Basic Introduction to Game Design

Game System Dynamics

Welcome to the fourth week of class in the course: Basic Introduction to Game Design. Thanks for com­ing over from GameCareerGuide if you read my guest post there. Make sure to read the syl­labus and course infor­ma­tion before you con­tin­ue. Today, we are going to dis­cuss sys­tem dynam­ics in games. This text fol­lows close­ly from our text­books (Game Design Workshop, Chapter 5, Challenges for Game Designers, Chapter 2, and Salen and Zimmerman Rules of Play chap­ters 13,14,16,17,18). In pre­vi­ous lec­tures, we have dis­cussed the util­i­ty of rules. As game design­ers, we use rules to deter­mine the actions play­ers can take and the out­come of those actions. In dig­i­tal games, the game log­ic often pro­vides parts of the rules of your game. The audio­vi­su­al man­i­fes­ta­tion of your game (even the sto­ry of your game) is how­ev­er not con­sid­ered a com­po­nent of the for­mal ele­ments of games. When audio­vi­su­al ele­ments influ­ence the for­mal struc­ture of your game, this should be con­sid­ered as a fac­tor of your game rules. Salen and Zimmerman dis­tin­guish between con­sti­t­u­a­tive rules and oper­a­tional rules as well as implic­it rules.

  • Constituative rules are all about a game’s inter­nal events. They are the main log­ic behind your game. In a dig­i­tal game, these are con­tained direct­ly in the code of your game.
  • Operational rules are all the rules need­ed to run the game (not just the con­sti­t­u­a­tive or inter­nal events) includ­ing all exter­nal events relat­ed to your game, such as input and out­put of the game, the way that you express choice in your game and how out­comes are defined for play­ers.
  • Implicit rules are the unstat­ed assump­tions of a game (often sim­i­lar to a player’s hon­our code, but also relat­ing to the nature of the com­put­ing plat­form that your game runs on). Implicit rules often relate to the con­tex­tu­al sit­u­a­tion of a game that we are tak­ing for grant­ed. However, this con­tex­tu­al sit­u­a­tion can be played with, to exper­i­ment with inno­va­tions in game design.

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Pac-Man Things
Basic Introduction to Game Design

The formal systems of games and game design atoms

Welcome to the sec­ond week of class in the course: Basic Introduction to Game Design. Make sure to read the syl­labus and course infor­ma­tion before you con­tin­ue. Today, we are going to dis­cuss the for­mal sys­tem struc­tures of games (an intro­duc­tion to its for­mal and dra­mat­ic ele­ments) and game design atoms. This text fol­lows close­ly from our text­books (Game Design Workshop, Chapters 2 & 3 and Challenges for Game Designers, Chapter 2); it also takes inspi­ra­tion from the Salen and Zimmerman book Rules of Play (Chapters 5,6,7). Keep in mind that game design is a field of prac­tice and even when you are read­ing all the infor­ma­tion from this course, there is no sub­sti­tute for work­ing on some games at home for prac­tice.

The Definition of Games

Rather than pon­der­ing on the exact def­i­n­i­tions of game here (many of which can be found in Rules of Play, Chapter 7), we want to look at what’s most use­ful to us as game design­ers.

Design is the process by which a design­er cre­ates a con­text to be encoun­tered by a par­tic­i­pant, from which mean­ing emerges.” (Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman)

This quote from the Rules of Play book encap­su­lates the main items that we should focus on as game design­ers: (1) Context, which can be the spaces, objects, sto­ry and behav­iours that you encounter in games. (2) Participants are your play­ers that act upon your game con­text for exam­ple via manip­u­la­tion or explo­ration. They inhab­it your game world to play. (3) Meaning is a con­cept that we have already men­tioned last week when we talked about mean­ing­ful choice. When play­ers take actions in your game, mean­ing­ful play should emerge from the agency that play­ers feel. Meaning here is tied to the val­ue of sig­nif­i­cance of some­thing encoun­tered in a game for the indi­vid­ual play­er. Even in real life, mean­ing is impor­tant to us because it helps us nav­i­gate through our world and inter­pret the peo­ple and the world around us. Our every­day inter­ac­tions are essen­tial­ly guid­ed by mean­ing-mak­ing. Continue read­ing