Do games have to be fun?


I often have trouble thinking about how I would make a game which makes the player feel uncomfortable or any form of negative feeling/emotion. Of course, games are usually something that we retreat to make us feel better about a bad day or to play with your buddy. However, indie games are beginning to explore other feelings other than that of euphoria and enjoyment and challenge players to look at meanings within a game whether that be social or political issues. Games such as ‘Papers please’ does this perfectly by forcing the player to question their morals regarding immigration issues.  The room was laid out for the premise of the social interaction mini-game, set in a cafe.
In the beginning, I was going to make a game which was still able to make the player feel a sense of discomfort, but ‘played down’ in case the players no longer found any point in playing. Originally a solo project, I brainstormed ways of making the player understand what it is like to have sensory difficulties and how I can explore this within the scope of the game. The audio was one method, making the music overbearingly loud was, of course, the go-to method. Later on, I began working with a games partner that I met on ‘Train Jam’ in Chicago. There was a great balance between a neurotypical and a neurodiverse way of thinking and we were able to brainstorm ways of telling a story and making mini-games to highlight difficulties that many autistic people face. My games partner was also great in challenging my way of thinking in terms of game-making and storytelling. “Making the player feel uncomfortable is what you need to tell your story because that’s how you feel in these situations,” he said.
The player character (myself) is in a noisy cafe. I put in recordings of people talking, restaurant sounds and the piano music in which I made very overbearing and distorted. The player can see how this affects the player character with the anxiety meter shown below.
Within the next few posts, I will further discuss how we looked at semiotics to make relevant changes to make it a more effective narrative game.

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