Found this at Mefi– the eight types of fun, and how they relate to tabletop RPGs.  The author uses it to explain why different people enjoy different types of campaigns, or different rulesets.  Go read it!

Just for fun, I thought I’d go through the eight types as they apply to video games, and rate how important they are to me.

A mirror.  In Mirror's Edge.  Pretty sure there are edges too

A mirror. In Mirror’s Edge. Pretty sure there are edges too

1. Sensory Pleasure – how much things tickle your eyes, ears, and whatever other senses are available.

Rating: A.  I want games to be gorgeous; retro games are a big turnoff.  Music isn’t very important, but I do respond to good voice acting.

2. Fantasy – immersion, role-playing, feeling that you’re part of another world.

Rating: B-. I do love a good world, and if it’s pretty original (a la Jade Empire or Mirror’s Edge or Vampires: The Masquerade: Bloodlines or Fallout 3), all the better. But I’ve also played in some gorgeous maps (Rage, Skyrim) that leave me kind of cold. They’re well done and yet something is missing.

3. Narrative – how much do you need a good, involving story?

Rating: I have to divide this up.  Plot: A.  I have to care about something. The counter-example is Rage, where there’s no reason to care for any NPC or the PC; or Far Cry 2, where I lost the desire to do scumbag missions for scumbags.  Characters: B+.  I love a good NPC; the PC can be more bland.  Story: C.  It generally doesn’t bother me when the story is stupid.  Stupid stories, like “Get away from the zombies!”, are fun if you’re in them.  Contrariwise, game creators attempting to be arty (Braid) are probably in the wrong line of work.

On the other hand, it’s amazing how much some work in this area can make a game shine.  I’m playing The Secret World right now, and it’s full of fetch quests.  But they lavished attention on the writing, the voice acting, the NPCs.  It’s ten times more interesting than the farmer who asks everyone in the MMORPG for help killing giant rats..

4. Challenge – how hard is it?  How do you win?  Whats the best strategy?

Rating: B-.  I do like getting good at a game, but I’m far from someone who needs to maximize their build and beat the game on Megadeity.  Plus there’s some things I’m really bad at and don’t want to see in your game, like having to toss slow projectiles at fast aerial targets.

Game designers can easily ramp up the challenge to infinity, and make it unplayable for everyone except for teenage twitch artists.  I prefer an interesting challenge, like getting through a Portal level, or getting through a Dishonored mission without killing.

5. Fellowship – relaxing with friends.

Rating: depends on my mood… A to D.  I love co-op games… I loved co-op mode in Left 4 Dead, and I’ve spent hundreds of happy hours with my friend Ash in Borderlands.  I’m still playing TF2.  But I’m also quite happy with solo games.

6. Discovery – exploring, finding new things, going to the ends of the map.

Rating: A-.  If I like the game, I will wander around the maps, look at all the flavortext, maybe grab all the collectibles.  This (rather than #2) is where I really appreciate the conworlding.  Dishonored is a fascinating world to explore; Skyrim is just a really well-done bog-standard fantasy kingdom.  On the other hand, game designers, a bunch of identical whatsits scattered at the edges of the level does not scratch this itch.  Riddler trophies, that works, because each one is different.  Every last CD in Saints Row 2, not so much.

7. Expression – wanting to contribute to the game, express your own vision, make things.

Rating: C for most games– there’s approximately zero you can really bring to Arkham City, for instance, and that’s fine.  But Second Life is no game at all except for what I and others bring to it, and I like that a lot (A+).  I do like games that allow customization of the PC because I’m shallow that way.

8. Submission – you want to lay back and just lose yourself in a task that’s not too hard.

Rating: depends on the mood; probably B+ overall.  I’ll put hundreds of hours into a game I like… sometimes it’s fun to be Batman and beat up the old gang of mooks, or be Faith and dash over the rooftops.  But I do get bored eventually, which is part of why I never finished a game of Civ 5.

One thing the list leaves out, or that I can’t shoehorn into any of these categories, is cool toys.  It’s probably another A.  The combat and stealth mechanics in Arkham City, the portal gun, the gravity gun from Half-Life 2, the rewiring in Gunpoint, the parkour in Mirror’s Edge, are all just fun to do.  Contrariwise, the weapons in (say) Mass Effect 1 were interchangeably boring.