What makes a game fun (and is fun even important)?

Since playing Silent Hill 2 for the first time, it slowly became my favorite game of all time. I would be lying though, if I said I thought it was fun. When I think of fun, I think of something exciting or thrilling, like skydiving. Silent Hill 2 is not a game I would consider thrilling, or even exciting; the gameplay taken on its own merits is merely tolerable. The majority of the game consists of simply walking or running around an area in search of keys required to progress, with the occasional enemy encounter to break the tension. I would not call the walking uninteresting; the atmosphere created through art and sound design makes the areas fascinating to traverse, but when I think of games where traversing the environment is fun, games such as Super Mario 64, and Sonic come to mind. In those games, players have access to different movement abilities, as well as the ability to move at high speeds with no stamina restrictions; this combination combined with skilled execution makes the movement fun. Silent Hill 2 has no special movement abilities, such as a jump. James walks at a realistic speed, which causes traversing the environment to take plenty of time and his only extra movement ability is a sprint that is gated by a low stamina pool. This limited mobility makes the game less fun, but also makes it more interesting. Forcing the player to slow down is vital to immersing the player in an atmosphere of dread that a horror game should have; its difficult to create a tense atmosphere when players are able to blast through levels as fast as the game can load them. Giving up fun sounds like a bad idea when making a game, but the idea that all games need to be fun is misguided. Schindler’s List is a great movie, but fun is absolutely not the word to describe it. Silent Hill 2 sets out to deliver an emotional story blanketed by a depressing, oppressive atmosphere; fun would be in opposition to both of these goals. Basically, every game should focus on being interesting, fun should only be a focus if it is in service of making the game the best it can be.

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