A (my) theory of fun

IGME 796 Enjoyment-Fun
“Fun is the human quantification of the complex series of events that accompany an enjoyable, meaningful interaction or set of interactions.”

In my master’s seminar on motivational game design, the professor asked us to write out a theory of fun, to discuss with the class. I was struck by how difficult it was to come up with a definition that was comprehensive enough to cover such a nebulous idea such as “fun”. I decided to make a very broad definition, as I tend to feel that fun can be quite subjective, and susceptible to the differences between humans natural social contexts. I began my definition by noting that fun is, in my view, a human idea. Though animals often appear to be displaying similar feelings to what we often call “fun” (puppies playing, kittens rolling about, etc), I would argue that these interactions are playful, but not necessarily fun, as we have no way of knowing how animals quantify this strange feeling. I’m sure many more intelligent people than I can likely prove me wrong, but until then, I stand by my assertion that animals cannot be known to be having fun. With that out of the way, I move on to “quantification”, a word that I used to reference the way that each person will have a different interpretation of what is fun to them. Each one will quantify things differently, and as such, will have a slightly (or extremely!) varied view of fun. Next is a “complex series of events”, which is mostly just a way of mentioning that fun must have some sort of flow through it. It is impossible(?) to have fun that occurs within one microcosm of time, as far as I know, since fun must be identified within the action before it is actively realized by the mind. This process of playing, realizing something is enjoyable, and then deciding it is fun is the series in my definition. “Accompany” is used to link the two halves of the definition – these feelings, etc (events) are related to an action, which is then seen as fun. Finally, “enjoyable, meaningful interaction”, is the actual activity that causes one to feel as though they are having fun. I think that the two things that make this moment usable from a fun standpoint are that it is meaningful, not just a random happenstance, and enjoyable, the real root of fun. By being enjoyable, it begins to be seen as something that is fun, and may be repeated, because of the level of fun it provides.

I am certainly still a bit nervous creating my own definition for something so massive as “fun”, and I am sure that there is room ¬†for improvement. However, it has been a useful exercise for me to struggle with the problem of what the three simple letters stand for: F-U-N.

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