Games Design @ Hull School of Art and Design


October 29, 2015

Bibliography – Game Mechanics

Games Design – Game Mechanics

Game Mechanics are what makes games so unique, without them we would not have a game. They are the function/interaction that makes each game different as not all games use the same types of mechanics. Below is my essay on what game mechanics are, how they work and what game mechanic do different games use.


Many games include a game mechanic that relates to time. Using time against the player can make the game more difficult by influencing the player to make difficult choices, rushing the player to complete the level (which then gives the player less chance to collect the collectables) and mainly causes the player to lose more points. The original Super Mario (which was first released in 1985) is a timed game as the level consists of the player jumping on enemies as well as collecting coins and saving a princess. However the game is made more difficult as you are on a timer and this timer makes it more difficult as you have to rush through the level.

Other games that include a countdown game mechanic:

mario Mario



Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Cascading Information

This type of game mechanic is used quite a lot now. Originally on arcade machines we would have one task that we would be told at the beginning of the game and that’s all, whereas today we have a task/mission list that includes all of the tasks that are active in a game. The tasks are on a list now so that we don’t forget about them, in most games now we get side quests that stay in your mission list when you activate them because you may want to focus on the main quest at hand. Skyrim is one of my favourite games for the use of the task list. It is so organised and you can interact with the list so that you can have a map marker which tells you where to go. I like the task lists because they look quite interesting and fit in with the theme of the game.

Skyrim 1

Other games that include a cascading information mechanic:


World of Warcraft

dead island

Dead Island

Reward Schedules (Time Based)

There are four types of reward schedule game mechanics; two of them are time based and two of them are action based. The first one related to time is called a ‘Fixed Interval Schedule’; the fixed interval schedule is a set amount of time (that will usually stay the same) in which a reward is given, for example a new weapon may appear in 30 minutes and then once that weapon is collected a new one will appear in another 30 minutes. This method acknowledges the player to come back another 30 minutes later to collect the reward and is usually used in most mobile phone applications/games such as The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Subway Surf; these two games want the player to come back each day.

The second time based type of reward schedule is called a ‘Variable Interval Schedule’. Instead of the time on the game being fixed to the same time limit, the time is set at random. An example could be Grand Theft Auto waiting for an enemy to spawn (Deer) and then you kill to get the reward or Skyrim waiting for a person to spawn to either accept a quest or collect a reward. This is usually the more successful type of reward schedule game mechanic as the player can be distracted by another quest whilst they wait (as most times the reward schedule is part of a side quest) and also the fixed variable can be a long and boring wait and you can also miss the chance to collect that reward. With a variable interval being random, you have more than one chance to collect it. As well in games with a variable reward schedule you can choose to use the option to ‘wait’ Skyrim uses this feature so that players don’t have to wait real hours they just have to wait using the game hours.


subway surf


skyrim 2

Points Systems

The points systems in games vary depending on the type of game. You can play games 1 vs 1 or 2 vs 2 and even just playing a game by yourself you can score points. When scoring points as a team or against each other usually you will have a limit to the amount of points you can get, for example an air hockey game on the phone will decide the winner based on who scored 10 points first (the number of points you need to get can vary depending on what you change it too in the settings menu; you can change the number of points to make the game last longer or shorter). A four player game such as Buzz Jungle Quiz also only allows you to score at the maximum 50 (again depending on how long you want to play the game for and the settings menu) however this game decides the winner based on who has the most points by the end of the game. I find this better than the limited points because it allows you to try to beat other people’s high scores.

When playing a game on your own the points system usually tends to be larger and unlimited. A great example would be Super Mario Bros. In the original game Super Mario Bros there is a score system that is always in the top left corner, this score system has space for a six digit number; therefore allowing a rather large high score. In my opinion I believe that the more numbers the better because then you have the option to beat other players high scores and get better and better at the game, however the disadvantage would be not being able to beat a high score might get frustrating.


mario 2


Lottery is a feature in a game that can be either enjoyed or hated. People that tend to have less luck at these lottery mingames usually get bored with the game or quite whereas the more luck you have the more of a chance the player has of continuing the game. I think lottery is a good idea in a game because without this mechanic players would not experience the chance of having a high level of anticipation and the feeling of achievement.

