The 7 Elements of Game Design

Intro —

Game design as study is still in it’s infancy. There are a select few texts on the subject but I don’t believe it has reached the point of a standard set of knowledge. Also to be clear, I'm all for learning by experience and creating your own tools but It will be incredibly important the next generation of game designers to have a base with which to jump off of. I think we’ve come far enough to stop starting from scratch. We need to start creating a basis for game design as other mediums has before us. And to reiterate, this is not to stifle or standardize our medium but to drive it forward so that we may all become better designers. So without further introduction I give you my 7 elements of game design

Space —

Space is the game’s world as a mutable entity and conversely a set of mutable entities. The space is made up of the pieces with which the mechanics work upon. For example, in chess the pieces and board make up the game space and the way the pieces move and interact upon that space would be the mechanics working upon said space.

Mechanics —

Mechanics are rules and constructs which are used to modify or exhibit the game Space. For example in Pacman, you can eat the yellow pellets that lay around the map. In that example the pellets and pacman are part of the game space and touching the pellets to eat them is the mechanic.

Narrative —

Implicit: The narrative which is created by the arc through which the game space is changing and how the player reacts to and is involved in that arc. For example, the story of a cave that you found in minecraft and how there was a zombie pit full of lava. This is something that happens dynamically and is not planned by the designer.

Explicit: The narrative which is designed. For example, the story of Telltale’s the walking dead series is a set experience made by the designers.

Minecraft is procedurally generated so a new world is ready to explore every time you play!
Walking dead relies strictly on story and choices to make a compelling narrative.

Feedback —

Any event which happens in response to a change in the game space’s state. For example, when shooting a gun the screen may shake or a sound effect may be played.

Nuclear Throne by Vlambeer
Nuclear by Vlambeer does an amazing job at giving the player feedback based on their actions to make the game feel responsive and enjoyable to control. Vlambeer is known for what is called “Game-feel” and you would have to see a video of or play one of their games to get a better sense of it all.

Pacing —

The intentional arc in which the game space changes and progresses as designed by the designer. For example, as you play through Mario the levels are more and more difficult as more and more mechanics are introduced.

Level 1–1 of the original mario(although I think sections have been stripped out of this image)

Interface —

The method in which the game space is illustrated and the way in which mechanics are performed by the player. For example, the score you have in an arcade game is shown on the screen and you use a joystick etc. to perform all the actions necessary for playing the game.

often times the interface inspires new and interesting mechanics.

Variety —

The variety of mechanics which purposefully and effectively affect the game space in a thematic way. For example in Super Meat Boy, the rotating saws all simply kill the player and offer an interesting and clear obstacle but they are presented in a variety of different ways which makes the saw a good mechanic.

saws appear as stationary, rotating on handles, projectiles, moving on sliders, etc.

Conclusion —

I’m not declaring to be an amazing game designer who knows everything, but to me these are the main elements of game design that one should look to in order to create games. No process is correct but I feel this is an interesting lense in which to view your work so maybe next time your having trouble with a design or just working on something new try using these elements to help craft your design.

Thanks for reading and keep at it ❤

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