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The Rules of the Game

A Basic Introduction to Game Mechanics
by

Derek Jenkins

on 2 June 2013

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Transcript of The Rules of the Game

We don't just play games. Games play us. Game Hack Exercise Everyone knows a folk game or two, something simple that you played in the car or on the playground or during study hall. In groups of four, think back to one of these simple games. First, write down the rules. Most of these games have lots of variations, but try to settle on the "classic" rules of play. Next, complicate the gameplay by introducing a new mechanic. (For example, add a new "weapon" to Rock, Paper, Scissors.) After you've hacked the game, write down the new rules and share them with another group. "Lose/Lose" uses vernacular game mechanics to reveal something about the nature of violence. There are no rules or even goals given, but the player's immediate impulse is to blast away. By giving the game real consequences (each ship is attached to a file on the player's hard drive), Gage incentivizes a pacifism that seems, um, alien to such games. His game becomes a kind of philosophical argument about the nature of games themselves. Image: @withrps The Rules of the Game Piece elimination Victory Condition Mechanics Sometimes skill in games is complicated by chance. Players are given opportunities to take risks based on potential rewards. Gambling games fit into this category, but strategy games sometimes employ this element as a handicap for less skillful players. Risk & Reward Dice are a common randomizer. They may determine player movement or distribute resources. Role playing games often employ a variety of dice styles, including the famous 12-sided die. Dice Catch Up Players often take turns. During a turn, certain actions take place in a sequence, dictated sometimes by player decisions and sometimes by engineered chance. Think card games like Spades. Turns Tile-laying Movement A common mechanic in board games is the use of tokens. A players tokens may be an asset or a burden. Games such as chess task players with capturing an opposite player's tokens. Capture/Eliminate Cards Players are sometimes asked to make a payment or promise of future payment for the right to certain assets. In Monopoly, you must pay for your holdings. In Hearts, you must promise to complete a given number of tricks. Auction or Bidding Sometimes actions that take place during a turn according to a budget. This can be allocated by cards, movements or "cash." Think Monopoly or Settlers of Catan. Action Points Resource Management Some games use cards to randomize gameplay. Cards may be drawn or dealt, collected or disbursed (discarded!). They may retain a positive or negative value. They may be revealed or hidden. Often, they operate as a game resource. Boardgames commonly employ an impediment to player progress. The classic Snakes & Ladders uses the random outcomes of dice rolls to "slide" the players further from the goal. Settlers of Catan robs some players of resources to slow progress according to the whims of opponents. Games often proceed according to movement across a defined area. Movement is governed by movement mechanics and may be facilitated by randomizers, turns, resources or position. Games often establish relative value or position of players according to their resources. Tokens, money or points may be gathered, traded or spent to proceed towards the goal. Here, management of resources may be the core of the game. Role-playing games allow players to inhabit the guise of a fictional character who navigates a pre-established space. The game proceeds according outcomes determined by consensus, a game master or some kind of randomizer. While still governed by rules, when compared to board games with well-defined victory conditions, RPGs are radically "open." Example: Dungeons & Dragons. Role-Playing Tiles are often issued as game resources and are laid down by players to form a tessellation. These tiles constitute territory and may include characteristics and relationships to other tiles based on game mechanics. Tiles may 1) establish points or resources allotted to players (Monopoly) or 2) establish the game surface as a means of interactions with other tokens (Settlers of Catan). Popular entertainment has been increasingly dominated by games, whether angry iOS fowl or adventurous plumbers, to the extent that the language and rules of such games have become a matter of intuition. We know what we're meant to do without having to be told. Take this simple game by designer Zach Gage... That may not be a bad thing. Designer Jane McGonigal believes we can harness these new inuitive features to address problems that have been plaguing humans for centuries... Whether we intend to resist the consequences of game-based behaviours or harness their problem-solving powers, first we need to know the rules. Despite the plethora of games out there, most follow some combination of a basic set of game mechanics. The interplay of any set of mechanics results in what we call gameplay, or the thing that makes games so engaging and addictive—so possibly helpful and so possibly dangerous. A HANDFUL OF GAME MECHANICS Loss Avoidance Goals Puzzle guessing Structure Building Races Territory Control Victory points Example: Checkers Example: Chess Example: Musical Chairs Example: Trivial Pursuit Example: Hangman Example: Poker Example: Go Example: H.O.R.S.E. This is how you play, but very often you play to win. Victory Conditions determine the outcome of games. SOURCES "Game Mechanics." Gamification.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 2
June 2013. <http://gamification.org/wiki/Game_Mechanics>. "Game mechanics." Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 June
2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_mechanics>. W., Tim. "Interview: Zach Gage Caught in a Lose/Lose
Situation." Indie Games . N.p., n.d. Web. 2 June 2013. <http://www.indiegames.com/2009/12/interview_zach_gage_caught_in.html>.
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