like the story telling, level design, and gameplay mechanics?

What say you?
 
the problem is, fun means different things to almost every person on earth, so what is fun to me might be boring for others
Oh yeah, for sure. But that's not a problem, that's human diversity—which manifests itself in so many other human pursuits.

Is it overcoming its difficulty by developing good timing and use of skills through repetition
No, I play every game on Easy first time. If I enjoy it, then I'll replay on a difficulty level which maximizes my enjoyment—which could be Easy again, or not.

If a game is engaging enough, then I will develop a necessary skill—eg Far Cry Primal was the first game where I really learned to use a bow properly, because I found the world and gameplay compelling.

other elements, like the story telling, level design, and gameplay mechanics?
I primarily enjoy developing strategies and tactics to achieve game goals, ideally in an open world which allows multiple approaches. Such a setup almost always lends itself to replays, since there are plenty of interesting choices to experiment with.

Mechanics like exploration and stealth appeal, while in combat I need the choice between up close and ranged engagement—I'm not a fan of prolonged melee action.
 
Nov 4, 2020
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I like games that make me feel good weather if be multiplay , single play or puzzle type.
I dont care if other dont like what i use its my money and my choice.

Its a bit like when my neighbour said to me ..... hey your 66 and you just bought a jcw mini clubman ????? , thats a boy racers car. My reply was i bought it because thats what i wanted.
 
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Is it overcoming its difficulty by developing good timing and use of skills through repetition (Dark Souls, Cuphead, etc.)? Or is fun something that comes from the other elements, like the story telling, level design, and gameplay mechanics?
This relates to one of the first threads I made on this forum: https://forums.pcgamer.com/threads/favourite-core-aesthetics.3316/

Discovery is a large part of what makes a game fun for me. I love discovering new things, especially new game mechanics and new interactions between game mechanics, but also just exploring the map in a 4X game. The Fantasy of a game is also important, both in the sense that I love games with good world-building as well as that I love the power fantasy a game can give.
 

Alm

Jan 17, 2020
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I think for me it is immersion. All quests (I was thinking, could be wrong) in a game involve quite simple ideas structure wise, but dressing them up in graphics and narrative that focuses the player on that instead of the barebones of the quest is what makes it fun. Of course level design etc help the immersion too.
 
Is it overcoming its difficulty by developing good timing and use of skills through repetition (Dark Souls, Cuphead, etc.)? Or is fun something that comes from the other elements, like the story telling, level design, and gameplay mechanics?
Well, it's definitely not timing and combat skills for me. While I like that okay, it's rare that I even play games where that matters, and in something like Satisfactory, I modded combat out of the game. I'm enjoying the combat in God of War, currently, but prior to that I think it had been a couple of months since I'd played anything with combat (Far Cry 6). RTS and turn-based combat are different and don't count in this discussion.

For me the top two things are immersion and strategy. I love letting myself become completely engrossed in a world. It's why I like Factorio, but LOVE Satisfactory. The FPP, attractive graphics and amazing, hand-crafted world make me feel like I'm actually somewhere else, as opposed to the rather ugly, top-down Factorio. And then I get to use my brain, which is the strategy part. Simple arcade games like Cuphead couldn't hold my attention for 10 minutes, but give me a puzzle or problem to solve, and I'll stay there all day.

As was mentioned above, there's no single formula that makes a game fun. It just depends on the gamer. Even if we all agreed that immersion was important, we would disagree on what makes a game immersive. For me, perspective is very important (even my favorite cRPG's from yesteryear were all FPP's). For others, perspective doesn't matter at all.
 
if we knew what it was, there wouldn't or shouldn't be any games out there that aren't fun. But its obvious we don't know what it is yet as games still get it wrong.

I feel the problem is, fun means different things to almost every person on earth, so what is fun to me might be boring for others.
We can't know because there will never be one right answer. Everyone has different preferences. What I think is fun, you might think sucks. What I think sucks, you might think is fun. Most games are going to be fun to someone, even if it's only the developer. Haha.

