According to Johan Huizinga, fun is “an absolutely primary category of life, familiar to everybody at a glance right down to the animal level.” Psychological studies reveal both the importance of fun and its effect on the perception of time, which is sometimes said to be shortened when one is having fun. As the adage states: “Time flies when you’re having fun”.
It has been suggested that games, toys, and activities perceived as fun are often challenging in some way. When a person is challenged to think consciously, overcome challenge and learn something new, they are more likely to enjoy a new experience and view it as fun. A change from routine activities appears to be at the core of this perception, since people spend much of a typical day engaged in activities that are routine and require limited conscious thinking. Routine information is processed by the brain as a “chunked pattern”: “We rarely look at the real world”, according to game designer Raph Koster, “we instead recognize something we have chunked, and leave it at that. […] One might argue that the essence of much of art is in forcing us to see things as they really are rather than as we assume them to be”. Since it helps people to relax, fun is sometimes regarded as a “social lubricant”, important in adding “to one’s pleasure in life” and helping to “act as a buffer against stress”.
For children, fun is strongly related to play and they have great capacity to extract the fun from it in a spontaneous and inventive way. Play “involves the capacity to have fun – to be able to return, at least for a little while, to never-never land and enjoy it.