Game mechanics

Game mechanics are methods invoked by agents designed for interaction with the game state, thus providing gameplay.[1] All games use mechanics; however, theories and styles differ as to their ultimate importance to the game. In general, the process and study of game design, or ludology, are efforts to come up with game mechanics that allow for people playing a game to have an engaging, but not necessarily fun, experience.

The interaction of various game mechanics in a game determines the complexity and level of player interaction in the game, and in conjunction with the game's environment and resources determine game balance. Some forms of game mechanics have been used in games for centuries, while others are relatively new, having been invented within the past decade.

Complexity in game mechanics should not be confused with depth or even realism. Go is perhaps one of the simplest of all games, yet exhibits an extraordinary depth of play. Most computer or video games feature mechanics that are technically complex (in terms of making a human do all the calculations involved) even in relatively simple designs.

In general, commercial video games have gone from simple designs (such as Space Invaders and Asteroids) to extremely complex ones (such as Gran Turismo 5 and Crysis 2) as processing power has increased. In contrast, casual games have generally featured a return to simple, puzzle-like designs, though some are getting more complex.[citation needed] In physical games, differences generally come down to style, and are somewhat determined by intended market.[clarification needed]

Game mechanics vs. gameplay

Gameplay could be defined as the combination and interaction of many elements of a game.[2] However, there is some confusion as to the difference between game mechanics and gameplay. For some, gameplay is nothing more than a set of game mechanics. For others, gameplay—especially when referenced in the term of "basic gameplay"—refers to certain core game mechanics which determine the overall characteristics of the game itself.[citation needed]

For example, the basic gameplay of a shooting or fighting video game is to hit while not being hit. In a graphic adventure game, the basic gameplay is usually to solve puzzles related to the context. The basic gameplay of poker is to produce certain numerical or categorical combinations. Golf's basic gameplay is to hit a ball and reach a designated spot.

The goal of these games is slightly different from the gameplay itself. For example, while reaching the end of a stage (in platform games), defeating the boss, advancing your characters' progress through the story (RPGs) or sinking the ball into a hole (golf) may be the purpose of playing a game, the fun is derived primarily by the means and the process in which such a goal is achieved.[citation needed] Basic gameplay defines what a game is, to the player, while game mechanics determine the parts of which the entire game consists of.

In video games, gamers have a well-defined notion of what is considered gameplay. This is:

  • What the player can do
  • What other entities can do, in response to player’s actions[3]

What a player and other entities can do within a game would also fall under the mechanics of a game.

However, from a programming or overall design perspective, basic gameplay can be deconstructed further to reveal constituent game mechanics. For example, the basic gameplay of fighting game can be deconstructed to attack and defense, or punch, kick, block, dodge and throw; which can be further deconstructed to strong/weak punch/kick. For this reason, game mechanics is more of an engineering concept while gameplay is more of a design concept.

Other Languages