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The definition of "game mechanic" is incomplete


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#1 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 751

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 06:28 PM

I've been deeply researching on game mechanics for almost a year now, and I don't like the current definition for "game mechanic". Is it really a rule? Yes, a game mechanic has rules, but is not "a rule". Starting from the fact that has a set of rules, not one single rule, and that there is much more that makes a game mechanic. This is such an incomplete definition.

 

Now I want to declare that a game mechanic is "a set of options and consequences".

 

To arrive to this conclusion, we have to think on how current game engines work. What are game engines all about? Communication. The game engine manages input and output. The engine receives instructions from the user, and represents a world for the user to keep entering commands. But just receiving commands and rendering is what a video player does. So the game is about options, and the minimal sets of options are given by each mechanic. For that reason, the elemental option-consequence is THE game mechanic.

 

How is this important? Focusing a blurred concept allows us to have a better vision on the future of game development. It will allow us to have better tools for modeling mechanics.


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#2 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 17937

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 09:02 PM

Where did you read that a game mechanic was "a rule"?  I'd agree with you, game mechanics are composed of and/or guided by rules, but a rule alone is definitely not a game mechanic.

 

 

Your options and consequences definition is pretty good; on a base level, any individual mechanic of the game is comprised of some choice or ability, accompanied by the outcome of that ability, and feedback into the system as a whole.  In his article "what are game mechanics", Daniel Cook describes them as "rule based systems / simulations that facilitate and encourage a user to explore and learn the properties of their possibility space through the use of feedback mechanisms"

 

 

If you haven't already read them, you might be interested in Daniel Cook's musings on "skill atoms" ("The Chemistry of Game Design") and "loops and arcs".



#3 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 751

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 09:17 PM


Where did you read that a game mechanic was "a rule"?  I'd agree with you, game mechanics are composed of and/or guided by rules, but a rule alone is definitely not a game mechanic.

 

Sorry jbadams, I was afraid to be right on this definition and not reaching the discussion temperature point to obtain replies on this topic.

 

Thanks for the links, I'll read!


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Improving modern game mechanics: youtu.be/UJOQ3krzvWE

 


#4 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9450

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 10:33 PM


I don't like the current definition for "game mechanic".

 

"The" definition?  You're saying there is only one, and everybody but you buys into it?  Can you tell us where you found this one universally accepted definition?  Oh, never mind. jbadams handled it.  Different people define the term different ways - and it might even need to be defined differently depending on the game.  It's hard enough to come up with a definition of "game" that nobody would object to!  Much less "game mechanic."


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#5 cronocr   Members   -  Reputation: 751

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 07:20 AM

Yes, what a game is, that's something that will take us a long time to understand, fortunately. But one of the parts of a digital game is interactive narrative, and reaching a good narrative should be the goal of us game developers. With a new definition of "game mechanic" we can now have a new set of tools that eases our work. Getting closer to good interactive narrative requires a new step in the stair, and that is a second-layer game engine. First-layer engines manage communication, then second-layer engines will manage options. That's one little step further to master the abstractions of interactive narrative.

 

Games already manage options, but remember what happened when first-layer game engines appeared, how these changed game development. Developers obtained the tools to achieve better game<->player communication. Now a second-layer game engine will provide a foundation to build more advanced game mechanics. Developers will be able to focus even more on the creative side.

 

Not only we can have a new definition of game mechanic, now we can talk the language of game mechanics, and second-layer game engines are approaching.

 

EDIT: This is the definition of game mechanics from Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans book:

 

"The video game design community usually prefers the term game mechanics to game rules because rules are considered printed instructions that the player is aware of, while the mechanics of video games are hidden from the player, that is, implemented in software for which the player is given no direct user interface. Video game players don’t have to know what the game’s rules are when they begin; unlike board and card games, the video game teaches them as they play. Rules and mechanics are related concepts, but mechanics are more detailed and concrete. For example, the rules ofMonopoly consist of only a few pages, but the mechanics of Monopoly include the prices of all the properties and the text of all the Chance and Community Chest cards—in other words, everything that affects the operation of the game. Mechanics need to be detailed enough for game programmers to turn them into code without confusion; mechanics specify all the required details.

 

...

Game designers are perfectly comfortable talking about a game mechanic in the singular form. They don’t mean a person who repairs game engines!
 Instead, they are referring to a single gamemechanism that governs a certain game element. In this book, we prefer to use mechanism as the singular form indicating a single set of game rules associated with a single game element or interaction. One such mechanism might include several rules. For example, the mechanic of a moving platform in a side-scrolling platform game might include the speed of the platform’s movement, the fact that creatures can stand on it, the fact that when they do they are moved along with it, but also the fact that the platform’s velocity is reversed when it bounces into other game elements, or perhaps after it has traveled a particular distance ."


Edited by cronocr, 14 July 2013 - 07:49 AM.

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Improving modern game mechanics: youtu.be/UJOQ3krzvWE

 


#6 mippy   Members   -  Reputation: 1002

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Posted 14 July 2013 - 09:06 AM

I have not read any litterature about game design and game mechanics, but I usually think of games as sociotechnical systems. Not because its how the pros are doing it but because my master program was called systems in technology and science and we were brainwashed to think the systems approach was the best way to go about everything.

 

Anywho, a game could be seen as a loosly or tightly coupled system (or network) involving humans, ai:s and software/hardware. In tightly coupled game systems (like tetris) you are very restricted. In sandbox games you have more freedom why they could be considered loosly coupled. As a designer it' my job to create a system of resources, tools and rules by which the nodes are interacting with each other. The player has access to some of the nodes while others are locked from interaction. The game mechanics could in this perspective be seen as the "connections" between the nodes of resources and actors.

 

Here is some inspirational reading. 

 

http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/socio-technical_system_design.html

 

The source contains a lot of good reads for those interested in interaction design

 

/mip






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