Game Design Chemistry

Following a link from Raph Koster‘s blog, I came across an article on Gamasutra, titled “The Chemistry of Game Design” — it’s a good read, go on and read it. The author proposes (components of) a language for game design, and a way of analyzing “fun”, with the aim of generating it.

What I find interesting how closely this model of gaming corresponds to how I described how we generate models of reality.

Let’s just quickly summarize the four components of a “skill atom” the linked article describes1:

  1. Action: A player takes an action, such as pressing a specific button.
  2. Simulation: The game responds to the action taken by updating the game state. An area previously inaccessible to you might have become accessible.
  3. Feedback: Some form of feedback informs the player of the state change — in the above example, a door might have opened.
  4. Modeling: The player updates the model of the game mechanics they carry in their mind — pressing buttons in order to open doors now becomes a viable course of action n the model.

Did you notice how steps 1, 3 and 4 correspond directly with my description of how you learn (that is, expand your model of the world around you) by manipulating parts of your surroundings and observing the results? The only difference is that I mixed steps 2 and 3 (Simulation and Feedback) together into one step I called “results”.

The main reason for this difference is one of perspective — from a player’s perspective, the feedback is the continuing simulation. From a designer’s perspective, a state change in the game world might be very much decoupled from feedback given to the player.

The other thing I find interesting about the linked article is that they start out with the premise that learning is fun, whereas that’s where I ended up.

No, there is no point to this post beyond pointing out parallels.

  1. It should be noted that the player enters a game with some such atoms predefined. For example, a player will already have a model of games that includes “I need to do stuff for things to progress” and “Pressing buttons is how I do stuff”. Based on those two atoms alone, a player might already feel motivated to explore the game world. []