Mario Party is a game on the Gamecube that has many game modes; one of these modes is a board game style activity which can have up to four player. In this board game you come across many interactive tiles, one of them being lottery and most of the others include a good or bad action which will be chosen at random by the computer. Other games that have included lottery (or some sort of gambling) include the very popular game series Grand Theft Auto. The first GTA to feature some sort of gambling was Vice City in which you could wager money on street races, however, in San Andreas the player could actually go into a casino and the more they played the more the skill level went up and the higher the skill level the more money would pay out. Although people still like to play the old GTA games, Rockstar are thinking about bringing gambling to the latest game Grand Theft Auto 5. It has not been fully confirmed yet but everyone has noticed the highly detailed and well structured Casino on the map; now that people have spotted it Rockstar will need to be making some progress on it soon.

Lottery can go to far in some games though as some people can either get to addicted to winning or really annoyed at losing all the time, so they decide to spend real-life money so that they can win no matter what. Spending real-life money in my opinion is going to far; I would never spend real-life money on extra lives or extra turns because most games now give you the chance to win at least once a day (find out more in the paragraph above about reward schedules).




Collaboration games can either be played together on the same console or it can be online. For each of these options there are advantages and disadvantages.

Playing together on the same console brings back the memories of the Playstation 1. As this console was brought out in 1994 there was no online at this stage but we had the ability to use up to 2 controllers to play a two player game. There was a lot of two player games out at this time and it was always fun to be sat next to a friend playing the game with them rather than being online. When online you all had to have a copy each of the game to play together and you all tend to have a different skill these days as well so there can be fallouts between groups of friends. Also the online servers require you to have a very good internet connection and without this connection your gaming session can end; usually during a very important part of the game. Some parents also complain about the lack of safety when playing online; they fear that bullying can sometimes be an issue. In my opinion I do believe that in rare cases you may find that bullying can be a problem online, however on my xbox 360 console I am aware that I can block players, start a new session and also as a gaming community other players may back you up and help you.

Childhood games I used to play (not online) with friends would include PlayStation 1 games such as Crash Tag Team Racing, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and Grand Turismo whereas games that I often play online now would include Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto and Lollipop Chainsaw. Abe’s Oddysee and Lollipop Chainsaw are classed as multiplayer but they are quite different in the way in which you play. Abe’s Oddysee doesn’t have two players playing at once but if your character dies player 2 gets a turn. Same with lollipop Chainsaw, the player doesn’t play along side other players online but instead competes on a single player game for a high score which will then go onto an online leaderboard. I also play a game that is quite recent yet it is two player on console (not online) called Epic Mickey, based on the Disney characters Oswald and Mickey.



gta 5


epic mickey


I believe that progression is one of the most important game mechanics as it boosts the players’ ambition to play the game, it allows the player to choose how they want their character to be and it makes the game more interesting. My favourite game for progression is Skyrim mainly because in Skyrim you level up the aspects most important to you for example, at the beginning of Skyrim I chose to be a thief (out of the selection of Mage, Warrior or Thief) therefore my character will automatically level up faster in ‘light Armor’ and ‘one handed weapons’, whereas if I chose a Mage I would level up faster in ‘Magic’. Also you have a menu that allows you to level up certain aspects within that category; I may want to level up in light Armor and I will either have the choice to let my Armor absorb more damage or when enemies hit the Amor they take more damage.

In most games the level up system is usually shown with a bar or statistical number known as XP (meaning ‘Experience Point’). This system can make most gamers quite competitive, however, if the XP is limitless you compete to get the highest score and be the best whereas if the XP only goes up to level 100 you may stop playing the game once you get to this stage as you will find everything to easy which will therefore make the game less entertaining.

