Gamification: what about fun?

Fun is such a difficult topic. At the same time it is the real power behind the success of Gamification, nothing else. Every Gamifier says it is an important ingredient of Gamification. Professor Werbach in his Gamification course mentioned explicitly: “Don’t forget the fun!” There seems to been done some research on the subject, but I can’t find much about it. In this interesting post from Fun Theory the writer mentioned that:

 “The impact of fun is not just anecdotal. Scientific studies have proven that pleasurable activities such as listening to music causes the brain to release dopamine, often referred to as the’ feel-good’ chemical. Dopamine-induced pleasure may help explain why music has been such a big part of human society throughout history.

This seems very logical to me, since I for one strongly believe in fun. I recently read a comment about having fun at the workplace. Someone wrote:

 “Fun at the workplace, why? There is a reason they call it work!”

I find comments like these slightly annoying. Everything progresses, we learn as we go along. Work and fun is a marriage made in heaven. In my opinion we do not know enough about fun. I do know that fun has a positive impact on us. We get more creative, we get more energy, we can adapt more and it even has a positive influence on our health. Some people think that fun has a negative influence on seriousness. Not me! Fun is a team player, it goes well with many things. Here some nice mixes:

  • Fun and school
  • Fun and business
  • Fun and marketing
  • Fun and music
  • Fun and shopping
  • Fun and sport
  • Fun and websites
  • Fun and life

Still there are questions going around in my head that are related to fun.

What makes people experience something as fun?

Fun is for a large part personal. Humans are not the same and so are the things they enjoy. We have things in common. For example compliments, we all enjoy those. That’s the magic behind the reward systems. If you think about it, they consist of many small compliments. That also explains the success of companies like Badgeville. Reward systems are relatively easy to standardize with a more or less one size fits all philosophy. Personalized fun would be perfect, but for now impossible. We can however create fun for a specific target audience. That’s when the gamifier enters the scene. He or she needs to find out what the target audience enjoys and why. The gamifier has to play with the gathered information, throw ideas in the group and create a concept that contains fun. Everybody likes the unexpected. Humans enjoy anything related to their passion. Use that knowledge to create your concept.

When does fun apply to a large audience?

Every so often something pops up that is new, original and everybody jumps on it. Feels like the complete planet talks about it. It gets shared by the speed of light. These successes are just unpredictable! There is a lot however we can predict. Like mentioned at bullet point one, everybody likes compliments. Next to this, know your target audience and use their passion.

Can we adjust fun in the process to fit personal needs?

This is an interesting question and a challenge in one. As far as I know, this hasn’t been done yet when it comes to gamification. Doesn’t seem difficult to be honest. Make sure the system gets the information needed to find out what someone enjoys and provide them specific content. Measure the results and adjust. The goal in this case is to provide fun, therefore it is important to focus on that only. The result should be: “personalized fun!”

4.     Is fun to fuzzy, or can we get real grip on it?

With the knowledge available now it is impossible to get a complete grip on fun. It has to do with timing, culture, atmosphere, psychology, common sense, element of surprise, level of originality, to name a few. Too much variables! Like mentioned before, it is possible to get more grip on fun if it relates to matters that people enjoy in general.

Maybe we should be glad fun is fuzzy, makes it is easier to fool around with!
In the meantime I am very curious about your thoughts, it would help me a lot if you would share them. Makes it more fun for me.