As for my preferences, I don't like games to be hard, like Cuphead. I don't want to beat my brains out to get to the next level. I play games to have fun and get away from stress. So I'm more into the last half of the OP's list, like good storytelling, level design, and gameplay mechanics. I love a game that has a good balance between puzzles that you don't have to be a member of Mensa to solve, exploration, and combat that isn't insane. And I need to have a purpose for what I'm doing.

But I know not everyone is like me, which is why it's good that we have choices. I'm ok with there being games I don't like, so that other people can have games they like, as long as they also keep making games that I like.
 
At the risk of being overly copout-ish, I look for different types of fun from different games. I generally don't want long and/or elaborate stories in my RTS's (unless done well like pre-MMO Blizzard). But I do want that from Adventure or RPG's. An emerging issue (to me) is how much the genres have been bleeding and merging. The more action-y an adventure gets, the less fun I have with said adventure, unless the action is manageable, but even then it often feels like padding/filler. In fact, I think the reason I don't find most MMORPG's fun* is that you often have to, say, kill fifty goblins and collect 17 badger pelts in order to get the next snippet of story. Which, I realize story often isn't primary in an MMO anyway, and it seems like the "fun" in those is to max out your character level, which has never done anything for me. One MMO I really liked was City of Heroes, because it was mostly mindless fun, me and a handful of friends running around and fighting villains and saving people. There may have been an overall plot but we weren't particularly concerned about it. We just liked creating characters, picking powers, and seeing what we could do.

I guess that's one thing I find fun in games, is making or customizing characters. Even if it's an established character like Geralt, I like having some say over what he's good at in my game.

As someone else said, I find discovery in games fun, or more specifically being surprised**. The first time I got trapped in the haunted house in Markarth in Skyrim was memorable. Talking to Sovereign [or was it Harbinger?] in Mass Effect was also cool the first time. (Not to say it wasn't cool on a second playthrough, but the surprise element was gone at that point.)

And once in a while I just like being blown away by audiovisual wizardry, because I'm a simple caveman who grew up on "these large pez-sized pixels are your dudes," and am still amazed at how far we've come. Red Dead Redemption 2 is still one of my favorite games to just idly wander. It's not necessarily "fun", but I find it enjoyable. Maybe that's more or less the same thing.

One thing I don't find fun is points and achievements. Didn't care about high scores back in the arcade days, and don't care if I achieve the "1.2% of players have gotten this" milestone in a modern game. I don't care if I'm the fastest at completing a game, and most speedruns baffle me though I can appreciate the effort someone must have gone through to make it happen. But none of that spells "fun" to me. Whether I was good at the game or not.

* - I take that back, I often find the first several levels of a new MMO fun, which is probably why I keep trying them out. But usually by level 10-25 [depending on the game] I'm done.

** - A lot of games have a ton of monotonous and/or predictable content to "discover". ::gives a side-eye to Ubisoft::
 

McStabStab

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Discovery is a large part of what makes a game fun for me. I love discovering new things, especially new game mechanics and new interactions between game mechanics, but also just exploring the map in a 4X game. The Fantasy of a game is also important, both in the sense that I love games with good world-building as well as that I love the power fantasy a game can give.
I think this is what I'm really playing for nowadays. Some of my favorite moments have come from being surprised or impressed by what a game reveals to me. Notably games like Death Stranding, No Man's Sky, or The Forest, where I'm pushed into the unknown and asked to accomplish something. Finding a new world or area that eventually opens up more possibilities or abilities is what does it for me.
 
Is it overcoming its difficulty by developing good timing and use of skills through repetition
No, I play every game on Easy first time. If I enjoy it, then I'll replay on a difficulty level which maximizes my enjoyment—which could be Easy again, or not.

If a game is engaging enough, then I will develop a necessary skill—eg Far Cry Primal was the first game where I really learned to use a bow properly, because I found the world and gameplay compelling.
suddenly realises there are 2 Brian Boru's here as one just answered the other. This raises serious implications... shuts everything down :D
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
There're dozens of kinds of fun, at the very least. Put an obstacle in front of me for me to work my way over: fun. Put up a pretty scene: fun. Play some good music: fun. Give me a challenging moral dilemma: fun.