Some people find ways to level up quick in games by either using a cheat/hack code or finding glitches that the game developers have not yet patched up. For example in this video to level up the sneak ability he is sneaking around a character that cannot die and can also not see him therefore he gets skill points for sneak. Whereas levelling up your sneak ability without glitches or cheats you have to sneak around enemies and be successful without getting caught.

skyrim 3

skyrim 4


I think this a game mechanic we can all agree is quite annoying. Most mobile apps/games use this technique as a form of communication between friends/family as well as giving the player a chance to earn their rewards quickly rather than having to wait (again look at reward schedules). Games such as Farmville and Candy Crush can fill our notification box on Facebook, the main reason these games give us the option to send requests/notifications and ask for help is because that player is becoming a form of advertisement for that game. If someone sends a notification to you asking for help you may feel the need to be interested in this game because you will find that most of your friends are playing it. Also when the notifications begin to get on your nerves and you keep deleting them, you will become highly aware of what this game is and what the logo looks like and therefore it becomes a topic of conversation with friends and the word is spread. Any publicity is good publicity.


candy crush


I really like this game mechanic because in most games it is fun to come across new and strange items. Usually you will find different types of items in different parts of the map and they are usually quite spread out. In some games the items can be really helpful and you will need them to maybe unlock an achievement, whereas in other games it is your choice whether to keep or throw away the item. Two great examples for collectables include Grand Theft Auto 5 and Skyrim.

In Grand Theft Auto 5 not many players knew what to think of this collectible system mainly because the game did not give any hint towards where the collectables are however the game featured clip scenes which made the players anxious to find out what would happen if you collect them all. You did not have the choice to throw away any items that you found but once all the collectables were discovered the player was rewarded. Skyrim on the other hand is quite different. In Skyrim you have a weight limit in your inventory (this weight limit is decided on what you carry, what skills you have upgraded and it also depends on if any of your clothing has been enchanted); having a weight limit to what you can carry gives the player some choice in what they carry with them. Because of the limit the player cannot carry everything so therefore must keep what is most important to them.

In the Elder Scrolls series you must decide what to carry depending on what you want your character to be like. If you wanted your character to be a warrior you would make them carry weapons, if your character was to be a thief your character would make room in their inventory so that they could pickpocket and if you were to be a mage your character would carry ingredients for alchemy and potions. Most players have unique items they like to discover and which makes the game more fun as you want to find the best item that best relates to your character.


sanguine rose

gta scrap

Free Lunch

The term ‘Free Lunch’ sounds strange at first, however, it’s something that happens quite a lot online. When playing online with a group of friends you may seem like you’re having fun but when it comes to collecting the reward at the end of a quest, who gets it? This can happen a lot in gaming especially now that a lot of people play online. In some cases this game mechanic can be quite serious as it can lead to someone stealing your account details for example someone could send you a message offering you a free deal and you could be getting scammed as this person seems to be lying and you’re giving someone else your account; therefore you have put effort into giving them your account details and they have gained a free account that they can now use.

Games that include free lunch are Grand Theft Auto 5 and The Call of Duty Series. Call of Duty usually has a crate drop, most people try to get it on their own because they know that if they work as a team someone else will get it whereas some people work as a team shooting nearby enemies to get to this crate and only one person is able to pick up the crate. Working as a team is good but sometimes working on your own has its advantages.

I like Grand Theft Auto because you have a choice. In Grand Theft Auto 5 you also have crate drops, however, they are quite rare and this means when one crate falls every player will travel to that area. You can work as a team or on your own to get this box but again you don’t know who is going to end up with the box on your team if you are successful. The main reason I like the GTA game is because everyone gets something; if your friend was to collect this crate you could shoot them and take their money, but it causes a large Deathmatch. Also on GTA has good rules because during a mission you are rewarded for the amount of effort you put in, for example if I did the best during the mission I would get rewarded platinum whereas the person who didn’t work so well at all would only get a bronze (this results in the amount of money you receive). This works really well as it encourages players to put a lot of effort into the mission rather than having a tag along that gains all the XP and money for free rather than earning it.

crate drop



This game mechanic can cover a large range of games as it is not the way the game is made but it is the way in which you play the game. Being productive in games can make the game easier and quicker, however I feel that when being productive you can also lose interest in a game or find that the game was too easy. I think that most RPG games need a lot of thought and productivity; these games include Mass Effect, Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto 5. All of these games are RPG games (Role Playing Games) that give you a lot of choice when you first enter the world. Do you start with the main missions or side missions or will you ignore the missions and collect the collectables at first; it is entirely up to you and sometimes that can play a large part in the game.

