How can one change what they consider “fun”?

Most of this post is back­ground and con­text, so I’ve in­cluded a tl;dr hori­zon­tal rule near the bot­tom where you can skip ev­ery­thing else if you so choose. :)

Here’s a short anec­dote of Feyn­man’s:

… I in­vented some way of do­ing prob­lems in physics, quan­tum elec­tro­dy­nam­ics, and made some di­a­grams that help to make the anal­y­sis. I was on a floor in a room­ing house. I was in in my py­ja­mas, I’d been work­ing on the floor in my py­ja­mas for many weeks, fool­ing around, but I got these funny di­a­grams af­ter a while and I found they were use­ful. They helped me to find the equa­tions eas­ier, so I thought of the pos­si­bil­ity that it might be use­ful for other peo­ple, and I thought it would re­ally look funny, these funny di­a­grams I’m mak­ing, if they ap­pear some­day in the Phys­i­cal Re­view, be­cause they looked so odd to me. And I re­mem­ber sit­ting there think­ing how funny that would be if it ever hap­pened, ha ha.

Well, it turned out in fact that they were use­ful and they do ap­pear in the Phys­i­cal Re­view, and I can now look at them and see other peo­ple mak­ing them and smile to my­self, they do look funny to me as they did then, not as funny be­cause I’ve seen so many of them. But I get the same kick out of it, that was a lit­tle fan­tasy when I was a kid…not a kid, I was a col­lege pro­fes­sor already at Cor­nell. But the idea was that I was still play­ing, just like I have always been play­ing, and the se­cret of my hap­piness in life or the ma­jor part of it is to have dis­cov­ered a way to en­ter­tain my­self that other peo­ple con­sider im­por­tant and they pay me to do. I do ex­actly what I want and I get paid. They might con­sider it se­ri­ous, but the se­cret is I’m hav­ing a very good time.

There are things that I have fun do­ing, and there are things that I feel I have sub­stan­tially more fun do­ing. The things in the lat­ter group are things I gen­er­ally con­sider a waste of time. I will fo­cus on one speci­fi­cally, be­cause it’s by far the biggest offen­der, and what spurred this ques­tion. Video games.

I have a knack for video games. I’ve played them since I was very young. I can pick one up and just be good at it right off the bat. Many of my fon­d­est mem­o­ries take place in var­i­ous games played with friends or by my­self and I can spend hours just read­ing about them. (Just re­cently, I started get­ting into fight­ing games tech­ni­cally; I plan to build my own joy­stick in a cou­ple of weeks. I’m hav­ing a blast just do­ing the as­so­ci­ated re­search.)

Usu­ally, I’d rather play a good game than any­thing else. I find that the most fun I have is time spent mas­ter­ing a game, learn­ing its ins and outs, and even­tu­ally win­ning. I have great fun solv­ing a good prob­lem, or mak­ing a sub­tle, sur­pris­ing con­nec­tion—but it just doesn’t do it for me like a game does.

But I want to have as much fun do­ing some­thing else. I ad­mire math­e­mat­ics and physics on a very deep level, and feel a profound sense of awe when I come into con­tact with new knowl­edge re­gard­ing these fields. The other day, I made a con­nec­tion be­tween pretty ba­sic group the­ory and some­thing we were learn­ing about in quan­tum (noth­ing amaz­ing; it’s some­thing well known to… not un­der­grad­u­ates) and that was awe­some. But still, I think I would have preferred to play 50 rounds of Skul­l­girls and test out a new combo.


I want to have as much fun do­ing the things that I, on a deep level, want to do—as op­posed to the things which I ac­tu­ally have more fun do­ing. I’m (ob­vi­ously) not Feyn­man, but I want to play with ideas and struc­tures and num­bers like I do with video games. I want the same cre­ativity to ap­ply. The same fer­vor. The same want. It’s not that it isn’t there; I am not just ar­bi­trar­ily ap­ply­ing this want to math­e­mat­ics. I can feel it’s there—it’s just over­shad­owed by what’s already there for video games.

How does one go about switch­ing some­thing they find im­mensely fun, some­thing they’re even pas­sion­ate about, with some­thing else? I don’t want to be as pas­sion­ate about video games as I am. I’d rather feel this way about some­thing… else. I’d rather be able to hap­pily spend hours read­ing up on [some­thing] in­stead of what type of but­ton I’m go­ing to use in my fan­tasy joy­stick, or the most effec­tive way to cross-up your op­po­nent.

What would you folks do? I con­sider this some­what of a mind-hack­ing ques­tion.