The Revolution of Fun

The Revolution of Fun is a dissertation paper by Ferran Altarriba Bertran, conducted around the topic of gamification and serious games. Ferran looks at the potential of fun and games in non-entertainment contexts, the psychological theories and the basics of Game Design rules.

The Revolution of Fun

A study of applied games and fun as highly powerful tools to achieve goals in non-entertainment contexts through motivation and engagement.

The Theory of Fun

This section covers some of the usual things on Fun Theory like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and Johan Huizinga “Homo Ludens”…

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Then moves on to defining what a game is:

  • Elliot M. Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith state that “games are an exercise of voluntary control systems, in which there is a contest between powers, confined by rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome.”
  • Greg Costikyan, an American Game Designer and Science-fiction writter states that a game is “an interactive structure of endogenous meaning that requires players to struggle toward a goal.”
  • Tracy Fullerton, Chris Swain and Steven Hoffman, who state that “a game is a closed, formal system, that engages players in structured conflict, and resolves in an unequal outcome.”
  • Bernard Suits states that “To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs [prelusory goal], using only means permitted by rules [lusory means], where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means [constitutive rules], and where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity [lusory attitude].”
  • Jesse Schell states “Games cannot simply be problem-solving activities. One who plays them must also have that special, hard-to-define attitude that we consider essential to the nature of play. So, a definition that nicely covers all ten qualities might be: ‘A game is a problem-solving activity, approached with a playful attitude.’”
  • Raph Koster states “The definition of a good game is […] ‘one that teaches everything it has to offer.’ That’s what games are, in the end. Fun is just another word for learning.”

And briefly brings up Joseph Campbell’s narrative structure the Monomyth, also known as the “Hero’s Journey”.

Games and Psychology

This section looks at both the different forms of games (games, gamification, serious games, and gameful design), and the psychology behind games and fun.

Games, Gamification and Gameful Design

It starts with Andrezej Marczewki diagram where he divides games into four divisions, and also provides us with some definitions.

Differences in Terms (gameful design, gamification, serious games, and games)
Differences in Terms (gameful design, gamification, serious games, and games)
  • Game: a Game is a problem-solving activity approached with a playful attitude (Jesse Schell, 2008, p.37).
  • Serious Game: a Serious Game is a software or hardware developed through game technology and designed through game principles with a purpose different than just entertainment (Oscar Garcia-Panella, 2012).
  • Gamification: Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, return on investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning.
  • Gameful Design: a Gameful Design is the result of a design process where game thinking has been used.

Motivational Facts

This section looks at the motivational factors that games deliver (intrinsic and extrinsic), and touches on the RAMP model, which combines Daniel Pinks ‘purpose’ with Self Determination Theories ‘relatedness’, ‘autonomy’ and ‘Mastery’. After this it moves on to briefly mention Mark LeBlanc 8 Pleasures before discussing player types (Bartle, Marczewski, and Amy Jo Kim).

  • Intrinsic motivation: it refers to enjoying something for the only fact of the pleasure among from its nature (for example, playing football).
  • Extrinsic motivation: it refers to enjoying something due to the fact of there being a reward not necessarily connected to it (for example, working hard to get a salary). These rewards don’t necessarily have to be tangible (for example, a salary), they can be imaginary or virtual as well (a points system in a game).
R.A.M.P - Intrinsic Motivation - Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
R.A.M.P – Intrinsic Motivation – Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
  • Relatedness: the desire to be connected to others.
  • Autonomy: the desire to decide and choose own paths.
  • Mastery: the desire of developing a skill, mastering it.
  • Purpose: the desire to connect own actions with a greater reason. Often related to philantropism.

Game Design

This section explores the core parts of game design… game dynamics, mechanics and elements. It provides definitions for each and why they are important.

Starting with Dynamics where it briefly mentions Steven Reiss 16 Basic Desires and how they motivate human behaviours, before moving onto mechanics and Jon Radoff’s 42 kinds of activities that people enjoy doing, and ending with game elements (points, badges, and leaderboards).

At the end of this section it also briefly touches on Platforms and what to consider when deciding on the most appropriate one (e.g. analogue, digital, transmedia)—and storytelling as a key element in the system (motivating and engaging).


“games and fun in general represent something more than simply a way of entertainment. As they are directly related to human psychological needs and behavioural patterns, they become highly powerful tools for achieving goal”.

“If this relationship between human psychological patterns and game elements, mechanics and dynamics is clearly established, it means that game techniques and thinking can be used to successfully promote human behaviours.”

Bertran, F. A. (2014). The Revolution of Fun. Retrieved from