David Thomas may have the ultimate dream job: his LinkedIn profile reads “professor of fun.”
Thomas has spent a lifetime thinking about what makes something fun and how play can improve work, learning, and life in general.
Thomas will be teaching “Finding Your Fun: How Play Can Save Your Life” over two evenings this September for University College’s Enrichment Program. With a tagline of “Catering to the curious,” the Enrichment Program has been offering evening and online classes with no tests, grades, or admission requirements for 20 years.
Thomas’ course is sure to have broad appeal, promising to help attendees unlock their inner playfulness and discover ways to incorporate more fun into everyday life. Before the first session, students will receive a “mystery pack” in the mail with an assortment of tools to help attendees discover more fun.
“Play is this gift that we have been given by life,” Thomas says. “What we have to do is overcome the fear of play to bring it back into our life.”
Thomas didn’t set out to study the theory of fun. He began his career as a journalist covering youth culture, and then specialized in coverage of video games.
“It started with this question of what makes one game better than the other,” Thomas says. “I found myself, little by little, moving towards this central point, which was: What is fun? How does it work?”
Because there was so little existing research on games and play, Thomas quickly became the expert himself. He explored what makes places fun (and got a Ph.D. in architecture), and studied virtual spaces, digital media, learning through games, and the aesthetics of fun objects.
Adding fun back into life
Play is actually very important, Thomas points out. Research shows that regular play improves our mental, emotional and even physical health. It can improve brain function, lower stress, and strengthen relationships.
Like any aspect of life, Thomas says fun is intuitive but can also be learned and taught.
“I want to give people a fuller palette of play colors that they can try for themselves. It’s truly the people that don’t feel like they’re having enough fun who should come to this class.”
While he does plan to relay a theoretical understanding of what exactly fun is and how play works, Thomas also promises an interactive class full of entertaining activities to help you build fun into your world.
“I will definitely give you a conversation topic for your next cocktail party,” he says, “but I will also give you googly eyes and challenge you to go make the world more fun.”
Thomas’ passion for this subject shines through; he believes that play has a place in the lives of everyone, young and old.
“Play may be amusing at the short term, but it can be kind of transformational in terms of how you view life. And if I do my job right, I want to open the door to that transformation. That’s what the Enrichment Program can do.”