Video games have to be the most baffling forms of media on the face of the Earth. It’s usually easy to predict when movies would be hits or flops due to past history. But video games always have such a high level of unpredictability that many would be crazy to become an analyst for video games. predicting video games should be a daunting task. But in reality, it’s quite simple.

The reason many have trouble trying to see why people would want to play a game like Halo over something like Okami isn’t at all something to do with different tastes. It is the idea that people’s tastes should be more “sophisticated”. We over-estimate the simplicity of the human mind more than we imagine. We fantasize about a “perfect world” where every human appreciates art on every level. The problem with that thinking is the world is ruled by Europeans. Europeans have had heavy influence on the minds and hearts of everyone that lives and breathes. And Europeans have very little real respect for sophisticated art unless it has a western base. So in order for a “sophisticated game” to have appeal, it needs to be designed after european standards. (medieval fantasy does very well seeing as more and more anime take after the standard) Okami has no appeal based on that. So the next thing is whether or not the game looks appealing.

Now this is the controversial bit. Here are 2 videos. One with Okami’s gameplay, and another with… let’s say “Vanquish’s” gameplay.

Okami

Vanquish

Now, obviously, many will be quick to say that Okami’s gameplay is unique (therefore, good). It is in an interesting looking game, what with it’s majestic art style and gameplay featuring a paintbrush for interacting with objects and attacking enemies. On the other hand, you have Vanquish which looks like another mindless and generic shooter courtesy of the HD train of thought to make as many pretty shooters as possible. Rush from turrets, shoot enemies quickly, going through the motions of lining up shots, everything. This would be the typical response.

However, which one looks more fun to play?

The obvious answer is Vanquish. We could say that Okami has better gameplay than Vanquish, but it also looks very slow paced. Combat is reduced to random battles and at best, you’re mainly running around solving puzzles. Combat, again usually makes use of the paint brush for better effects in battle, but the main thing is that the game doesn’t seem very lively. On the other hand, Vanquish looks and feels more like a game people would want to play. There’s plenty of action, the game looks very fast paced and runs very smoothly, the entire field looks like a warzone with guns a blazing, not to mention some of the melee combat looks slick.

Granted, neither of these games sold well, mainly because the people that made them have a lot of trouble selling anything, but that is aside the point. More people would lean toward Vanquish over Okami due to the fact that it at least looks more enjoyable to play than Okami. Okami would seem like a cure for insomnia to the common gamer (I got some good ass sleep after one session). Vanquish would keep the common gamer awake for longer than 20 minutes. Certainly, the gameplay looks generic, but many people can’t deny that it looks fun.

This is the difference between “good gameplay” and “fun factor”. In many a hardcore’s thought process, good gameplay alone contributes to fun factor. This is not far from the truth as good gameplay contributes greatly to… the fun of the game. But good gameplay is not exclusively the… fun of the game. This is where many hardcore types tend to make the mistake in assuming a game with “good gameplay” will automatically be fun for people. Of course, good gameplay is subjective. Some people say “Nights into Dreams” has good gameplay. Shit, I would say it’s barely there.

What makes a game fun is obviously not attributed to the “gameplay”. The gameplay is simply how the game “works”. How a game works is defined by the rules set by the game world. What abilities do you have? How much health do you get? How tough are the enemies? What methods can you use to defeat them? Do these rules make sense? How fast is the game’s pace and will I become a fat ass by the time I’m sick of it? Good gameplay is essentially having all of the game rules working properly and delivering a modest experience for the game to be evaluated. For example, rarely do Nintendo games have bugs or glitches, all of the mechanics work as they are intended, and nothing really prevents you from performing 100% in almost all of their games.

But for some reason, we as gamers just stop there at “good gameplay”. We suddenly have some out of body experience and forget we’re human beings. We disregard our emotions, our interests, and our own tastes for the sake “objectivity” and credibility. We don’t even bother to hazard a guess as to whether or not we enjoyed the damn gameplay or not. 9 times out of 10, we just say the game is good because the game rules work properly. Or because it’s “artistic”. Not because we ever truly had fun with it. We completely and totally disregard fun factor and squeeze that out of the equation.

Think about Super Paper Mario (yes, again). Now, I will admit that the gameplay is fine, for the most part. The shifting between 2D and 3D perspectives allows for players to discover hidden objects, secret paths, and allows you to easily avoid traps. You also gain new powers and characters to tackle different obstacles along your way. Bowser’s fire breath allows you to easily destroy enemies. Peach can float to far away platforms, and Luigi can jump really high to reach out of reach platforms high above. All of these mechanics work properly. So the entire time I’m sitting there, I’m thinking “Hmm…. you know, I really don’t feel like playing this bullshit!

