Exercise Six

For Exercise Six, I brought in a Barrel of Monkeys and observed peers engaging in simian delight. The official instructions on the barrel are to “Dump monkeys onto table. Pick up one monkey by an arm. Hook other arm through a second monkey’s arm. Continue making a chain. Your turn is over when a monkey is dropped.”

Initially subjects would attempt to twist the lid off (probably believing that it screwed on like plastic bottle caps). Often inadvertently they would pop it off as it was designed to, the unanticipated force throwing the plastic monkeys into their face and other undesirable places. Subjects would then begin hooking monkeys (either intuitively or from familiarity with the toy) though they would often skip the first step, hooking monkeys straight out of the barrel, or ask what the objective was. After hooking a few monkeys, they would either resign in explicit frustration or attempt to disturb the remaining monkeys in a manner that would make them easier to hook. If the unchained monkeys were still in the barrel, attempts to jostle them would involve tilting, shaking, or bashing the barrel against the table. Subjects would often drag a chain against the table to pull up monkeys flat against the table.

Despite expressions of frustration, subjects were transfixed by the challenge; several testified that the toy is the coolest ever and that they could spend hours playing with it.

Challenge and competition are major contributions to the fun quality of Barrel of Monkeys. Appealing colours and open ended states certainly don’t hurt. The clearest problem is communicating to the user how to open the barrel appropriately and use the monkeys in the most satisfying manner. The toy’s endurance, distinction, and franchise confer with the success of the design.