What is fun?

In our gamification work, we are often asked will it be educational and at the same also fun? The thing is fun is subjective and often personal. In a previous post on this blog, we looked at the areas of the brain that process fun being different for men and women, so that is a first differentiator. Also when we speak about fun in a work-related setting, we rarely intend for comedy like belly laughter. But a smile or chuckle should be within reach.

Fun also depends on your state of mind, mood, your environment, your skills and abilities to name only a few of the conditions required to conjure up a recipe for fun. Either way, not easy to design for. I would, however, expect that user research will tell us some of these things, so our chances of achieving a fun experience are higher. It still wouldn’t be a 100% guarantee though for every single player.

Most importantly we design for engagement. Very often we hear people say, something was fun after they had to make a serious effort and felt challenged to achieve their fun goal. The subject matter is irrelevant, it can be a physical race, a project or a game. What made it fun is the fact that they achieved beyond their original estimation or just experienced what is called flow state. We can tailor our gamification design to include an element of stretching abilities and skills a little beyond the existing comfort zone of the player to achieve some of that flow state.

Doing something new or unusual for some people can be fun, for example going to try Batik painting on fabric for me was great fun, even if before I went I had no idea if I would like it. What made it fun was the company of the people I had with me, the act of creating something beautiful which I wouldn’t be normally very good at (my drawing of stick men is basic, smilies, however, I can master better).

Unusual events, new experiences and funny statements can help achieve a fun experience. We tend to encourage our clients to use funny titles for badges for example. For a project we are working on relating to cybersecurity we are asking the experts to come up with slight deviations from what people know, so Wannacry could be MadeMeCry as one suggestion. People in the industry would know very quickly what it relates back to and it brings that chuckle or smile and gives an additional talking point.

A great starting point is to become mindful of what you find fun and to notice what brought you to that point.