Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Does a Video Game Have to be Meaningful?

Asking whether or not a video game should be meaningful sounds like a silly question. But it is a very serious question that I plan to explore. The short answer is - no. A video game does not have to be meaningful. Just being fun is enough. However, if a goal of the game is to be memorable and enduring, then, I would argue, it does have to be meaningful. One might say "the goal of a game is make money"", and there is some truth to that. But few game designers, as creative artistic people, are satisfied with just making money. They want their work to have larger meaning. And few players are satisfied, in the end, investing endless hours in a game unless they feel it has some larger significance. So, in order for a game to be memorable, significant and worthwhile, it must be meaningful.

This has only become a problem recently as experts in media studies have offered up the claim that video games should be studied as cultural artifacts just as films and novels are studied as cultural artifacts.  Asking if a video game has to be meaningful is like asking if a novel or a film has to be meaningful. Certainly, there are lots and lots of junk novels and junk films. So not every one has to be meaningful. But, it is the goal of writer's or film maker's craft to produce meaningful work even though it is a rare occurrence. Similarly, it is the goal of the game designer's craft to produce meaningful work. Hence, we need to figure out what we mean by 'meaningful'.

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