Here's a very quick, unproofed post. Admitting that makes me feel a little dirty inside.
I think the fun vs. time aspect is a way people tend to measure things. That's why demos and shareware were so great back in the 90s. You could actually try before you buy. Blockbuster, for awhile, made an entire business model out of that. Now, we get very few free trials. Games that do give them out tend to be few and far between, or games like Diablo III that know they've got it made no matter what. This builds off of yesterday's post.
Then look at games like Magic: The Gathering or other board games; how do you really give a free trial of something like that? The old Portal decks, where the rules told you what to do for the first few turns were OK. But... that didn't really teach you if you liked the game. You may never find out if you really like a complicated game like that for days. Games like Munchkin you can pick up pretty quick, but a table top RPG you may like the mechanics but hate the group.
So, how do you figure out, now a days, if this thing is worth your money? You can gamble, which is what some people do. You can try Metacritic or other sites to get a read on what other people think. You can do a bleg (a blog that involves begging) and ask people for ideas and opinions. You can borrow books from a library or find a board game store doing a demo and play with people.
You know what would be interesting? If I ran a game store, with this as a problem, I would schedule daily game demos. Let people try something. Have someone on hand who knows the rules to teach them, that sort of stuff. But, that runs you into the next problem. I might very much enjoy Magic: The Gathering. But, if it takes me three months of reviewing cards and tweaking decks to play it, am I enjoying it enough to be worth my time?
How, exactly, should we measure fun vs. time? I still don't know! So, for now, I'm going to stop wasting time on it and do something fun.
I promise. Tomorrow: History or gaming. Honest.