Friday, April 25, 2008

Who says what Fun is anyway?

A distraction

I know you really want to read this blog post, but here, play this game first.

Google Image Labeler

I'll wait - don't worry about me.

Wasn't that fun?

Congratulations, you just spent your time, for free, improving the quality of Google's image search projects. I bet you don't feel ripped off or cheated at all. In fact, you may have even enjoyed it so much that you played a few rounds. So Google, a big company, is getting you to do work for them by disguising it as a game.

Disguising? They pretty much flat out told you what you were doing.

Who says what's Fun?

Tom Sawyer, that's who.

I think that this concept of turning things normally considered "work" into "fun" is a really powerful idea that can change the way people view certain tasks. Google's Image Label game is one example, and Tom Sawyer convincing his friends that whitewashing a fence is a fun activity - even getting them to pay him for the privilege - is another, but they seem relatively isolated. What are other ways our society promotes "fun is work is fun"?

Look at Toys

Toys are fun, right? We make balls, puzzles, and action figures, and all of these are great "non-work" things to do. But what else do we make?

Oh man, I love chores and yard work! They're the best! I can't wait till I get some free time, I am going to go vacuum every room in my house! While I, as a budding young adult, may not enjoy these activities, the sense of 'helping out' and the fantasy play that children get out of these toys are what make them fun.

Skewed Perspective on Fun?
Ultimately, what I think everything boils down to is a misguided sense that work and fun must be separate activities. People who love their jobs find them enjoyable, and people who don't can't wait to get home to do something else. Notice that retirees tend to play golf and work on hobbies instead of continuing to do what they were doing professionally? This implies that there were things that they wanted to do while working that they didn't get to do. If someone totally completely loved their job, why would they ever leave it?

Make it Fun

Here is a list of businesses that work because the products they produce are fun.

  • Hollywood

  • Music Industry

  • Apple

  • Soap Bubble Companies

  • Board Games

  • Bowling Alleys

  • Laser Tag

When was the last time you got really excited about your thumb tacks, your stapler, or your forks?

What about glow in the dark thumbtacks, those big twisty straws, or bowls with cartoon characters on the bottom?

Make the experience fun.

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