My long-standing goal, in both work and personal life, is to create “fun”. I currently make games for a living, so I’ll be focusing on games for this post.

What is Fun?

Games like Flappy Bird and 2048 show that as long as you have one crucial element that provides fun, even the simplest of games can be a huge hit. And in fact, for games like these it is necessary that they be the simplest of games, with no other elements distracting from that core nugget of fun.

The makers of Threes went through a tremendous amount of creative iteration before publishing their game. They considered the game system that eventually would become 2048, but decided that it didn’t fit their criteria for what makes a game “good”. I would imagine that during the game design process they prioritized the game’s strategic depth, such as the lack of a clear correct way to play. They nixed 2048 because it’s relatively easy to score high if you stick to one corner, and they felt that this detracted from the game’s potential.

As it turns out, those elements that they felt would make the game less good in fact ended up making the game more fun, and led to the huge success of 2048, which implements the simpler version. I’m not arguing against the quality of Threes, which was widely acclaimed for good reason. My point is simply that more people found 2048 to be more fun.

Searching for Fun

Unfortunately, fun is elusive. The harder you look, the harder it is to find. You need an extremely creative mindset, and inspiration that is stumbled upon is often the most fruitful.

When I make a new thing, I will inevitably spend time imagining what might be fun. This doesn’t always work, and tends to get me in a rut.

When you try to predict popular opinion, your inspiration comes from current popular opinion. You’re in a box before you’ve even begun. The process is something like this:

  1. See what is popular
  2. Analyze why it is fun
  3. Replicate that funness in an original product

People cutting corners on the originality bit is what leads to the epidemic of copycat games, but even if you give it an honest shot you’re still very limited in what the final product can be, because your thinking began within the confines of what already exists.

Discovering Fun

This is what the process ought to be:

  1. Have an original idea
  2. Find a way to make it fun
  3. Focus on the funness and remove unnecessary parts

By some brilliant stroke of luck, I think that Pokemon Fusion managed to accomplish this. It was an exceedingly simply idea that appeared in my head one day, and a no-fluff website was enough to convey the funness that I had found.

Having original ideas is hard, but I’m trying to find ways to make it easier. I think the most important thing is to follow what interests you. The road to interesting continues onward to fun, but you need passion to follow the path. And if you reach the funness that awaits, you will likely have discovered a “fun” that only you could find.