I’ve been writing a lot for I Search for Traps lately, but through my discussions of table-top RPGs I’ve come across an old question that I’ve encountered when I was studying the world of video games: What is a good game?
On the surface, it’s a simple question, but if you dig a bit deeper, you realize that it isn’t one with a simple answer.
When talking to game developers, “making a good game” is a goal that I often heard. However, difficulties appear when comes time to define, exactly, what a good game is. Part of the answers that I’ve gotten over the years involve terms like “fun,” “innovative,” “unique,” “trend-setting,” etc, which leads me to wonder what is the relationship between a “good game” and innovation.
Part of the problem in answering this simple question is that answers will be intensely personalized. One person’s criteria can be diametrically opposed to another’s, which makes any kind of metric difficult to pin down. If that’s the case, however, why do we keep talking about making or wanting good games, and using that concept as a classificatory category?
To be honest, I’m not really interested in defining a good game. Rather, I’m much more interested in why the discourse of “good games” keeps popping up over and over again in the strangest of places, each time with fairly similar characteristics, which indicates to me that the discourse of good games isn’t really about games at all. Rather, talking about good games appears to be a discussion of boundaries.