- Over at Gamasutra, we've just posted a new Ian Bogost column, the latest in his Persuasive Games series about social/serious games, called 'How I Stopped Worrying About Gamers And Started Loving People Who Play Games' - and it's intriguing stuff.

Firstly, the piece is a riposte to a recent Slate article which criticized serious games (in general) and some of Bogost's titles (specifically), and particularly referencing 'Stone Cold', a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream shop corporate training game which his firm completed in 2005. Bogost notes there continues to be emails regularly asking to play the game, despite the fact it's not available to the public, continuing:

"Why, then, would so many people be so interested in the game? Perhaps some are misconceived teenagers yet to have been disillusioned by a soul-crushing job. Perhaps others are as smart and skeptical as Peters suspects they might be, and they want to see how possible workplaces represent their expectations for labor. But my sense is that most of them just like ice cream, are intrigued by the Cold Stone work experience, and want to have a go at it for a few minutes."

I think this is a bit of an off-topic argument in some ways (the game looks like a Diner Dash-style casual title, so people probably think it plays like one, when I bet it's tuned to teach) - but Bogost hits the nail on the head by discussing: "Are casual game players having fun? Maybe. But more likely they are zoning out. PopCap even built “zen” mode into some of their games after players reported that time limits and other traditional challenges created an experience quite different from the one they were seeking in such games."

A key revelation in this article is that there are games out there which are meant to reward skill and reflexes (a traditional gamer's approach), those which simple reward you with constancy and repetition until the 'zen' state is approached (many casual games - though some mainstream titles such as Diablo, too), and even those which aren't meant to be played for hours or days, but make a point through their interactivity or gameplay (I'm particularly thinking of works like Bogost's Disaffected).

Is it fair to 'score' the latter two, and to say that they are 'boring' and 'not proper games'? Sure, if you're in the core gamer demographic. But they still have artistic value, intrinsic value to those playing them, and the first two cases still bring addiction. Where I think Bogost is struggling, though, is that the third sector, including those so-called 'newsgames', can carry across a message without wanting or needing addiction. As such, it's easy to dismiss them. But probably not fair - since they're art too, even if not aspiring to the addiction/replayability goal that we're used to.