04 Jan 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

What is Fun?

A 4-1/2 minute audio file.

What is Fun? MP3

Discussion prompts (post your answers below):
  • What is your definition of fun? 
  • What kind of video game is not fun for you?
  • How has your own definition of "fun" changed over the years?
  • What other issues did this clip raise in your mind?



Honestly, I do not think I agree with Koster’s ideas concerning fun. I agree that this endorphin release from learning is one type of fun, but I believe that there are other forms as well. I do, in fact, think that happiness can be connected to fun. They are definitely two different feelings, but I think that happiness can inspire fun and vice versa. Personally, if I am happy doing something, I generally consider it to be fun.
Taking a risk does release those endorphins and cause someone to say that an experience was fun; however, I don’t think all videogames really fit into this type of fun. Something else could cause these endorphins to be released, possibly just simple enjoyment might do so. I find adventure videogames to be entertaining and fun, but games based on war or shooting zombies do not really fall into that “fun” category. I do not see the point to them and they do not inspire fun for me. But maybe that is fun for someone else? Maybe that is where Koster’s idea of risk and endorphin release comes into play? It might feel like a great risk for another player, whereas for me I do not see the objective in the first place let alone feel as if I am taking a risk in that type of game.

I decided to post this response in my blog because I wrote a lot more than expected and don't want to clog up the course website.


I agree with Koster in the fact that endorphins are released into our system when we are feeling good; however, my personal definition of fun would not include scientific processes but simply that fun is enjoyment. If I am not enjoying what I am doing at any particular moment then it is not fun to me and would probably stop. The exception here could be work; I cannot just stop that at any moment. I agree with Jessica Krehlik's comment that if I lose track of time, then the fun has also become an escape, and that is a bonus.

I enjoy a variety of video games from puzzle-solving to action-adventure to racing. I find that Role Playing games are boring and repetitive to me, and I do not enjoy playing those types. Although I know that the Final Fantasy series offers fantastic story lines and music, I have no fun playing it. I also could not bring myself to play Assassin's Creed even with the beautiful free world, since it was the same type of action over and over. Even though I enjoy racing games, I have more fun with silly racing games (i.e. Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing) over Nascar-type racing games. This might be because there is more interaction with the other players in the game.

My definition of fun over the years has changed more with my personal attitude. When I was younger, having fun revolved around what I loved to do and not what everyone else considered fun. While I still have fun doing activities that I deem fun, I have also learned to have fun and "be in the moment" doing other activities with my family and friends. Koster said that we become bored with simple games like "tic tac toe." If that was absolutely true, then why do adults still play it and have fun with children? Koster seemed to have forgotten that other external factors can influence fun than just the game itself.

Listening to the clip made me think more about James T. Kirk's nexus. Captain Kirk realized that nothing was real in the nexus and there was no risk involved, so he left. If humans favor uncertainty, then what about the movie, "The Matrix, since the matrix was essentially the nexus but yet only a select few realized that it was not real and got out? Maybe it is a little bit different because humans in the matrix were given choice and not just everything that was pleasurable. I also agree with Jessica Krehlik's comment about cheat codes. They are not fun to use now that I am older because it just seems more like a letdown that I was not smart enough to figure out the game on my own.

You raise a a good point, Susan. Why do adults play simple games with kids? Let's get even simpler than tic-tao-toe and think about why we play "peek-a-boo" with a baby. A baby can't play chess or Madden football, so we choose something the baby can do, and it's "fun" for us when we watch the baby learn new things, because it means we're learning how to teach a baby new things.

Adults don't play peek-a-boo or tag with each other very often, though of course if the adults have romantic intentions, even the simple games can take on new social meanings.

So you're very right to point out that games have a social dimension. That's a detail that works against the stereotype of gamers as social outcasts and loners, so you won't often hear TV talk shows bring up the question of games as ways to foster social bonds.

I believe Koster's first idea of fun is correct, with stating that endorphins are released from our brain to makes us feel good when we do something, such as suddenly understanding a clue from the New York times crossword. Fun to me is being able to do something with enjoyment and excitment, as well as, do something with the people you love.
I agree with Beth in the fact that happiness can be connected to fun. When people are doing something and they are happy doing that thing, most people would consider themselves to be having fun. An example would be when I am playing soccer. If my team is winning a soccer game and we are playing well together then our team, myself included, are happy that we are winning, therefore, having fun playing the game.
The type of video games that are not fun for me would be the video games I am not very good and the video games that I lose at. I enjoy video games such as sports games and mario, that are relatively simple to understand and you can master over time.
My defeintion of fun has changed with my attitude towards life and as I have gotten older. Over the years and the fact that I moved away from home for college, my friends and faimly have become much more important in my life. I could have fun just sitting around and watching TV as long as I was doing it with my group of friends from home. Also I feel like I am happy and have fun doing the little things with my friends like playing cards or simple games like tic tac toe.
I feel like Koster forgets the fact that having fun is not always about what the game is but more about who you are playing the game with. Just as Susan said Adults love playing tic tac toe with their children. Adults may not enjoy playing such a simple game like tic tac toe with another adult but they love who they are playing the game with, and that simple factor makes the game fun.

