As wikipedia says:
A problem is an obstacle, impediment, difficulty or challenge, or any situation that invites resolution; the resolution of which is recognized as a solution or contribution toward a known purpose or goal. A problem implies a desired outcome coupled with an apparent deficiency, doubt or inconsistency that prevents the outcome from taking place.
So, in other words, one could say that movies are about characters that have to deal with problems. Novels are about characters that have to deal with problems. TV series are about characters that have to deal with problems. Videogames are about characters that have to deal with problems.
The thing is, videogames are the only medium that asks the audience for the solution to said problems. In doing so, the problems themselves become the focus of … let’s say 99.9% of videogames. They become an exercise in problem-solving to the point of alienating some people. After all, they have enough real problems, why would they want to spend their time solving fictional problems that in no way help them get on with their lives?
I do realize that what I’m saying sounds pessimistic and maybe I’m just trying to dig deeper than I should, but the fact remains that some people do not want to spend their free time solving problems and consequently they don’t see the appeal of videogames as a whole.
This makes me pause for a bit and think, because at the end of the day, videogames are more than just problem solving. Though I did find my way into videogames because I enjoy solving problems, I also found that there are quite a few other ways to enjoy games. To name a few: the exploration of mechanics, verbs and space, the sense of inhabitating a fictional world, the …. the …………..
Well, this is awkward.
Oh! How about the sense of fluidly moving through the game’s space? That seems like it fits, kinda.
Yeah, I’m way over my head, aren’t I? I do know that there are lots of ways to enjoy videogames, but I seem to really struggle articulating what those are. Anyway, where was I? Oh, right:
Even though I can’t make a list of the ways we can enjoy videogames, I do stand by this: It is possible to construct a videogame and have the player not deal with a single problem.
I think it’s a shame that there are not that many videogames out there that are not about solving problems (honestly, the only one I can think of off the top of my head is The Graveyard), but I do understand why that is. It’s the same reason why most movies are about characters that have to deal with problems, because problems are interesting, because they spice things up, because they bring conflict, because they are at the base of the dramatic structure.