The full title to this book is Fun, Taste, & Games: An Aesthetics of the Idle, Unproductive, and Otherwise Playful.
This Book and The Eureka Room
I’ve split my thoughts on this book into two posts.
One for the book itself and this one, examining particular passages and ideas which spoke directly to what I’m trying to do with The Eureka Room.
Fun Now. Well-Being Later
There are both hedonic and eudaimonic payoffs in fun: you can enjoy it in the moment and you can benefit in various ways long after the experience is over. “Eudaimonic experiences provide well-being”. Gameplay produces “emotions and in some cases reflection.”
Fun isn’t just about the feelings you have in the moment. There can be many lasting emotional, mental and physical effects. (Perhaps in a future revision of this post I’ll pull out my positive psychology books and list some references to back up and enhance this claim.) At the very least we all know there’s a special enjoyment that comes from reflecting back on fun times.
I don’t want to just be creating throwaway moments. I want to create something beautiful and fun now, which is reflected on later. Not just in just a “oh that was so much fun” but in ways like, “I was a little worried about those strangers in the room with us but they turned out to be really fun/good/safe people”, possibly leading to behaviors (conscious or not) that lessen the apprehensive or prejudices of strangers in the future.
On that note..
A Place to Expand Reality
Even though the Eureka Room is another reality, or a play space, or a game or whatever you want to call it, people are still aware of the “real” world. No matter what rules you create or how immersive the world feels, “Human instinct will show through anything and everything. [The player] always has one foot inside the game and one foot planted firmly in the reality of human experience.”
The visitor is always in two places at once. The Eureka Room want to be a place where we can experiment with ideas and behaviors in a safe(r) space. Since the visitor has one foot in reality and one in pretend reality, they can not only experiment with ideas in behaviors in the pretend reality and transfer any learnings and habits back to the real world.
Note that this phenomena is morally agnostic. Both good and bad behaviors and ideas can be fostered in the pretend reality and taken back to real reality.
But let’s assume we’re developing the good stuff. Then what?
Play and Society
Historian John Beckman described “American fun” as a “joyous revolt”. I’m not sure if I entirely agree but I find that description very ….inviting. Perhaps he’s closer to the mark than I want to admit.
Here’s more from the book on Beckman:
Beckman sees an important of democracy at work in the very American style of playful rebellion: “So how has such a tumultuous public, historically riven by deep social differences (class division, racial prejudice, partisan politics, culture wars) ever gathered in peaceable activity, let alone done it time and time again? The answer is by having fun – often outrageous, even life-threatening fun”
That passage resonated perfectly with what I want the Eureka Room to be. Often outrageous, even life-threatening fun. Ok, maybe not really life-threatening but definitely the feeling of real risks being taken in the name of fun, or in the name of joyous revolt. Revolt against whom? Not whom, but what. “What” being the powers that collude to keep us focused on our differences instead of our similarities. Similarities like the craving for fun.
Roger Caillois says it this way: “The spirit of play is the source of the fertile conventions that permit the evolution of culture.”
Two Certainly Related Notes
There were two lines from different sections of the book that I underlined which I think fit together in some way that I can’t quite articulate just yet.
The first is “In a culture that downplay emotions, particularly for young men, it stands to reason that the culture as a whole looks down upon play and its affective productivity.”
The second is Bernie DeKoven’s idea that “maybe… freedom itself is fun. Maybe fun itself is freedom.”
When my intuition gives me more well-spoken details on why these seem to go together I’ll post an update.