I agree completely that who you are playing the game with makes a huge difference. I think something boring or not exciting can be made fun if you're doing it with friends who you genuinely enjoy spending time with.

Beth Ann, when we read Koster's book, A Theory of Fun, he'll get the chance to explain his ideas more thoroughly -- my quick summary doesn't really capture the fullness of his approach. So I think you'll find he has plenty to say about the social construction of fun.

I look forward to it!

Fun is a definition that sereves many meanings depending on whom the word is attached to. I never thought of "the brain rewarding us with drugs" as mentioned in the audio file. I always assumed that fun was associated with an emotion. I did not think that fun was something temporary, like a drug, but that would make sense in a video game course because vidoe games are temporarily fun.
My idea of fun was previously physical activities: snowboarding and skateboarding. Currently my idea of fun is playing snowboarding and skateboarding games on my Xbox. Wow! I am getting old. But with old age comes wisdom. When one becomes older, it is wise not to partake in activities that my damage the bones. Besides, they are more challenging on a video game console than snow or pavement. There are more things to learn on a video game, and a game cannot hurt you.
R.P.G. are not fun for me. They serve no entertaining value. There is so much to read and do before making a primary move that is just bores me to death. I am a fan of first-person shooter games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Those games are action packed and put you in the middle of the action. Not to mention, when played live, they offer hours of countless entertainment. Games are best played Live because you get newer ways and opinions on the particular games being played.
I was left with a question after listening to the audio file. Does "a good game teaches us everything it has to offfer"? We are gamers not the makers of the games. How do we know a "good" game offered us everything there is? Why are there sequels to a game if they are so good? If it was so good then there should only be a part one, not a two, three, and four.
I guess that's why I took EL250.I wanted to broaden my perspectives on vidoe games. I only have the opinion of a player.

Fun is trying to overcome a challenge against someone or something else. In Left 4 Dead 2, it's the survivors struggle to escape. In Chess, it's trying to achieve checkmate against your opponent. In Mario Kart, it's seeing what place you can be in at the end of so many laps. Of course, others may have different views of what is fun. Vandalism may be fun for someone, but it is also damaging to property. So fun takes on an ethical meaning as well.

The games that are not fun for me are those that do not allow the player to play fairly. Any game that has sloppy controls, poor hit detection, overly complex rules, and no hint of where to go next are unfavorable.

My definition of fun has gone from completing simple challenges to more complex and strategy oriented ones. I loved playing with Lego's when i was younger, building all kinds of vehicles, buildings, and landscapes. The skills learned then carried over when i was playing a Half-Life 2 mod a few months ago. I was required to assemble a vehicle, drive it through areas filled with Zombies and then escape. Prior to that i was tasked with building the Gravity Gun. With Lego's it would have been as simple as attaching that little yellow circle piece on the end of a gun, but in the mod i had to adjust mirrors to guide a laser through an intricate process and correctly place different colored crystals. Experiences build on one another.

After listening to the clip, the idea behind achievements in games came to mind. Achievements should reward you for doing something challenging, not ridiculous. Completing the game should award you an achievement. Using an item in-game should not. A cat that likes to sleep on your controller could earn that.

Fun, for me, just as Jeremy mentioned, has an emotional connotation. If I do not feel any attatchment to the main character or storyline in a game- the same goes for books or movies- I will not have very much fun playing through it. This is why I tend to enjoy RPG's- they usually feature lengthy storylines and have a multitude of interesting characters. My favorite RPG's are Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and several Final Fantasy titles. My taste for these kinds of games is rather newly acquired. I used to be perfectly fine with blasting away at aliens just because they were aliens. Now I am more interested in who the aliens are and whether or not they are friendly. Not that I don't enjoy disposing of extra-terrestrial cannon-fodder now and again.. especially when I'm in a bad mood.

