Explore the anatomy of fun in gamification!


Explore the anatomy of fun in gamification!

Explore the anatomy of fun in gamification!

We all have experienced fun in our lives; we can even say when and measure it. But can you describe it? Would you be able to say what fun is made of? Would you be able to create fun?

Fun in Gamification

Fun is such an easy thing to feel and recognize but such a hard thing to create.

In gamification, fun is the key to create motivation, addiction and virality, which will make your game successful and enjoyable for the players.
It turns out that often, game designers lose sight of that goal and tend to focus more on tangible aspects of the system (points, badges, leaderboards…). However, thinking too much about the game design framework and the actions performed by the players will mislead you. Games are not only about activity loops, rules or design; they are also about fun! You get pulled into a game because it feels enjoyable and this is exactly what you want your gamified system to be for your players.

As I said, describing and creating fun is a pretty tough endeavor but Nicole Lazzaro, a researcher, game designer, founder and President of XEODesign Inc took up the challenge. By surveying, observing, recording players and non-players to assess the emotions they felt during play, she pointed out that the player experience is how the player interactions creates emotions. She believes that, bestselling games use emotions from four types of interactions to capture attention and motivate players:

  • People Fun (Friendship) Amusement from competition and cooperation. “The people fun provides the excuse to hang out with friends. People are addictive, and these mechanics over time build social bonds and team work. Everyone wants to spend more time with their friends.”
  • Easy Fun (Novelty) Curiosity from exploration, role play, and creativity. “The easy fun inspires exploration and role play. Fun failure states, fantasies, or simply enjoying the controls enchants and capture the imagination. Easy fun is the bubble wrap of a game design.”
  • Hard Fun (Challenge) Fiero, the epic win, from achieving a difficult goal. “The hard fun provides the opportunity for challenge, mastery, and feelings of accomplishment. Hard fun focuses attention with a goal, constraints, and strategy.”
  • Serious Fun (Meaning) Excitement from changing the player and their world. “The serious fun purposely plays changes how players think, feel, behave, or make a difference in the real world. The excitement of games enlivens otherwise boring tasks. Serious fun is play as therapy.”
4 keys 2 fun. A guide for gamification


Another interesting framework was developed by Marc LeBlanc to conceptualize games. He hence came up with 8 different kinds of fun: sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression, submission (http://8kindsoffun.com/).
Whether it be Nicole Lazzaro’s or Marc LeBlanc’s approach, by understanding the different reasons why people play games and what fun is made of, the game designer will be able to create more emotions to better captivate the players. Since each key unlocks a different set of play experience, a game should not just focus on one type of fun but give the ability to the player to alternate between them during a single play.

Of course fun is something that you feel and when it comes to feelings the description and categorization tends to be more subjective. It’s also something personal depending on what you want your players to experience. However, to be sure your gamified system will be a success we recommend you to choose and follow an approach developed by an experienced and recognized faculty.

Now your turn! Think about the last time you had fun, try to analyze why it was fun and post your analysis in the comment box right below.

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