I was hoping to try and re-define the genres by the sorts of fun you have in a game, but there are so many combinations that it gets ridiculous.
 
I'm beginning to wonder myself these if i'm actually having any fun or enjoying playing games these days. it seems like a routine tick game off list and move on. Even the ones i liked, i feel numb or a mild feeling that might be "fun" or entertaining.

I've dug deep as to what games or experiences has brought me great joy to play not bursts of satisfaction from winning. For example the eurphoria of victory over a difficult boss can't surely be considered fun. Can it? More like relief and joy over adversity then actually having fun.

So for me its the journey and gameplay loop. The mix is pretty difficult i find. It has to have the right balance of difficulty/challenge (pushes you to the limit but not difficult), something are good at, a good gameplay loop that remains fresh and most importantly brings a unique experience whether from a good story or from heart pounding action.

Despite hating PvP in general, i think competitive multiplayer seems to tick all those boxes (alarmingly). I can distinctively remember having a lot of fun playing Planetside 2 as it was a unique experience seeing hundreds of players battling out over a base. it felt like a real battle or participating in a good action scene. I've left with plenty of good stories and experiences with it. It was also one of the few games where i felt i did surprisingly well in, getting a positive KD and holding my own against actual people. Although that said, playing Heavy assualt probably gave you that feeling.

On the flip side, its probably why i get so worked up on these games. Dying repeatedly with little or no reward except humiliation is the absolute worst and brings my blood to a boil very quickly. its why i avoid it in general. Plus the amount of time needed to invest to play/get gud at them is just a turn off these days as i just don't have the time and i certainly don't need the aggro in my life.

I think its the human factor, playing with actual people, working together to overcome adversity is rewarding and fun. I felt pride and joy from working in a team in say l4d helping newer members and coming to their rescue or just being support in general.
 
victory over a difficult boss can't surely be considered fun. Can it? More like relief
For me it's 100% relief that an annoying part of the game is over. Had a thread about this last year. No euphoria, no joy.

a routine tick game off list and move on
I had that in the 90s, while I used only game now and then. Lots of platformers back then, which aren't my thing, but they were a staple so I played 'em. Maybe you're playing genres you don't enjoy, or need a break from?
 
@Pifanjrs old thread covers a lot of the mechanics of what gets you get into it with games. But I think part of what @Johnway might be talking about is the state of flow.

So boss fights, when they are good, put you into flow while you're fighting them. When you die the flow can be interrupted, but after a while if you can adapt to the right mindset, the run up to the boss and the fight blur into one and you dont even think about the dying part and just start the run again. Theres been boss fights where I've actually felt a little disappointed when I realize I'm going to beat it, it isnt an obstacle to progress anymore its a method of attaining flow that is coming to an end.

At least that's how it works for me, when its a really good game. If I cant find any kind of flow in a game after trying for a while, I just move on to something else, another game, book or a film, doesn't matter if I've finished or not.
 
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might be talking about is the state of flow.

i think this ight be it. Id remember as a kid i get stuck in a game, i'd give up play something else and after maybe a few months return and get stuck in the same area. But if i make progress? i play the game zealously for a while longer. I guess the same applies; i want to sample something new i wan to progress and see new areas. As an adult time is now in short supply and my disposable income has meant i have a huge backlog of games to play.

Joy tends to cause fun. So does the sense of accomplishment.

There's a lot of cussing and slanderous shouting going on during the fight but, when it's done, it's great.

Personally i like boss fights where its most even as possible so its a test of skill and as little bs as possible. When boss fights are heavily stacked in their favor to the point that its cheap (huge pools of health, lack of ammo, huge damage or instanakill attacks) that's when the fun stops and the irritation begins. Save scumming eases the pain, but you can't excuse dodgy game design. But i digress i think it goes back to flow, if it puts the breaks on my progress then it becomes irratating.

