Why Do You Play Video Games? – A Debate

Why Do You Play Video Games? That’s what Theology Gaming wishes to meditate upon this week. Do you know? Well, let’s at least talk about it.


Why do you play video games, anyway? Patrick Gann weighs in on the issue, with some surprising responses by the author of said video Brian Castleberry from Substance TV. At least it’s better than Bible brow-beating, eh?


Pat: I have a real problem with the concluding statement. “You’re doing it wrong” isn’t a fair thing to say in regards to “why one plays games”. My reasons for why I enjoy a game HAVE changed from childhood til now, and that’s fine. While it’s not analogous to playing in the snow, it’s also true that why I enjoy time in the snow IS different from when I was a kid til now. When I was a kid it was a totally new and rare thing. Now I’ve seen snow, I know snow. And when I play with my own kids, more enjoyment comes from the fact that I’m doing it WITH MY KIDS than that HEY IT’S SNOW! I can’t help the fact that I am no longer a child.

Things like aesthetics matter. That doesn’t mean the best, most realistic, or even the most CINEMATIC visuals are what we want. But there are UGLY games from the NES era that made them worse on a functional level. Their color pallettes drain the fun out of it, forcing us to squint our eyes. The same can and should be said of music and sound design. A grating, out-of-place repetitive sound effect can destroy the “fun” of the game just as much as a snow plow driving by can distract you from the fun of playing in the snow.

Story can be an aspect of the game! It need not be a cinematic, linear experience. Manipulating the story, learning the background details, can be just as much fun as collecting/using the Tanooki and Hammer Bros. suits in Super Mario Bros. 3. THIS IS FUN FOR ME TOO! I’m not doing anything wrong!

Tanooki Suit Mario

Tanooki Suit Is Awesome. That Is All.

Here’s me working with your snow analogy: is snow as much fun if it’s fake snow? That’s all I’ll ask.

Brian: If you’ll refer to my video, the statement of “you’re doing it wrong” is in reference to my previous statement of “If the reason you play video games now, isn’t the same as when you were a kid”. I was speaking to the core reasons behind play. I would disagree the reason for playing games has changed. I would argue the reason you enjoy playing games now has not changed – it has simply evolved through the addition of different elements. You’ve added reasons to enjoy games such as aesthetics, visuals, sound, and narrative. The core principles behind why you enjoy a video game remains play. 

I will agree that a game can be detrimentally affected by poor visuals. Glitches, screen tearing, framerate, and other key issues can cause this problem. I would, however, be interested to know of a laundry list of games in which visuals were so poor in terms of fidelity that it ruined your experience AND could have been made better with just changing said visuals. I would say that is the exception and not the rule. Most of the times poor visuals are just one symptom of a game plagued with other problems. Mega Man’s color was changed from green to blue because of palette limitations on the NES. Does this affect the fundamentals of the game? No.

But I can respond to all your comments on visuals, music, and sound design with two words: God Hand. Graphically, it’s a painfully average game. It’s nowhere near as good looking as many of the best games on the PS2. Even the sound is an odd mix of spaghetti western, Japanese buttrock, and techno beats. Regardless, it’s a fun game. Now could it have been made better with some improvements to these elements? Of course! Even so, it’s a fun, yet flawed, game. See, I’m having too much fun in the snow to worry about snow plows.

Again, you’re not doing anything wrong by enjoying story. You can do that. But I’ve seen far too many times where people let an issue with a story ruin an otherwise fun experience. Play should be first, with the other supporting elements such as visual, sound, and narrative enriching and enhancing that gameplay.

As I said, whether it’s me playing or my children, what’s the goal? To play and have fun. Whether that’s me having fun, or enjoying my children having fun, play is the tool by which fun is derived. I’m no longer a child. Heck, I’m in my thirties, but I still know how to have fun. I find the analogy of Peter Pan to fit perfect. As kids we knew how to have fun and enjoy games. We didn’t get so caught up in the other details we forgot to enjoy. Most of us have grown up and can no longer have fun, or as in the case of Peter Pan, fly.

The Bible speaks about child like faith, so I ascribe to the creed of child-like play.

Pat: I hear ya, but I still think there’s a judgment behind “you’re doing it wrong.” My key/core reason for playing some games may not be the “play,” but the watch&learn. Things I could not have enjoyed as a child. Also, things that Zachery Oliver probably dislikes a great deal (see: Dear Esther, Journey, Corpse Party).


Zach: You are correct. This does not look like something I’m interested in playing.

I would just caution you to be careful with that phrase.

Brian: I’ll will just have to respectfully disagree as I still stand by my point. If that part of your child which enjoys playing videos games is all but gone, if all that joy and fun is wiped away by story, sound, or graphics, if you can’t turn a game on a play for the sheer enjoyment of it, then I think you have lost something precious, and in turn, are doing it wrong.

Pat: “is wiped away by story, sound, or graphics.” — what if it’s wiped away by something else?

I think the video could stand to have the clarification(s) you’ve presented here. Not worth EDITING, but again, I think you’d be better off that way. I know people who would be put off by the video, but if they read your comments here they’d be like “oh okay, I feel ya.” That’s all I’m gettin’ at.

Bryan Hall (mystery guest!): I just don’t see where you are coming from Pat. The video, to me, came across as a call to remember why you play video games. I didn’t take it as anything else. It helped me to remember what gaming was like on the NES: fun, competitive, and awesome with a second player. Sure, the components I enjoy about video games has changed, but the core of why I play has not.

Brian: Right on the money Bryan. The video was meant to jog people’s memories and make them remember.


What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.