Jeremy, I just picked up a copy of Left 4 Dead the other day. I've always been a fan of 1st person shooters, but not so much of zombies, so I was hesitant to buy it, and I have to admit that, at first, I absolutely hated it. At times, I still find myself jumping when the zombies attack, but it's slowly growing on me. I like the controls and the fact that the environment is so interactive, like being able to pick up a propane tank to throw at a hord of zombies.
I do disagree with you about R.P.G.s having no entertainment value. You don't always have to read a ton of information to enjoy the game. Take Fable and Fable 2, for example. Both of these games offer a great story line but also a lot of shooting and hack-and-slash experience. It's got a little bit of everything. Throw in the fact that your actions (good and evil) dictate where your story will go, and it seems like game designers Lionhead Studios stumbled across a fantastic game. But that's just my opinion; as we can already see, in the world of videogames, everyone prefers a different type.

Jeremy, I am assuming that you did not choose to play Thy Dungeonman in the Strongbad assignment because of pointless text. I agree that R.P.G. games can be boring, but in relationship to the Johnson video, those players have to comprehend or nest a lot more information than other game genres.

You also raise a good point about what makes a good game. Sometimes it feels that we are supposed to love a game just because there is a lot of hype surrounding it. God of War is a good example. Sure the graphics were great, but the overall game was way too hard and frustrating for me to enjoy. Do not get me started on sequels. My sister and I just had a conversation about the new Prince of Persia game that is in the works. Apparently it will take place in between two of the other games in the series; now that it confusing to the player.

Jessie, did you pick up Left 4 Dead or Left 4 Dead 2? Either way, both of them are excellent shooters. I like how you must rely on your teammates in order to succeed, you can not go alone and hope to survive long. The controls are much like any other Valve game, with the exception of the melee attack to knock back zombies, and they are easily mastered after a short while. As for jumping when the zombies attack, it is a horror game after all, so its good that its managed to produce an emotion.

Matt, I bought Left 4 Dead 2, because the graphics on the back of the box, but I actually wasn't that impressed with the graphics so far. I haven't played it for very long, because I've been caught up in Assassin's Creed 2, but I do agree with you about the team effort. I'm a big fan of co-op mode in other games, so that's one of the things I really liked about this game. It's slowly growing on me, even if I do get a little jumpy now and again, but what else should I expect from a zombie game?

Honestly, I was bored with Left 4 Dead 2! I know, the graphics are really good, I agree. Like you said though, it's mastered so easily. I need something with more substance to it rather than just shooting zombies. Or am I missing something?

Beth, some questions:

What difficulty were you playing on?
Were you playing with actual people or the AI?
Have you tried Survival mode, Scavenge mode, or Versus?

I'm new to this whole video game thing, so I guess I should play around a bit more! I've mostly only played it with a friend so, I just kind of followed his lead. I'll definitely try some of the other modes though and hopefully I'll find them more interesting!

I actually got pretty frustated with the Left 4 Dead 2 early on because there's no map or guidance for where to go-at first. It took me and a friend probably a half hour to get out of the hotel alone because we kept running around in circles. I'm not saying there isn't value in forcing users to figure it out for themselves, but a little help is nice--I was happy when the game gave me a target for the cola in stage 3 of the first campaign. I haven't tried the other game modes yet either...Matt, which do you suggest?

Jessie, since you like a little help, I don't think Realism mode would be the best one to try out first. It gets rid of the outlines of the survivors, special infected, and items, and makes everything a bit tougher to kill. Scavenge mode is just like the finale for Dead Center. You and three other survivors have to try and get as many gas tanks into that car in the mall for you to escape while 4 other players play as the special infected. If you have a good group that mode can be incredibly fun. As for Versus, I have yet to try it out. So definitely try a round or two of Scavenge.

Different modes add a whole new level to game playing and repeatability. It is interesting that one mode or difficulty level could be more or less fun depending on the person.

Again, this debate comes back to the social nature of gaming. Playing games with one person who has a certain personality will be very different then playing with someone who has an entirely different personality. The same could be said when playing with or against an AI (who really doesn't have one.)

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Recent Comments

Matt Takacs on What is Fun?: Again, this debate comes back
Susan Carmichael on What is Fun?: Different modes add a whole ne
Matt Takacs on What is Fun?: Jessie, since you like a littl
Jessie Krehlik on What is Fun?: I actually got pretty frustate
Beth Anne Swartzweld on What is Fun?: I'm new to this whole video ga
Matt Takacs on What is Fun?: Beth, some questions: What di
Beth Anne Swartzweld on What is Fun?: Honestly, I was bored with Lef
Jessie Krehlik on What is Fun?: Matt, I bought Left 4 Dead 2,
Matt Takacs on What is Fun?: Jessie, did you pick up Left 4
Susan Carmichael on What is Fun?: Jeremy, I am assuming that you
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