Why I Hate Fun

I hate fun. Or rather, I hate the word “fun” but I get accused of hating fun itself from time to time. When explaining my play preferences to others, I am often met with the phrase, “I prefer to just have fun.” I find that highly insulting as it suggests that what I’m talking about somehow isn’t fun.

I hope the idea that what one person finds fun another person might find tediously dull has become obvious and second nature to most of gamer culture by now. That point isn’t the focus of this article. Instead I want to talk about an interesting trend I’ve noticed among those who do share my play preferences (at least to the point that I’ve played games I like with them successfully). The trend I’ve noticed is their reluctance to describe the play experience as “fun.”

What I’ve recently learned is that, for some, the word “fun” carries with it a sense of frivolity. As such people are reluctant to apply the word “fun” to something something like Grey Ranks. Instead they use words like “satisfying” or “rewarding” or “worthwhile.” Which is odd to me because if something isn’t “satisfying,” “rewarding,” or “worthwhile” to me then it isn’t “fun” either. I simply do not attach that same sense of frivolousness to “fun” that some people do. So to me, Grey Ranks is simply fun.

More recently I played “A Flower for Mara” during which I revealed one of my most foundational childhood moments and cried through out the whole thing. I still had fun and was very entertained even though the profound emotional effect of the game took almost two full days to wear off. In the past I’ve been accused of enjoying “social violence,” of being “an emotional masochist,” and even being a “sadistic” GM. Maybe I am but I would never do any of that without my fellow players’ consent.

This has unfortunately created the impression, to some, that I don’t like games with strong color. This is highly inaccurate because color is extremely important to me. What I don’t like is reveling in color for color’s sake. It’s not that I don’t enjoy punching robot Nazis in the face, it’s that I want my punching robot Nazi’s in the face to be grounded in something recognizably human beyond simply enjoying the image of my character punching a robot Nazi in the face.

That said, I fully admit that my colors of choice tend to run blood red, passion purple and moral grey but they’re bright vivid and highly contrasted glossy comic book shades of those colors. I prefer “It Was A Mutual Decision” over “A Flower For Mara” even though they both deal with highly personal, grief related emotions because the former has a wererat in it. I prefer “Dogs in the Vineyard” to “Dirty Secrets” because while they’re both about rooting out social corruption the former has demons and sorcerers in it. (Don’t get me wrong, I love and highly recommend “A Flower for Mara” and “Dirty Secrets” both very very much).

So in the end I will continue to use the word “fun” to describe my emotionally tumultuous play preferences. But please keep in mind that I like to be emotionally tumultuous while punching robot Nazi’s in the face.

7 Responses to “Why I Hate Fun”

  1. unwrittencontinuum Says:

    So, it seem like, to me at least, that when you say “fun” you mean, something that you enjoy, something that brings with it emotional satisfaction… interesting. You see, I agree with you. The key thing seems to be that “fun” is one of those words that are defined by the user when he or she is using it. So, if someone says to me, “I just like to have fun.” I might say, “Me too.”

  2. mythiccartographer Says:

    I see another side to this too, one you probably recognize.

    Does “fun” mean:

    “Something I escape my daily life with”
    “Something I enrich my daily life with”

    Does “fun” indicate a superficial experience, or does it mean something deeply meaningful?

    Can “fun” change you, forever, every time you experience it?

    I think that Story and Game, far back in our ancestry, always indicated a mythic depth – our games and stories always dealt with or imitated the activities of the Gods. Only now, in a modern consumerist world, do we have “entertainment”, the creature born from splitting Wisdom/enrichment away from Story.

    If I tell you an episode of Buffy, or the Wire, changed me and made my life richer, would you laugh? Would I feel embarrassed to say such a thing? Why?

    To me, these kinds of issues get to the heart of my struggle with this “fun” business.

  3. I am actually fairly judgmental about the word “escapism.” If you are *really* using an activity to “escape your daily life” then I think you have a problem. The good news is that I don’t think the majority of people actually “check out” in the manner that I imagine when they talk about “escaping daily life.”

    There’s a big difference to me between “unwinding” or “de-stressing” and actually “escaping.” The former is simply about engaging a different part of your life than you do on a daily basis. Guys who get together, share a beer and shoot some pool are not “escaping from daily life.”

    Television no matter how “fluffy” the material is often a highly social thing. Even when viewed in isolation people (a) derive personal strength from some characters and themes that they bring back into their daily lives or (b) engage with other fans over the material even if it’s just to speculate “what will happen next.”

    However there ARE people who engage television, novels, what have you to “check out.” They either AREN’T actually processing what they’re watching OR they’re indulging in a kind of a wish-fulfillment where they just kind of “believe” for a minute that life could be something else but bring NONE of that hope, strength, what have you back into their actual lives. The characters on screen are living life FOR these people because they honestly believe they could never have a life like that. It’s an extension of the, “well, someday” problem that some people have.

    This is almost worse in a role-playing context because what you have is a bunch of people getting together and then *failing* to socialize. They role-play because it means they don’t have to actually engage other. Ron Edwards used to refer to this kind of group as, “an a-social huddle.”

    Fortunately, I think that “activity as drug” behavior is much much rarer than people claim. However, if you really, truly are “escaping daily life” then I think you need to re-evaluate your life.

  4. mythiccartographer Says:

    I accept “unwinding/de-stressing” as a better term than “escape” (if you meant it that way).

    But I still see that dual nature; do I play to “unwind” or “de-stress”?

    No, I don’t think ever expect such a result from my story-gaming. I play to enrich, every time; to explore difficult subjects; to experience unusual emotional states; to understand characters that I struggle to empathize with. To learn new things.

    On rare occasions, I feel energized by story-gaming, after we’ve finished. Most often though, I feel satisfyingly drained.

    My style of story-gaming would probably make a spectacularly poor unwinder (though maybe a good de-stresser?).

    For me, this inspires another line of questions though; for those with horrendous jobs and stressful family lives, perhaps they don’t have room for the “enriching” style of storygaming, in a ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ kind of way.

  5. […] you might also find “Why I Hate Fun” an interesting read. The author defends the idea of emotionally tumultuous […]

  6. oberonthefool Says:

    When I say “I just want to have some fun tonight”, what I mean is “I don’t want to have to work for my fun tonight”. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have fun when I do work for it, but hey, language is imprecise like that.

  7. […] do Play Passionatly (que aliás, vale ler o blog inteiro, é excelente): I hate fun. Or rather, I hate the word […]

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