Hard Fun

Hard fun is a term coined by object-oriented programming pioneer Alan Kay to describe an activity that is both challenging and enjoyable.  Hard fun activities help participants learn how to manage frustration, develop and test new strategies, and gain confidence. In the context of education, hard fun activities create safe learning environments where students can comfortably experiment, as they are not expected to be "successful" at the activity the first time they try it. Many strategy-based and role-playing games are developed with this principle in mind. “Having fun and setting up an environment in which laughter is commonly heard is one of the best ways to help children manage their frustration when working with technology” (Bers, 2008, p. 38-39).

Alan Kay is an American computer scientist.  He is known for his early pioneering work on object-oriented programming and windowing graphical user interface (GUI) design. After meeting Seymour Papert in the late 1960s, Kay familiarized himself with the works of educational theorists Piaget, Bruner, and Vygotsky.  Papert defined constructionism as, “the idea that people learn by actively constructing new knowledge, rather than by having information "poured" into their heads” building off of Piaget’s theory of constructivism. The ideas of these theorists and of Constructionist learning helped shaped his view on quality educational programming (Butler & Strohecker, 2005).  He famously coined the phrase, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." (Viewpoints Research Institute, 2011).

Ralph Koster, President of Areae, an American computer technology corporation, delivered the keynote address at The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in 2007 entitled, The Core of Fun.  His address is based on his book entitled A Theory of Fun for Game Design, where he describes the qualities of a fun game.  According to Koster, fun games are those that present challenges to the user.  The challenges can be solved in a number of ways by which different outcomes are achieved (Koster, 2007).


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Alan Kay Picture retrieved from

Bers, M. (2008). Blocks to robots: Learning with technology in the early childhood classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
Koster, R. (2007). The core of fun. Retrieved June 11, 2011, from http://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/etech07.html.

Viewpoints Research Institute. Retrieved June 4, 2011, from http://www.vpri.org/html/people/founders.htm.

Butler, D., & Strohecker, C. (2005). Developing Self-Esteem and Empowerment through Expressive Computational Materials. Proceedings of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education , 736-741.