Fun is one of six creative constants that apply to all games. When discussing it in a wider context than games, it often helps to qualify it as gameful fun to avoid confusion.
Fun is the joy of winning while mastering fair game dynamics. It is the positive feeling that emanates from the part of your mind (called the play brain) that is fascinated by the mechanical systems of play, and has a desire to overcome them. If the play brain is not interested then it is very hard to get players to keep playing a game, even though they may like the world or the characters.
Fun in this sense is something that many game designers find hard to accept, especially in the context of artistic ambitions. Various designers instead point to broader models of fun, including other kinds of joy such as curiosity, exploration, socialising, wonder, artistic meaning. While all of these joys are valid things to include within the boundaries of games, conflating them with fun is a purely semantic justification.
The reason for being so specific on what fun is, and maintaining that it is a creative constant, is this: While all the other joys are a part of games, without fun none of them is able to retain the interest of the play brain over the long term. Without fun, games rarely achieve any kind of traction among players, engagement rates are much lower and completion rates drop significantly.
Fun is necessary whereas other joys are more fluid.
- Creative Constant
- Loss Point
- Play Brain