In Grand Theft Auto 5 you have this amount of choice, when you explore the world as different characters different clip scenes can be seen however some can be missed. Some people believe that there is a certain order to do the missions in so that you don’t miss clips scenes whereas most people would rather do everything in their own order so that the game feels more realistic and you get more freedom. All three of these RPG games have lots of side missions, you can play these side missions whenever you want even between the main missions, but in my opinion I think side missions are for when you have completed the game so you don’t get bored and you still have more things to do.

mass effectheader


Status brings out the personality of the player in my opinion mainly because some people will do anything to reach a higher status whereas some players will work as a team to help each other out. Most games have a status bar Grand Theft Auto 5, Skyrim, Disney Infinity, Fable, Destiny, Diablo and many more. All of these use level up systems so you can unlock new things, so you can play with/against players that are at a similar level to you and so you can try to improve and be the best. The reason I like to level up is so that I can unlock new items such as weapons, clothing or even areas on a map. It is a very important game mechanic that has been around for years and one of the first games to use this system was the original Dungeons and Dragons and then the status mechanic then advanced to games such as Runescape, League of Legends and World of Warcraft.




We couldn’t have a game without quests, especially if it is a Role Playing Game. I find quests really fun as it can take you on an adventure through the game that has an amazing story. I like quests that give you a choice to do the bad or the good, when you have this choice it gives you the opportunity to create the personality of your character. You can usually get two types of quest, the main quest and the side quest; there is always a main story in a game which involves the main characters, whereas the side quests usually have different characters you may only come across once or twice. In Grand Theft Auto there has always been main quests and side quests. You can choose what order to do them in. The side quests have characters that you may come across more than once whereas some side quests you only get contacted through your phone.

In your first quest you usually have a tutorial (a mission that explains how to play and what buttons to use). Quests will give out rewards at the end depending on how well you worked on it. Money, weapons, items of clothing, potions, XP, etc. could all be possible rewards for completing a mission.

download (1)

Urgent Optimism

“We feel we are as good in reality as in games. In game worlds we are the best version of ourselves possible. When we face obstacles and failure in real life, we feel overcome, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, and cynical. These emotions just do not exist in games. What about this in games makes it impossible to feel that we can’t achieve everything?” – A quote from Jane McGonigal a Games Designer/Researcher from America who is an inspiration to all gamers as she believes that gaming is one of the best things to ever happen. We have more courage in games than we do in real life and she believes that if we can bring our personality from the game into the real world, everything will be a better place.

Urgent Optimism in games is when we feel that we are strong enough and bright enough to withstand the evil forces within this gaming world. Even if we are not a high enough level, we always have enough confidence to try. If we were like this in real life we wouldn’t have to be nervous before interviews, we wouldn’t care about what we look like and we would all help each other as a team. When you have urgent Optimism in a game you want to jump straight into things, you don’t want to level up your character to its highest standards so it makes it easier for you to win, however you do want to charge into battle at the current level you are at so that it makes it more of a challenge.

Jane McGonigal has an amazing speech on Ted Talks –

jane mcgonigal 2

Loss Aversion

Many online games on PC use this method to encourage people to spend more money. The people who create games which include loss aversion aim this technique towards the children audience. If a child wins something really unique and can’t use it because they have not subscribed they will pester their parents for the subscription. The other types of games for subscription include World of Warcraft; this game is better with a subscription.

Loss Aversion is a term that translates to meaning that when we win something it stays on our minds but if we lose it gets to our heads and bothers us and our thoughts are troubled. This loss aversion is something we cope with not just in games but in reality also; we strive to be the best and when in a game you can’t necessarily be the best when you are held back by this subscription in fact you cannot use the item you are currently holding which means you can’t show other people how good you really are. To us it is like they have the advantage and that persuades us to join these communities.

