Welcome to Fun or Frustration!  To start off, I should probably explain the name of this weblog.  Essentially, the situation is this:  You’re perhaps not an average joe, but you’re an average gamer – maybe you’re not the best with a mouse or a gun, or maybe you’re in the same boat as many young adult gamers: you want to play, but jobs and other responsibilities mean that you can’t spend hours at a stretch honing your skills at any particular game.  You’re in the market for a game, so you hop online, or go to your favorite local store, and pick up a nifty, newly hyped copy of Game X.  And then, once you’ve freed it from the shrink-wrap and you’re about to start it up, the question pops into your head.  “Am I going to have fun all the way through this, from the splash screen through to the credits?  Or is this game going to quickly turn into an exercise in frustration?”

And right there, in that question, lies the problem.  If you’re the kind of gamer I am, if you have limited time or inclination, or if the most important part of gaming for you is that you’re actually having fun instead of slamming your head against the wall, you probably know the type of frustration I’m  talking about – the impossible boss battle, the impenetrable puzzle, the area that’s blocked off until you complete hours of mind-numbing missions – the moment when a game is transformed from a fun, enjoyable, and perhaps even escapist experience, into an exercise in mind-crushing vexation.  And in that moment, perhaps you’ve had the following thought: why did I just pay good money for a game that’s causing me to go apoplectic?  Aren’t games supposed to be fun?

My argument, of course, is that they are.  In fact, my argument, simply put, is this:  I’m paying good money for a game, in some cases quite a considerable amount, $50 or more (and yes, I am one of those people who actually goes out and buys all the games that I play).  In return, I expect to be able to use every bit of the game I purchased – every level, every function, every mode.  If there’s a story, I should get to see it through to the end.  I should be able to experience the game, ideally, as I see fit, but at the very minimum, I should be able to complete the entire content of the single-player campaign, regardless of my skill level.

It seems like it should be a simple paradigm of entertainment, doesn’t it?  If I buy a music CD or a DVD movie, I reasonably expect to be able to access the entire thing.  If I was banned from seeing the second half of a movie because I didn’t insert the disk into the drive with sufficient speed and artistic flair, I’d be up in arms, and so would everyone else.  People often claim that games should be included in that category, as another legitimate branch of entertainment, and yet all too often they fail to meet this fairly basic tenet.

Remember, a game isn’t part of your job.  You aren’t making money (generally) by playing it.  You’re playing the game to have fun, and you’re (hopefully) paying for that opportunity.  At the very least, the game ought to owe you the chance to do so.

So, essentially, the intent of this site is to talk about the challenges and requirements necessary to make games playable and enjoyable for everyone who plays them, as well as to review games not on their graphical prowess, but on their gameplay and their ability to give everyone an enjoyable single-player experience.  I emphasize single-player here in order to placate the objections of hardcore gamers – I’m certainly not arguing for any modifications to multi-player games, where the entire idea is to test your skills against other players. I’m also not arguing that games should be exclusively easy; all I’m arguing is that games should include options – varying difficulty levels, free-play modes, and so on – to allow players at any level to get the most out of the gaming experience.

In any case, welcome to the site – I hope that I can engage you in an interesting discussion about how to make games, and gameplay, err on the side of fun rather than frustration.