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Classifying Fun Factors

I've only seen "fun factors" given as an unordered list. This post suggests what may be a useful way of organizing them.

I was very interested to read about the Fun Factor Project, particularly as it hadn't been obvious to me how many were there were.  This is a work in progress I believe, but the last post offered 40 ways in which gamers can have fun.  I suspect it was part of the point of this list that it was unordered and unclassified but, given the person I am (which I suspect will come out further in future posts), I couldn't leave it like that.

I came up with three main categories, each with a similar number of subcategories. What's more, the categories fit a model that I think provides some extra insight.

Note that for details of the fun factors, you should follow the above link.  I've added the odd extra (mostly taken from the comments on that post), but they are hopefully obvious enough.

The Categories

Exploring the Game World

What will I see?
What can my avatar do?

Subcategories and fun factors

  • Discovering the new
    • The joy of exploration 
    • Sense of danger and surprise
    • Unique perspective experienced via non-human avatar
    • Exhilaration
    • Exploring and building relationships in a virtual or simulated world
    • Creating characters
    • Drinking in the atmosphere
    • Familiarity (from previous games or other media)
    • Hunting, collecting, and unlocking
    • Admiring and experiencing beauty
  • Experiencing the story
    • Interactively experiencing a good story
    • In-game humor
  • Doing things you mustn't or cannot get to do really            
    • Virtually interacting with familiar real-world places
    • Command            
    • Destruction        
  • Wielding extra power            
    • Power fantasy       
    • Heroically navigating a virtual architectural playground

Playing the Game

What can I do?
What will I get out of it?

Subcategories and fun factors

  • Real skills
    • In the zone play
    • Assuming responsibility
    • Hyperkinetic play
    • Simple mechanics, complete mastery
    • Casual play based on familiar real-world analogs
    • Learning nuances
  • Real thinking
    • Puzzle solving
    • Making the player feel clever
    • Immense challenges
    • Battle of wits
  • Real achievement
    • Intricate cooperation
    • Leading the least to become the greatest
    • Advance preparation enabling player success
    • Shared experience
    • Building and customizing
    • Competition
    • Beating the clock
    • Striving for the perfect run.
    • Social opportunities outside the game

Enjoying the Meta-Game

What's been done to give me this game?
What was the creator like?

Subcategories and fun factors

  • Good implementation
    • Tactile control of avatar
    • Fluid, responsive movement of character or vehicle
    • Technological wonder
    • Understanding the creator's work
    • Playing with physics
    • Exploiting the glitches
  • Jokes
    • In-jokes
    • Breaking the fourth wall

The Model

The three categories above are based on a model of three elements:

  • The player (P)
  • The game world (W), which includes what the players avatars or units can do in that world
  • The "interface" (I), which is basically everything else, including the GUI (menus, HUD, etc), the control schemes, level design, etc.

I see each of the above categories as being about the interface between two of these elements.

  • "Exploring the game world" is about what the interface allows you to do in the game world (IW).
  • "Playing the game" is about what the player can do in the game world (PW), which will obviously have to be through the interface but is not about the interface, and is sometimes despite it.
  • "Enjoying the meta-game" ignores the game world largely, and is about the way the player interacts with the interface (PI).

Why is this useful?

I think it's always useful to have a new lens with which to look at game design.  In this case, I think the categories are particularly useful in checking whether the fun factors for your game a distributed where you'd expect. Are you pitching the game right for the fun factors it actually delivers?

For instance, to take the example de jour, Minecraft currently scores well in all three categories, through allowing the player to explore its worlds (and experience its surprises), to build, and to enjoy the meta-game (e.g. by reading about Notch and exploiting the glitches). Will it be able to maintain all of these strengths as it heads for Beta and possibly the mainstream? Will some of the current audience lose interest if the physics glitches are polished out?

I realise that some of my categorizations may be controversial, and my nomenclature may not suit many of you, but I hope this sparks some interest, and look forward to your comments.

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