Mark LeBlanc’s Taxonomy of Game Pleasures

  1. Sensation: beautiful visuals, good audio, tactile pleasure
  2. Fantasy: sense of place, immersion, suspension of disbelief
  3. Narrative: sense of drama, rising tension
  4. Challenge: compelling struggle
  5. Fellowship: shared intense experience, community
  6. Discovery: exploration, revealing the hidden, variety
  7. Expression: customization, self-representation
  8. Masochism: submission to game structures, mutual agreement to “play”


  1. “Do the visuals dovetail with the theme and approach of the game? Can they be made more beautiful? Does the voice acting suck? Should you employ a professional writer for your dialog? Is the music great, or does it make players start to fl inch after fi fteen minutes? Do the controls feel right, or do people keep forgetting which button does what, or does it give you carpal tunnel syndrome?”
  2. “Does the game background sound like towering, heroic fantasy, giving you the butterfly-stomach feeling you had when you fi rst read Tolkien, or is it lame, stereotyped orcs and elves? Do players get immersed in the everyday suburban world, its very familiarity helping make them care about the characters, or is it simply dull? Do players get so into being the autocrat of a banana republic that they start to talk in Spanish accents, or do they feel like 32 they’re playing some abstract force and don’t really connect with the game? What fantasy does the game provide, and do the systems make players feel that fantasy?”
  3. “If there’s a story to the game, is it emotionally satisfying? Does it feel that there’s a dramatic sweep to the game, or is the endgame dull, with your opponents on the run as you grind out the last few conquest to get to a win? When do players’ hearts pound, and why – and if the answer is “never,” what do you have to do to get them on the edge of their seats?”
  4. “Is the game a challenge, or too easy, or too tough for most people who play?”
  5. “Does the game create connections between the players, or do they never feel a need to communicate with each other or talk about the game? How can you create and sustain a sense of fellow-feeling, of shared experience, of community in the game? Are their structures you can build around the game – Richard Garfi eld’s notion of the metagame – to build a greater sense of ongoing participation? What are the social uses of your game?”
  6. “How do players fi nd things out in the game? What new things do they encounter over time? Is there a suffi cient sense of variability and novelty as the game progresses, or does it become more of the same-old same-old after time? How can you make exploring the game space more interesting?”
  7. “What opportunities for self-expression does the game provide? How else can you provide them, without encouraging your players to become profane or antisocial?”
  8. “Does it feel like fun to accept the strictures of the game, or do your testers just hate some restriction? What feels arbitrary about the game, and how can you make that aspect feel more like part of a coherent whole, a more natural evocation of the game’s aesthetic and worldview? Where do you fi nd yourself saying, “Damn, I wish I could do THIS….” And is there a way to let your players do precisely that?”

SOURCE: Greg Costikyan,


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