The collected game design rants of Marc "MAHK" LeBlanc

The List

Because you asked, here is a brief list of the "Eight Kinds of Fun."


Game as sense-pleasure


Game as make-believe


Game as unfolding story


Game as obstacle course


Game as social framework


Game as uncharted territory


Game as soap box


Game as mindless pastime

Audio and Video


It's about time some of this stuff appeared in prose form. If only I could take credit.

MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research

This is an excellent elucidation of the Mechanics/Dynamics/Aesthetics (MDA) framework. It was written by Robin Hunicke and Robert Zubek for the AAAI workshop. (I am listed as an author, but I provided only the concepts, not the actual prose.) It's an academic paper, so be warned that the writing is a little more pointy-headed than something you'd see in Game Developer.

Tools for Creating Dramatic Game Dynamics

This is an original essay I wrote for Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen's excellent book, The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology

This essay is not yet available online, but you can buy the book from MIT press. Well worth it!

Game Design Workshop

This workshop is an intensive 2-day curriculum where attendees work in small groups on game design problems. The design problems involve playing a game, analyzing its aesthetics, and then modifying it to satisfy some new design constraint (or to fix a design bug).

The workshop has been running at the GDC since 2001.


Here are slides from lectures and sessions I presented during my recent speaking tour.

Intuition and Intellect: Deconstructing the Design of Oasis

GDC 2005

This lecture talks about the design Oasis, an award-winning downloadable game which was created by Andrew Leker with considerable help from myself. It uses Oasis as an opportunity to discuss MDA, and the implicit "intuition vs. intellect" debate within the game industry.

Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics

Northwestern University

This classroom session presents the Mechanics/Dynamics/Aesthetics (MDA) framework that I use for talking about game design. It was an interactive class session, using Sissyfight 3000 to demonstrate some of the key concepts of MDA.

The Last Mile: Game Design from a Programmer's Perspective

University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University

This lecture presents the MDA framework, focusing on Aesthetics and going into less detail on Mechanics and Dynamics than the Northwestern slides. At UPenn, we played Three Musketeers and used it to talk about dramatic structure in games. At PSU, the "interactive" portion was removed for time and format reasons.

Ten Interview Questions for Game Programmers

This is a technical lecture about game programming. It's a survey of game progamming topics, presented as questions a game programmer might get asked at a job interview. It's targeted both at computer science students interested in becoming game programmers, and at programmers in other fields who are interested in finding out what sorts of problems come up in game programming.

I suppose the ulterior motive of this lecture is to point out just how "hard core" game programming really is: to encourage aspiring game programmers to take their math and CS education seriously, and to convince programmers in other fields that game programmers aren't just slackers who can't get a "real" job.

Most of these are actual questions that I have either asked or been asked at an interview. (Apologies to the folks whose questions I stole.) Some are questions that I haven't ever used, but might in the future.

Video Game Math: Circle-on-Circle Collision Detection

This is a high school trig lecture. It shows how to solve a common game programming problem using only high-school-level trig. It's targeted at high school trig students who are wondering "what is all this stuff really good for?"

If you are a high school math teacher and would be interested in having me to come to your school and give this lecture, please contact me. I live in the Bay Area, but travel to places like Boston and Detroit a few times a year.

Formal Design Tools: Emergent Complexity, Emergent Narrative

GDC 2000

Formal Design Tools: Feedback Systems and the Dramatic Structure of Competition

GDC 1999
I'm working on prose versions of the talks, but it's been like pulling teeth. If you would like to see these talks as papers, pleasepester me via email and maybe I'll be inspired to finish them.

P.S. If you were expecting a fancy page with slick graphics and "multimedia goodness," then your ticket to disappointment city has been punched. I'm a firm believer in function over form when it comes to web pages, and take pride in the fact that my pages are compatible with lynx.