After you've read enough columns by the dozen or so editorial writers and columnists in this industry, you may notice that most of us have certain themes that we keep coming back to, faithfully as homing pigeons.
For example, VT publisher Alicia Lavay writes often about good management principles (with a personal touch). Editor-in-chief Tim Sanford writes regularly about the wise application of new technology to classic business strategies (and vice versa). Bulk and coin-op entertainment editor Hank Schlesinger sometimes focuses on guerrilla tactics for small business, and other times reveals how the latest political and economic environment impacts street operators.
As for your humble music and games editor ... my mind keeps returning to the subject of fun. Specifically, the importance of fun. The value of fun (see VT, Feb. 2007: "From Edison To iPhone: Fun Trumps Technology"). Even the morality, nobility and spirituality of fun (see VT, May 2010: "Are Amusements Necessary?"). If that sounds far-fetched, please keep reading.
You see, I think many in the music and amusements community get so caught up in the incredibly hard work of running a company, expanding their market and defending a besieged industry that they forget this business is supposed to be about fun.
That's understandable. But now and then, somebody should remind us that the amusement business is supposed to be amusing, and not just to its customers, but also to its purveyors. Who trusts a chef who doesn't eat his own cooking?
As professional baseball player Crash Davis reminded his teammates in the classic Kevin Costner movie, Bull Durham: "Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, okay? Fun, g-ddammit."
One of the smartest, hardest-working, most successful men I know was recently advised, "You should laugh more. It is one of the few things in life that is both extremely enjoyable and actually great for your health." The man decided to take this advice. Today he works as hard as ever, but he smiles more, laughs more, and enjoys each day more. That has to be good for your heart. It's also a fantastic way to reduce stress in a tough, frenetically paced economy.
President Teddy Roosevelt, a man with world-class zest for life, reportedly broke into a big, prolonged belly laugh 40 times a day. Assuming eight hours of sleep, that works out to one session of roaring laughter every 25 minutes. No wonder photos of Teddy always show him grinning.
Steve Shoemaker, owner of the Fun Factory (Los Angeles), turned 75 years young last month. There's a man who knows the value of fun. He not only runs his arcade; he practically lives there. He's always inventing new games -- for fun. He lives life as play. A belated happy birthday to a man who will always be young at heart.
Okay, so fun is good for longevity, mental health and a convivial office atmosphere. But does fun boost your business? Well, it certainly can. The most successful business leaders are the ones who approach work like a game. We've all heard of the game of life, the game of business, even the game of love. The amusement industry is the game of games. We simply have to remember that surprisingly often, the best way to work it, and win it ... is to play at it.
In the short term, the name of the business game is making money. In the long term, the name of the game is keeping the business going and growing. In the longest term, the name of the game is keeping ourselves going and growing, both mentally and -- here comes that word again -- spiritually.
As this column has reported before, there are some successful operators, distributors and manufacturers out there who get their biggest kicks from making fortunes and then giving huge chunks of it to good causes from orphanages to scholarships. The best fun, and the most rewarding fun, is good for your heart in more ways than just oxygenating your blood when you laugh.
The subject of fun came up recently during a very enjoyable interview with incoming AMOA president Andy Shaffer of Shaffer Services (Columbus, OH). Shaffer recalled the era when coin-op games defined the cutting edge of technology and fun. "Where has the fun gone?" he asked. | SEE VT's SHAFFER INTERVIEW
One of Shaffer's presidential undertakings this year will be to encourage the industry to get back some of the buzz, the excitement and the fun of its glory days. That is a very tall order. But Andy's ambition tells me this is a fellow with the right priorities who understands something very important about this industry. Fun isn't just fun. It's a mission, a service and -- for amusement pros -- a high calling.