For example Club Penguin is a free online game that you can play mini games on, however if you are not a member you cannot access certain clothes, backgrounds, pins and you can’t even go into certain areas. Most people are quite mean to the ones that do not have a subscription and this can sometimes lead to bullying. World of Warcraft is known as a very good game and if you are committed you are most likely to buy the subscription, however it still gives you the option to play for free. They give you the option to play the game for free so that you when you play the free version or demo you will get addicted to playing it and then want to buy a pass for it. Demos are usually more persuasive because a demo will most likely give you all of the membership for a week or month whereas when you get to play for free you get to play for as long as you want but you will just have the starter kit.

download (2)

download (3)


Having own a game that you have wanted for ages can make you quite happy but when you own something that lives in the game then it is a different story. When you own something in a game you become quite attached to it depending on what/who it is. You know that if you lose it you might not be able to get it back; sometimes it is not the case of you losing an item it can also be a case of someone stealing it. When playing online you have to be careful as some people know how to hack and those people can steal anything from your account and even get personal details to hack into any of your other accounts; gaming online has its consequences and you have to be very protective when spending real world money.

download (4)

Sherry Turkle wrote a great book called ‘Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other’ which mentions the famous robotic toy brought out in 1998 ‘Furby’. Furby was an owl like robot that talks, responds to your voice, senses motion and can even feel your touch; Furby was very popular in the 90’s because every child wanted to have one to look after and care for it (like a pet). You can tell that people get too attached from them by the stories from this webpage. Yes someone has made a webpage which explains the many reasons you may be attached. Examples of other characters that we might get attached to include Tamagotchi’s, Shadowmere (Skyrim), Big Daddy (Bioshock), Dom Santiago (Gears of War), John Marston (Red Dead Redemption), The Joker (Batman Arkham Series) etc.

download (5)

Behavioural Momentum (Skilling)

This game mechanic appears in many games and originally occurred in the arcade games that we now class as retro. Behavioural Momentum can also be known as being repetitive; in Pacman you constantly are eating little pellets and fruit running away from ghosts, throughout the game the more you do this you will advance to the next level. The same goes for Donkey Kong, in this game you are constantly trying to save the princess from Donkey Kong and even the game Pong has a lot of behavioural momentum. However even in modern-day games you get repetition as an example in Bioshock you are always following the instructions of a guy named Atlas (Frank Fontaine) and he always starts his sentences with ‘Would you kindly’ (a hypnotic activation phrase which guides Jack through Rapture. With each mission that Jack is presented with Atlas uses that phrase. After a while of continuously doing what he says, the game gets too repetitive and after a while may same boring running back and forth for this guy you have never even met. Overall I think that Behavioural Momentum was a better game mechanic for the original arcade games rather than the modern games.

download (6)


download (7)


There isn’t a wrong or right answer for the way you believe to be epic in a game, however I would use Dead Island as an example. At the beginning of the game you wake up with a hangover in a hotel resort, zombies are after you and some random guy wants to help you escape. You escape a near death situation and people believe you are strong enough to help out. With an opening like that it encourages you to play the rest of the game as you feel like you can achieve anything as you find lots of amazing weapons and you can also make your own. Also when you die you respawn with full health whereas the enemy remains on the health you left it with therefore making the game a difficult game to give up on.

Epic Meaning is when you have lots of confidence and you are looking forward to completing the game as you’re expecting something amazing to happen; you don’t actually know what is going to happen yet but friends have played the game and said it is amazing, you have seen the great reviews online and the game introduction has already won you over. A game that I believe had a lot of epic meaning was Bioshock. I really enjoyed the game and the main reason I kept playing it was because throughout most of the game I had no idea what was going on whereas once I got to the end everything was revealed and the ending was indeed epic.

download (8)

download (9)

Infinite Gameplay

Again I believe that infinite gameplay can maybe link to the behavioural momentum as the gaming is infinite you are just going to repeat the same game over and over again. Infinite gameplay usually occurs in casual gaming, in a game that does not end but it does get more and more difficult therefore causing the player to lose and then starting over again (also becoming addictive at that stage as the player is searching for the end of the game). Pacman, Donkey Kong and Asteroids are all games that include Infinite Gameplay. All very popular games of the 1980’s-90’s that are even played now and are known as retro.

download (10)


A character will level up when gaining XP (Experience Points) to advance to higher levels of the game and challenge tougher enemies. Levelling up gives the player a sense of achievement and encourages the player to continue playing the game. My favourite games to level up in include Skyrim, Kingdom Hearts and Grand Theft Auto 5. Mainly because you gain something every time you level up, for example in GTA 5 you unlock new clothing items, new weapons, new car mods and some money. In Skyrim you gain a skill point which you can then put towards in your skill menu to increase your characters abilities throughout the game. Kingdom Hearts is a bit different as you don’t necessarily gain much from levelling up however your characters abilities slightly improve.

download (11)


You either use them or you don’t. Combos are mainly used in fighting games as a way of performing a very powerful move. Some people use combos and some people ‘button bash’ (this is a term for pressing buttons randomly and very fast in the hope of performing a good move); the main reason people avoid combos is the fact that they are quite difficult to remember and you also have to press them in that exact sequence at a fast speed. Combos are used in a lot of games, however there are many different variations of games that use combos other than just fighting.

