I think it comes down to a question of what do we really find fun about Go?
In other activities where there is not so much focus on rank and winning, or with hobbies that are not competitive pursuits at all, it seems easier to focus on enjoying the activity simply for what it is, rather than for attaining some achievements or signs of progress.
When I was younger, and lived in the city proper, I would frequently join informal, pickup games of football (both of the association and American variety) at local parks. It was never about winning, we didn’t keep score and even the teams would have to be occasionally adjusted as people joined or left, but we had a lot of fun just by playing. I would also sometimes go play tennis with my friends, who were all much better at it, but I still had fun just by playing and hitting the ball around.
I’ve also participated in many large races, where the field would be greatly varied in running ability, and I’d inevitably finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Such events could be made more “interesting” (in some sense) if everyone received a time handicap in relation to their skill, but this is virtually never done (and maybe not just because of the logistical difficulties to arrange). Instead, I think most people derive enjoyment from trying to do better than their personal best, rather than beating any other arbitrary competitor running next to them, as well as simply enjoying the intrinsic pleasure of the exercise.
My point with these analogies is to express that there are different (overlapping, but still distinct) ways of enjoying a competitive pursuit:
- Winning games and tournaments
- Improving one’s own abilities and better understanding the game
- Simply enjoying act of performing the activity
To elaborate on the distinction between the first two items, consider that it is always easy to win a game by finding a weaker opponent, but then that isn’t very meaningful, and for the sake of learning, it’s often losing against stronger opponents that is most instructive. Even when we are not winning nor noticeably learning, such as when we are just talking about the game (like on a Go forum), it can be enjoyable to just think about the game, just like how some might enjoy watching videos about Go and of other people playing.
I think that “fun” is highly subjective and more about the mentality that we bring to the activity, rather than how we might try to reshape it.