I had that in the 90s, while I used only game now and then. Lots of platformers back then, which aren't my thing, but they were a staple so I played 'em. Maybe you're playing genres you don't enjoy, or need a break from?
Atm i've been playing genres that i generally like. I do rotate the genres (i need to really play an RTS or RPG game to restore balance) but the more i reflect back on the games i've played over the last year, nothing particularly memorable stands out. They're all good, decent even but doesn't/didn't excite me. I suspect that I'm becoming desensitized with the games I play or my strongest feeling is finally being free of a game having beaten it.

Looking back, it felt like routine rather then actual entertainment. Take assassins creed origins, i spent hours going to every poi, collecting, crafting etc. Its shallow busy work that somehow i spent hours not complaining. Possibly because i was making progress and seeing different locales etc.
 
Nov 27, 2020
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What say you?
Immersion. Suspension of belief that I'm part of a game's living world. The qualities, or attributes, that any specific game has vary greatly, and what we, as individual gamers look for also varies. The "attributes" of a game that creates immersion for me may be despised by others, which is fine, while what others look for can be a negative for me.

I tend to be a bit "old school" with regards in what I look for a game, because, well, I am old. It's not that I mind innovation and progression in how games are developed, which is inevitable, but sometimes those "innovations" aren't that great to me, or end up "dumbing down" the players involvement within the game. I often see games criticized in forums and in the press (no offense intended PCG) for bringing nothing new, or using the "same old formula" for creating their game. Bethesda and Piranha Bytes are studios that are often criticized in that manner, and I personally, respect them for sticking with their basic formula in game creation, because I have that immersion.

So what creates that immersion for me? The following are some of the gaming "attributes" that I look for when buying a game. Listed in no particular order, and no one game encompasses them all, and some games may only have one or two. But these are qualities that create immersion for me within a game, and immersion = fun.

Character Creation - @ZedClampet did a post about how long you were willing to spend in character creation. It's a negative to some, but I've spent literally hours in creating a character, especially in AD&D games. I'll tweak, and roll dice, debating over how to spend points on attributes, skills, abilities, ect. Or choosing character history/background, anything that help define my character, or group of characters to be able to handle all situations.

Story - Is a primary concern, how well it's written, my character's or party's involvement in how it evolves.

Companions and their personalities/back stories - huge for me when it applies to a game, as not all games have them, but when they do, they should feel real. Emotions.

NPCs - characters that play an important role, though not companions. Varies widely, but if they have a personality, an effect on the story in how you react with them it's a plus. So is a day/night schedule, rather than just standing around in the same place, saying the same lines over and over.

Exploration & Discovery - perhaps the most important irregardless of the games perspective (1st or 3rd person or isometric) and whether the game is open world or map based.

Combat Mechanics - I've played real-time, real-time w/pause, and turn-based. The implementation of a combat mechanic can make a game, or make it a slog.

Weather Effects/Day-Night Cycle - not all games have them, but when they do it can really increase immersion for me.

Crafting - I love a good crafting system, whether is weapons, armor, alchemy, or food. I can spend hours in a good, detailed crafting system. I include in this settlement or home base construction like in Fallout 4.

Inventory Management - I love it, and I know many gamers who outright hate it. That's cool, we each have our own "thing". Whether it's based on weight (which I prefer), or inventory size limits, or something else, I love that micro-management.

Survival Mechanics- Not all games have those, though many can be modded in, but the best survival mode that I've experienced in a base game was in Fallout New Vegas. Eat, hydrate, sleep, and dealing with diseases.

Modding Community - Varies greatly by game, but being able to mod a game (even in the future) to my specifications is a huge plus.

End Game - It's more than just a "boss battle" to me, and more how it ties up everything your character has done or said throughout the game. Everything your character(s) has learned and experienced should play a part. There's a lot of variables here, so I won't go into detail as other posts have done this.

So, anyway, those are some of the main things I look for in a game for immersion and fun.
 
Mar 13, 2022
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It seems to me that the interesting game make interesting in the first place the story of the game, then the schedule and everything else.
 
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