When my 2 boys are playing around in the Chic-Fil-A playground I’m pretty sure that fits the definition of Easy Fun. Lazarro describes Easy Fun in game design as a ‘vehicle for imagination’ that encourages exploration and role-play. There is a lot going on in this explanation of easy fun. When children are at play they are engaging with their imaginations and free exploration. In this definition of at play I am referring to the type of play where there is no rules or centrally administered goal of the play. The trouble with this particular use of easy fun is that classrooms usually have some sort stars are skill or content that needs to be reached. The good news is that video games, which were the original motivation for the 4 keys thought experiment, also have predesigned goals and skills tests.
Easy fun seems most closely associated with the Free Explorer Player Type; this type wants to be able to interact with the game world and to find a sense of awe and wonder. This can be found through the sheer joy of the mechanics (think of the joy of racing across the rooftops in Assassins Creed), a sense of grandeur (I think of just looking at the grand vistas while capturing chocobo in Final Fantasy), or exploring to find Easter Eggs (many hours spent clicking on walls in the original Wolfenstein 3D). Some really interesting work by Nick Yee (see the vitae for detailed studies) suggests that role play and immersion can be a very powerful engagement mechanic – for both male and female players.
There are a few lessons in thinking about adding easy fun to the classroom. Forts is Lazarro’s suggestion that easy fun allows “exploration, fantasy, and creativity” and to foster this increase the amount of easy fun allow more off track play. But as with all gamification elements,there is a balance involved. I remember trying to give ‘fun’ days after big end of course tests and letting students play games like mum ball (dodgeball variation) or charades. The novelty of that kind of easy fun wears off fairly quickly.
The deeper type of easy fun that appeals to the Free Spirits is a bit more complex to plan for,in the classroom. In my classroom it involves leaving hints around the room or in my flipped class lectures that lead to Easter eggs or a bigger puzzle. This allows interested students to explore the classroom. It also involves a bit of world building. I have crafted (what I think) is a fairly deep fictional world that students can explore through my fictional narrative. Its not exactly Harry Potter but at leqst one student told me that the story was the only thing that kept her coming back to the flipped lectures.
Overall, easy fun can be spontaneous and found in the joyful exploration of content or a classroom narrative; but easy does not have to be left to chance! Game designers can plan for easy fun by allowing opportunities for world building, or exploration (like in a sandbox game), or searching for Easter eggs. Often we mistake easy fin as the only way to have fun. Lazzaro also suggests that a way to decrease too much easy fun is to balance it by adding more badges and points to a game. This lessens the free exploration and engages more ‘Achiever’ and ‘Player’ player types (my synthesis of player types from Marczewski’s Player Type Hexad). This brimgs us into different types of fun – Serious and Hard.