As much as I like how “legitimate” video gaming things like esports are becoming, I’m often left reminding myself that legitimacy should always take a backseat to being fun. For every game that tries to be art or weave a genuinely complex story, I’d much rather there be about three times as many games that just have a good, goofy time.
That sense of overwhelming fun has catapulted some games into high points on my mental list of favorites, and it’s something that I felt is worthy of elaborating on. Both as a self-reminder and perhaps a reminder to anyone reading this who might be taking this stuff a little too close to the vest.
This line of thinking first came about when I read a tweet from Gazimoff about his first time wrapping his hands around a Nintendo Switch. For the first time, he saw what must have been a toy to him become a more “serious” gaming machine purely because of the fun stuff it’s capable of as well as the array of unique games being drawn to the platform.
There are a number of examples I can aim at here, but a couple of the stronger ones that come to mind are Splatoon 2 and Overcooked 2. Both have simple gameplay beats, a fantastically colorful design style, and mechanics that are the epitome of easy to learn yet depth-filled just below the surface.
The sheer playful panic of Overcooked 2 is what draws me in, but the feeling of executed teamwork when you three-star a challenging kitchen is an incomparable feeling. Likewise, Splatoon 2’s ink-coating tug-of-war just feels good, adding playfulness and pure objective focused gameplay to the normally brow-furrowingly serious online team-based shooter.
There’s plenty of other games that leap to mind in terms of fun overtaking rock-faced seriousness. Cat Quest is an action RPG that was a cat pun-loaded goofball time but ended up also being a truly rock-solid ARPG. Battle Chef Brigade manages to mesh the otherwise shrug-inducing match three puzzler with a truly entertaining world and side-scrolling action gaming goodness. Shovel Knight not only brought pitch-perfect retro style action platforming, but did so in a generally corny world.
I suspect that’s also why Fortnite has been basically doing so well for itself. It’s a battle royale game that doesn’t forget that there’s more colors in the spectrum and is not afraid to have a lot of goofy fun with itself, particularly in its limited time modes.
There are a number of other games coming soon that absolutely take this lesson to heart. In addition to the aforementioned Devil May Cry 5, there’s the rampaging gun-fu action movie craziness of My Friend Pedro; the Metroidvania stylings of a cat piloting a mech suit in Gato Roboto; Ooblets, which meshes a life sim game with Pokemon where adorable critters settle differences via dance battles; there’s a game where you get to run around a village and troll people as a goose.
If none of those game ideas make you smile, you probably need a hug and some hot chocolate.
Even in my usual MMO gaming habits I’ve had more fun in goofing off than taking things too seriously. One of my favorite parts of Blade & Soul was dressing my Assassin character in an outfit that looked like the most absurd anime nonsense possible. MapleStory 2 has so much saccharine delight packed into it, I’ve willingly bought a Founder’s Pack – something I never do.
And when a silly game gets taken too far? That’s when my joy just evaporates. Overwatch is a game that seems like it should fit this mindset readily, but so many people live and die by it I’m immediately repulsed by it. Gigantic was the only MOBA I found enjoyable purely because not a lot of people took it as seriously as a HotS or a Dota 2. The competitive scene of Super Smash Bros. has managed to take a fun game about concentrated Nintendo joy and turned it into a playground for shitheads.
I guess what I’m saying is that what one does for their leisure time shouldn’t be their only identifying trait. Sure, I call myself a gamer, but the word “game” is in there and so I can’t bring myself to take that super seriously. Some of the best times I’ve had in leisure have been when goofball crap goes down, and some of my worst times have been where I ground my face into pudding in an MMO because I didn’t take a gear grind seriously enough.
If feeling this way means I’m less embraced by my peers, then I suppose that’s the sort of “burden” I’ll have to bear. That said, I know for a fact that I’m not alone, so that’s why I wanted to put these words out there; a self-reminder as well as one to those who I’m fortunate enough to reach, like I said earlier.
Seriously, fun is fine. Color is good. Silliness should be absolutely embraced. Failure or ease of play doesn’t mean you’re less of a gamer. Just…have fun.