As a strapping, young 6th grader swaged out in my Metallica T-shirt, I sat in Mrs. Farrar’s class. My teacher had this notion that smart, little 12 year old boys and girls should not be having fun but conversely “NUF”. “NUF” was a term that she coined in order to create the false image that because we were in an advanced program we should not be having fun, we should be diligently working our little pre-teen butts off. But her approach was quite to the opposite side of the river, in class we did an exuberant number of activities, long board games, story writing/telling, and pajama parties. To everyone else outside of our class room we were nerdy, well-behaved (except when I shook that standard), little know-it-alls, but in our own separate reality we knew the “truth” about what we really were.
This what we do when we explore the realm of fun. We escape into a world that is our own or that we share with a finite group of people, that can be sculpted into what you see fit. As I sat there feverishly running away from little colored ghosts, I caught myself floating into this realm. One could say that I entered a state of flow or arousal, because my conscious thought drifted from my normal hum drum life to forgetting about my car payments, rent, friendships and my own body. As Brian Sutton-Smith put it, “games/play makes life less shitty.” The challenge of PacMan matched my skill having me climb diagonally in Csikszentmihalyi’s optimal experience where I may have entered his flow state until I hit the 4th level where the challenge of dodging the ghosts overtook my skill and caused me to become frustrated and bored with the game.
I have to say that playing games such as PacMan, Space Invaders, Rachet and Clank and many others, are quite ‘fun’ to me. I indulge almost once a day to delight my pleasure in a little free, un-judged learning. In my life, I try to treat every moment as a teachable moment and think that is what makes life so beautiful. Every time you open your door there is a new challenge, shit sometimes opening the door is a challenge. There are many aspects of the word fun. One could derive that fun is specific to the individual because of the always changing case by case bias of personal opinion, although for me fun is freeing and effortless. PacMan was not effortless but it was just the right amount of freedom within a set of rules and boundaries that made the game easy to navigate and advance.
I think for PacMan to be not ‘fun’, it would need to inherently difficult and confusing. Then the game transforms from a bright world of ghosts and gobbling little yellow men and becomes an endless stream of debauchery and discontent in the players patience. Once a game or activity becomes tiresome, boring, confusing or forced (in context), it then enters a realm much to the transverse of fun. Although the point of view of the player that gets bored can be easily altered with a little change from a troubled, hard view of that activity or game to a more open approach where they let the game take them. So ‘fun’ is just the state of mind of the person having fun, the moment his attitude sours, the real world rings his/her name or the game becomes too difficult the fun is ceased.