Games that include combos: The Batman Arkham Series, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, Lollipop Chainsaw, Naughty Bear, Crash of the Titans and many more. A combo can make the game easier if you manage to remember the buttons; I like the Batman game series as it shows the combos that you can use on-screen, also in The Batman games once you hit a certain combo you have the choice to use even more buttons which are even more powerful.

Combos are usually shown on the screen as a number or a bar and once that number gets to a certain point or the bar is starting to fill up you will then have the ability to use that combo. Some bars can be split into sections and the more you save up your combo the more chance you have of performing a very powerful move.

images (1)

Sparkle Hunting

Bonuses, Bonus Rounds and Bonus Stages

Most games have a bonus in them but we usually don’t tend to notice. You can unlock bonus rounds, new weapons, clothing and more. An example of a bonus would be Disney Infinity; Disney Infinity has a number of objectives (also known as Feats) that you need to complete and in completion of these objectives you get a bonus. The bonus can range from decorations to buildings and even little characters (for decoration only; you cannot play as the character you have unlocked). However Disney Infinity also gives you a chance to win a special bonus item which will usually be something related to a Disney/Marvel/Star Wars film that big fans really enjoy collecting; as an example to create a room based on the film Aladdin, a normal bonus would be a sofa, bed or rug that matches that theme whereas a special bonus would be Aladdin’s’ Lamp or the Ruby from the Cave of Wonders.

A game that includes bonus stages would be The Warriors, as in this game (during free mode) you can go back to their hideout and play on the arcade games and whilst playing these arcade games you get mini boss battles in between to earn extra points to continue into the next level. Overall I think that bonuses are needed as a game mechanic mainly because they keep us interested in playing the game because we know we have the chance to earn something extra.

Disney Infinity001.jpg

download (15)

Appointment Dynamics

Appointment Dynamics is when a game only offers you a certain chance to collect something or see someone at a certain time during the day/month/year. This was a great idea for a game mechanic as it allows the player to look forward to collecting this item every so often, however everyone now knows how to cheat the system. Most players will go onto their console settings and change the time (therefore changing the time on the game also) meaning within a few hours the player has managed to collect everything that would have meant to take them a year or so.

Games that feature this mechanic include Tokyo Xtreme Racer Zero, Batman Arkham Knight and Animal Crossing. These games all vary in the way they use appointment dynamics as in Tokyo Xtreme Racer this game mechanic only allows you to race certain people at certain times of the day whereas on Batman you have to go visit Calanderman on every special occasion (such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Halloween etc.) to gain an achievement at the end of it all. Animal Crossing is different on the other hand because every day will change when you go back on the game. Animal Crossing is based on actual time so when it is night-time it is dark and when it is day time it is light, also when it is Christmas there is snow and special Christmas activities such as building a snowman, even at Easter you get a little mini game with the help from an Easter bunny.

images (2)

download (17)

download (16)


Achievements are a way of extending the playability of a game, when you have achievements you feel like you are achieving something, hence the name achievements. On various consoles the name might differ; on Xbox we call them achievements and on PlayStation we call them Trophies. I think the reason the two consoles have different names is because the two companies do not want the two consoles to be too alike. A lot of people see achievements as a collectible and all of the achievements reward you with a number of points that add up and then that number then results in your Gamerscore.

To earn an achievement you have to follow what it says. For instance an achievement might say ‘Kill 3 enemies at once with the Daedric axe’, once you have completed this objective you will hear the achievement sound and it will appear on your screen. Gamerscores (shortened to ‘G’) usually adds up to 1000G per game, which also depends on if you have downloaded any DLC (Downloadable Content). Currently my Gamerscore is 18130G, hopefully by my third year in University I look back at this and see a large difference.

download (18)

download (19)

Blog at

Up ↑