Theory of ‘Fun’; What is fun and why do we play the games we do?

One of my assignments within my Theory and Practice brief included the following;

‘1.1 – research existing games in both a digital and none digital context, analysing why we play games, what makes us keep playing and why we perceive them to be ‘Fun’.’

I thought I would tackle within this blog post some of the reasons we play games, why we keep playing and why we perceive them in fun. Although this can’t be simply answered in a single blog post, and most likely will resort in an on going research process using numerous posts, I hope to at least begin to break down the reasons behind these questions and gain a better understanding through looking at theorists who have already came up with some answers through research of their own. I hope through this I can gain not only a better understanding for myself, but hope that those who read this will begin to look at games closer and notice some of the elements in which are mentioned and begin to ask themselves  the simple question, ‘why?’.

Recently I have been reading into a lot of material into game theorists so I could develop a better insight into why people choose particular games and what makes games fun. Although simple questions, we really don’t have a clear answer so I decided the best way to find this information out would be to pick up a book. The first book I encountered was ‘A theory of fun’ by Raph Koster; The title seemed to draw me to it as ‘theory’ and ‘fun’ was exactly what I was looking for!.  Within this book, Koster notes that other artists have been trying to determine ‘game’ for a long time but each in his opinion being met with little success.

Those few academics have tried to define “game” have offered up everything from Roger Caillois’s “activity which is..voluntary..uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, make-believe” to Johan Huizinga’s “free activity..outside ‘ordinary life’..” to Jesper Juul’s.. “A game is a rule-based formal system with a veriable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable.” – Theory of Fun, pg. 12

I would like to agree with Koster though, each of these may explain what a game is but doesn’t really make us see the aspect of ‘fun’ and gives us little to no understanding to why people choose to play games.

A few days ago, Paul mentioned about people learning in different ways and at different rates. Within Kosters book he notes there are seven different forms of learning;


  1. Linguistic – basically this is someone who learns verbally
  2. Logical-mathematical – this is someone who finds it easier to work with numbers and noticing patterns and tends to use logical reasoning
  3. Bodily-Kinesthetic – This is someone who finds themselves sensitive to the world around you, tends to be hands on with things and prefers to jump in and get involved by breaking things apart and putting them back together.
  4. Spatial – this is a visual learner, someone who prefers to organize information through images and colour and finds things easier to visualize.
  5. Musical – You learn through music, you find it easy to recall emotions and tends to have a good pitch and rhythm. Can help recalling particular memories or things you were doing when listening to a particular song or beat.
  6. Interpersonal – This is a social learner, you prefer to learn in groups. You like to talk your ideas through and listen to how others respond. You also find it easier to understand other peoples views.
  7. Intrapersonal (Internally directed, self-motivated) – You spend a lot of time self-reflecting and find it easier to work alone. you are self-aware and tend to use self-help books or locate information on your own to solve issues. You may spend more time trying to solve your own issue that could have possibly been resolved quicker by talking to someone else.

When looking at these, I find myself slip into multiple categories; Spatial, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal. Being both Interpersonal and Intrapersonal naturally has its complications such as being a social person yet preferring to deal with a task by yourself, yet by having spatial learning capabilities I am able to present my ideas in a Interpersonal setting using visuals in hope to resolve issues that I have not been able to resolve myself. I tend to find myself in books yet willing to offer a helping hand or discuss information I found which could benefit others. It is important that I am aware of how I learn so that effectively the information I need to learn can be taught to me and that I will remember it. It is also important to consider who I am wanting to display information to, as likewise they will need to have it presented in a way which will be useful to them.

Looking at this, I have noticed that this may reflect why some people choose particular games over others as a person who finds themselves a Intrapersonal learner may direct themselves at games or puzzles which they can tackle on their own such as solitaire while individuals who see themselves as Intrapersonal may find games that require a group such as Payday 2 in which you need to act as a team to effectively complete a match so communication would be important.

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