There are two ways to play a game. You can play to enjoy or you can play to win. Both can be fun.
Most people play to enjoy. That's when you "experience" the game. You learn new skills, you get caught up in the theme, you play your positions using cards or armies. Your moves are themed, too: you "auction a painting", or you "build routes".
Even if the game appears to be abstract you can get caught up in its "theme". For example, Yinsh is entirely abstract but the major rule is to jump your ring over disks, flipping them afterwards. That's thematic: you "jump" and "flip". You may jump and flip a long line just because it's cool.
When you play to win, theme and objects entirely disappear. All "cards", "armies", piece names, move names, map conceptions, and flavor gets tossed out the window. Instead, there are only resources that must be maximized. You have X time or X moves left. You have Y tokens to move. Every rule is the same: what can you move, and when. Every move must maximize your points. Every token must be working as hard as it can.
All games, when they are played to win, are race games. I wrote about Playing to Win before.
What's the Difference?
Winning a game you played to enjoy is fun, because it's fun to win. If you lose, the game was fun too. Winning a game you played to win is fun, because it's fun to succeed, be proven the best. If you lose, you will work hard at winning the next game.
Is one of these approaches right and one wrong?
From one perspective, playing to enjoy is holistic and healthy, while playing to win is inhuman and anti-social. From another perspective, playing to enjoy is irresponsible and soft, while playing to win is focused and success-oriented.
What do you teach your kids about games? What do you teach them about life? If not the same thing, why are they different?
What About Your Life?
Look at the moves you made today and yesterday and last week in your life. Are you just whiling away resources in your life that could be working harder? Do you make every minute count? Are you driving to win? Is that inhuman and anti-social or focused and success-oriented?
Or, do you enjoy the experience, kick back, not take life too seriously? Is that soft and irresponsible or holistic and healthy?