The gameplay is fine, but it’s such a bore! Flipping between 2D and 3D feels more like a complete chore, and half the time you’ll forget you have several other characters at your disposal because you rely more on Mario’s dimensional shifting powers (the other characters can’t shift between 2D and 3D for some reason), so it’s like Modern Zelda games where you’re constantly going back to the menu screen to switch characters and powers over and over again, and why? To solve puzzles. Or get over obstacles and hurdles.

Now, Sonic and the Secret Rings on the other hand can actually hold my attention. The game is on rails for the most part, but the majority of the game is an obstacle course in which you simply tilt the Wiimote to move Sonic and avoid obstacles. Aside from the shitty Sinbad level where it’s essentially a fetch quest, this is what the majority of the game is. And the gameplay is quite mediocre, but it has the capability of holding my attention much longer because of the thrill and  innate desire to perfect run these levels without any major hang ups. Plus the music is soooo damn good.

It’s almost guaranteed that a Nintard is foaming at the mouth reading how someone is saying a Sonic game is better than a Mario game. Hell, despite the sour reputation, even Sonic games look more fun than Mario games.

Hightail Fails Galaxy

Crisis Cool Act 2

It’s almost breath taking just watching Generations while Galaxy 2 looks like your typical 3D Mario where the levels have a power-up gimmick to progress up walls.

Yet, we have this thing where we will give the less fun games more props for “better gameplay”. Gameplay has never truly been a selling point of a game. It has always been about the fun factor. When you praise nothing but gameplay and say it’s the most important thing in the world, you are advertising the game rules.

When you want to tell people how good the classic Resident Evil games are, you would be a damn fool to talk about it’s game rules. Because we all know that Resident Evil’s gameplay is absolutely shit. Controls are awful, enemies are twice as powerful as you are, ammo starvation, esoteric puzzles and fetch quests, limited saves, etc. You don’t advertise the gameplay because holy shit, you’ll turn off everyone! Instead you ask the question “do you like horror movies and getting the shit scared out of you!? How would you like to be a part of a horror movie?”. That sums up how awesome Resident Evil is…. or was. You were constantly in fear as you traveled through the mansion/raccoon city with vicious dogs and terrifying Tyrants, cornered like a rat in every instance you tried to make your escape. The fun of Resident Evil was in the fact that you would piss yourself in every wake of it’s world.

Why the hell would you talk about Resident Evil’s gameplay? When you talk strictly about gameplay, you neglect the content package. The fun of Resident Evil wasn’t the skill of inventory management. It was the thrill of being in a state of terror. That used to be Resident Evil’s selling point, not it’s gameplay. Bloody Roar 2’s commercial wasn’t about how simplified it’s combo system was, it was about “Holy shit, I can turn into a fucking Lion and maul your ass mid fight!

We’ve fallen into the trap of constantly dissecting the gameplay and evaluating one’s enjoyment based entirely around the game rules. It’s why people continue to give Nintendo, Capcom, and Turn-Based RPGs a pass every time they churn out something. Are you having fun? Who gives a fuck!? The intricacies of the gameplay is incredible! Using all manners of powers and equips to solve very clever puzzles and OMG!

This limited scope of thinking, in which we identify the quality of a game exclusively by it’s rules, is hurting our intellectual capacity and is eroding our ability to decipher exactly why people enjoy “unsophisticated games”. We can hate Call of Duty. We can hate God of War. We can hate M&S Olympics. But we will never admit that some people just find them to be very fun games. Why? Because we do not look at Fun Factor. We don’t even understand what makes a game fun anymore. We only think of the game rules. On any forum post that asks what you like to see in a sequel, we see members posting game rules, and/or occasional favorite characters. Nothing they consider to be fun beyond that. It’s almost bizarre.

Half of this reasoning is why most developers (David Cage’s stupid ass) cannot understand why their games do not turn a profit, because they do not understand fun factor. The other half being greed, but that’s another story. What in Amma’s name is fun about Heavy Rain? Absolutely nothing. It doesn’t even have gameplay for Nyame’s sake!

If you’re stumped about why a game is popular, you shouldn’t look at the rules, but why the person enjoying the game feels like having sex with the disc after a lengthy play session.

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