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Jotaf comments on In Praise of Boredom - Less Wrong

22 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 January 2009 09:03AM

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Comment author: Jotaf 21 January 2009 03:09:17AM 1 point [-]

Emile and Caledonian are right. Eliezer should've defined exceptions to boredom instead (and more simply) as "activities that work towards your goal". Those are exempt of boredom and can even be quite fun. No need to distinguish between high, low and mid-level.

The page at Lostgarden that Emile linked to is a bit long, so I'll try to summarize the proposed theory of fun, with some of my own conclusions:

You naturally find activities that provide you with valuable insights fun (the "aha!" moment, or "fun"). Tolerance to repetition (actually, finding a repetitive act "fun" as well) is roughly proportional to your expectation of how it will provide you with a future fun moment.

There are terminal fun moments. Driving a car is repetitive, but at high speeds adrenaline makes up for that. Seeing Mario jump for the first time is fun (you' found a way of impacting the world [the computer screen] through your own action). I'm sure you can think of other examples of activities chemically wired to being fun, of course ;)

Working in the financial business might be repetitive and boring (or at least it seems that way at first), but if it yields good paychecks, which give you the opportunity to buy nice things, gain social status, etc, you'll keep doing it.

Jumping in Mario is repetitive, and if jumping didn't do anything, you'd never touch that button again after 10 jumps (more or less). But early on it allows you to get to high platforms, which kinda "rekindles" the jumping activity, and the expectation that it will be useful in the future/yield more fun. Moving from platform to platform gets repetitive, unless it serves yet another purpose.

(The above is all described in Lostgarden and forms the basis of their theory of fun, and how to build a fun game. Following are some of my own conclusions.)

The highest goal of all is usually to "beat the game"/"explore the game world"/"have the highest score", and you set it upon yourself naturally. This is like the goal of jumping over a ledge, even if you don't know what's beyond it (in the Mario world). You ran out of goals so you're exploring, which usually means thinking up an "exploratory goal", ie, trying something new.

You can say that finding goals is fun in itself. If you start in a blank state, nothing will seem fun at first. You might as well just sit down and whither away! So a good strategy is to set yourself a modest goal (an exploratory goal), and the total fun had will be greater than the fun you assigned earlier to the goal in itself, which might be marginal. A more concrete example: The fun in reading "You win!" is marginal, but you play through Mario just to read those words. So I guess that the journey is more important than getting to the end.