Recently I saw a post online stating that a game does not need to be “anything”. And this argument has some merit, but I think games (and all art) actually have one requirement: they need to be “interesting”. But what does that mean? Because some people don’t seem to understand what I mean when I say that. So here we go.
Lets start with a simple definition of what interesting means. Interesting: Adjective, arousing curiosity or interest; holding or catching the attention. So in short it means to hold attention. But what I mean has a little more nuance to it so lets dive into that.
Lets start with the obvious, games that seek to be sold for profit need to be interesting in order to do that. This does not mean the game needs to be “fun”, “thoughtful”, “challenging”, or “complex” but it absolutely needs to be “interesting”. If it isn’t it gets rightfully left in the dust and forgotten. A game can be a bombastic action piece or a somber reflection on depression. Totally different games for which the only thing they likely have in common is that they are both games and therefore interactive but both can be just as “interesting” for totally different reasons.
In writing this I now see what the “Games don’t need anything to be called games” crowd is talking about. And it is fairly simple. The games that fail to capture attention… are still games, even if they aren’t commercial successes. But my counter argument is that those games were still at least trying to be interesting. However they lacked something, whether that be budget, vision, timing, graphics, playtesting, whatever, that prevented them from capturing the attention of their audience.
But you may have noticed I have made a point of talking about games “seeking to make a profit”, and that is because there is another type of game creation. That is when a creator makes a game for themselves. And I would argue that this game still needs to be “interesting”. Let me explain. When I say interesting that comes in many forms. Yes the primary form is that the final product finds the experience interesting. But when discussing a creation without an “end user” what needs to be “interesting” about it? The process itself. If neither the process of making the game nor the envisioned final product are interesting, I honestly cannot imagine someone creating that piece. (This of course ignores making the game as a job or commission)
And I would apply this to all forms of art. If an artist is making something for their own enjoyment/betterment I can only imagine them doing so if they find the process or goal to be interesting. That could be a painter wanting to use a new type of paint and playing with that. Or the same painter might just really want to paint that one composition just to have done it. Or a rapper might be experimenting with new rhymes just for the joy of the craft. And a game maker might challenge themselves to use a new tool or work in a new genre to get a new experience. But all of these endeavors are sustained by the artist’s interest in their craft. Therefore the craft itself or the final product of said craft must be interesting to, at minimum, the one creating it.
But this might all just be my ADHD brain not processing something that others find blindingly obvious. Perhaps I will try to defend the “games don’t need to be anything” angle next. Perhaps I should, after all it seems to be a shockingly niche opinion for something so demonstrably true.