The taxonomy of thrill
The Taxonomy of Thrill represents the first stage of an investigation into the experience of thrill-how it works, why it works and what such insights might mean for designers. My aim here is to tease apart the dynamics of thrill, to develop a language for describing it and to detail the controllable dimensions of the thrilling experience. My larger aim is to employ my findings as a basis for designing new kinds of thrill, and also to provide a tool for refining the element of thrill in other design work.
Classes of stimuli that raise valence
The interviewees' experiences can be attributed, in large part, to a blend of novel stimuli that raised valence with thrilling effect. All the dimensions of this effect discussed so far govern the novelty aspect of novel stimuli. I now turn my attention to types of novel stimuli. The next sections outline the five classes of stimuli that recur most often from interview to interview. Note that many of the thrilling experiences featured stimuli from two or three classes, to some degree.
Spectacular: The spectacular is about dramatically challenging impressions and ideas about the world. It encompasses moments that are truly marvelous, awesome, fantastic or amazing. These moments arise predominantly, but not exclusively, from visual phenomena. Key factors: Being in awe or overwhelmed; having an experience that hovers between admiration and being fearful, especially of powerful natural elements; marveling at impressive spectacles or being bewildered; experiencing fantastic magical events that can't quite be believed or thought possible; the surprise and amazement of discovering something extraordinary; encountering outstanding beauty.
Sensational: The sensational is about the visceral pleasures of physical stimulation. These stimuli often accompany at least one of the other classes. Key factors: Motion and changing motion; rhythmic and alternating forces; chaotic and turbulent overtones; perception of unusually high speeds; rapid visual stimulation; weird or alarming sounds; background sensations; a touch, from the slightest stroke to a painful strike; sexual stimulation.
Power and control: Power and control is about feeling effective, about the influence and impact an individual has on the world. Key factors: Gaining influence by acquiring new power or control; securing the high ground or upper hand; fighting to regain control; gaining control; learning new abilities and feeling more effective; exercising control; controlling the emotions of others; exhibitionism, especially when intensifying an emotion; passing over control to a trusted third party; power play.
Being valued: Being valued is about the esteem in which the individual holds themselves, and their perception of the esteem others hold them in-essentially, whether they think they're personally worth anything. Key factors: Being respected or admired; feeling affection or fondness, being loved or cherished. Specific opinions vary in significance depending on who makes them, and vary from: a harsh self-opinion; to the opinions of loved ones, friends or family; to those of peers and respected spectators; to neutral bystanders. Naturally, the opinions of the well-respected are more important than those of others.
Immortality: Immortality is about our dedication to life-our will to persist, come what may. Anything that protects or promotes our "immortality" will result in increased excitement.
Key factors: Sating hunger and quenching thirst; release from incarceration; making love; giving birth; evading death; surviving a mortal struggle; release from injury or illness; witnessing death.
Neophile (see images, above) is a thrilling new dining experience which fuses fantastic automation and gastronomic delights with choreography and theatrical drama. Diners flow through and participate in a sequence of gourmet experiences, each with its own thrilling tale to tell. Diners, props and food combine at points of confluence to create new thrilling experiences in each dining zone.