Ian Schreiber writes on the question of “what is fun”:
When a game designer (or student) first starts trying to define why games are “fun” they have trouble even conceptualizing it beyond “I know it when I see it.” Then they encounter Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow and/or Koster’s Theory of Fun and have this huge epiphany: Eureka, all fun comes from learning a new skill! Then after awhile, they enter another stage of questioning this: wait a minute, if all fun comes from skill mastery, why aren’t students driven by the promise of fun to get straight A’s in all their classes (even the poorly taught ones), since that involves mastery of the material? Why is sex fun (by some standards), and yet doesn’t involve mastery (ahem, again by some standards)? At any rate, you could think of this as three stages of evolution of a game designer, and different designers are going to be in different stages, and when they encounter one another there will be chaos when they start discussing the nature of “fun.”
I find that Marc LeBlanc’s 8 kinds of fun is a much more comprehensive answer than Koster’s or Csikszentmihalyi’s. He categorises eight different features of an activity that can make it fun. So to answer the question of “Why is sex fun?”:
- Sensation – Game as sense-pleasure
This is the most obvious. Sex feels good. If done right, it can also look, sound, smell and taste good. And like a well designed game, the sensation is in the activity, not just something you admire from afar.
- Fantasy – Game as make-believe
Sex play can involve fantasy. Again, I don’t think this needs too much explanation. Part of the fun of sex for some people is the make-believe aspect.
- Narrative (I prefer Drama) – Game as unfolding story
The sexual act is a naturally dramatic one involving suspense, climax and resolution. You can add other kinds of drama by, say, having sex in a public place.
- Challenge – Game as obstacle course
Despite Ian’s objections, sex can involve challenge for the person who is so minded. Pleasing your partner can be an interesting challenge if you’re up for it. You can even create ‘difficulty progression’ by choosing more challenging positions.
- Fellowship – Game as social framework
Sex is a social activity which builds relationships. It is pleasing to do because it involves interacting with another person and working with them to achieve a pleasure experience for both of you.
- Discovery – Game as uncharted territory
Sex is an act of exploration and experimentation, both in terms of ‘discovering’ you partner’s body and in terms of trying new and unusual positions.
- Expression – Game as soap box
While perhaps not usually ‘artistic’ in the normal sense, sex is nevertheless a major act of self-revelation, expressing who you are.
- Submission (I prefer Meditation) – Game as mindless pastime
This category I’m not sure about. Perhaps ask someone who knows more about Tantric sex than me.
I wrote this quickly off the top of my head. I’m sure you could write many books on any one of these categories. I don’t think in any case I’m over-reaching. Sex is obviously a very well designed game.