We all know that what’s fun is pretty subjective, but it’s the job of folks like ArenaNet’s John Hopson to produce a “fun score” when performing user research. And he hates it. In a GI.biz op-ed penned by Hopson, he explains why and offers advice to fellow game developers on how to gauge fun without having to turn the nebulous idea of fun into a solid state that can be tracked.
“Don’t get me wrong, fun is absolutely the most important attribute of my games; it’s why I make games and it’s why people play my games. But I don’t believe measuring the fun of a game as a whole is especially valuable in most circumstances,” explains Hopson, who has over 16 years of games industry research and has worked on titles like Destiny, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, and now Guild Wars 2 as the head of analytics for ArenaNet.
Hopson’s opinion piece argues that the chase to make a game fun isn’t actionable and is subject to bias. He also argues that multiplayer fun doesn’t count, especially if you play a game with the right people:
“Even Tic-Tac-Toe is fun if it’s played with other people. The most boring activities in the world can be fun if there’s another human involved. The fun generated by other people is a given, something that would be equally true of any other game that group of friends could be playing. If your game is only fun when played with fun people, then it’s not actually fun.”
Hopson then goes into ideas on how to better handle fun scores, like using it as a way to get dev teams in a good mood before asking them to dig into the details of what needs to be fixed in a game and letting participants “enable the but,” as in let them explain that a game is fun but then include an actionable piece of feedback. “We just have to give them the chance to rate both the whole and the parts,” writes Hopson.
Considering Hopson’s years of expertise in the field, his opinion makes for some involved and intriguing reading, especially for armchair game devs.