What the fun?

“Gamification” is a term both overused and misused. It seems that many people don’t really understand what it means. Admittedly I hadn’t given it much thought until today during a great presentation by game designer Ian Bogost entitled simply “FUN”.

“You can’t make something fun that isn’t”, he says. It’s a resoundingly simple, obvious (yet overlooked) statement.

Bogost warns of “covering broccoli with chocolate”. We can’t possibly make things fun if we don’t take them seriously. Simply layering a game atop something that is boring or horrible will be found out as the lie it is.

When we think more deeply about what makes a game, what makes something fun, it’s actually about rules, structures and resistance. To play a game means to overcome unnecessary obstacles, and to do so voluntarily.

So the next time someone flippantly says “we need to make this fun” or perhaps worse still “let’s gamify this”, challenge it. Fun cannot be created. We have to accept things for what they are and treat objects and systems with dignity. Think about your product or service – can it possibly “produce fun”? Or will you be found out simply chocolate coating the broccoli?

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