Dissecting and Assembling Game Mechanics

One way to conceive game ideas is to understand the mechanisms underlying previously created games. Analyzing how these mechanisms offer enjoyment and challenges to players can provide a structured approach. New games can be created by combining these mechanisms.

For instance, I have dissected the mechanisms of the games I created so far. I organized how each game is composed of player characters, weapons, obstacles, fields, rules, and controls, categorizing them with tags 1 (click the image to go to the top page).

action-mini-game mechanic tags

Upon pressing the "Detail" button for each tag, explanations for each tag, as well as a list of games with the respective tag can be viewed.

Tags correspond to various mechanisms, such as:

  • Player character rotating 2: Operate in sync with the rotation timing.
  • Weapons flying in a parabolic path 3: Variations exist in the manner of throwing, what is thrown, and the effects upon landing.
  • Mixing in items with penalties 4: Rather than mindlessly continuing attacks, it’s necessary to carefully observe the screen’s conditions to time the attacks.
  • 1D field 5: The game screen can be expressed in one dimension, and characters can only move left and right (or up and down).
  • Proximity bonus 6: By placing bonus points near obstacles, a basic form of risk and reward is realized.
  • Attribute inversion upon button press 7: Various special behaviors can be achieved by devising attributes.

The pages are intended to be used as follows:

  • Review the tag list page to understand the mechanisms that can be integrated into an action mini-game.
  • View the tag detail page to consider other games that utilize that mechanism.
  • Arbitrarily combine multiple tags to conceptualize games using those mechanisms.

These types of game mechanisms are often referred to as game mechanics.8 Game mechanics refer to the organized actions available to players within a game and the events triggered in response to those actions. Game mechanics are used to analyze how a game is designed or as an aid when conceiving new games. Gameplay is often described as the flow between game mechanics,9 and based on these mechanics, the gameplay experience can be shaped by contemplating how to challenge the player.

The level of granularity for game mechanics to be identified doesn't seem to have a particular standard. While abstract elements such as turns, resource management, and risk and reward can be listed as mechanics, finer in-game actions like jumping, shielding, rotating, and powering up can also be listed.

This time, to aid in conceptualizing a new action mini-game, the organization was done with a focus on finer in-game actions. Emphasis was placed on seeing actual examples for each mechanic, understanding how they are combined with other mechanics, and identifying the risks (challenges) and rewards provided to players. Games that showcase these mechanics have been made viewable and playable.

By using self-made games as examples for organization, the content is admittedly biased towards action mini-games, particularly one-button games, but this method was presented as an example for brainstorming game ideas.

1. action-mini-game-mechanic-tags
2. The player character rotates
3. The object follows a parabolic trajectory due to the effect of gravity
4. There are objects interspersed that incur penalties upon contact or destruction
5. The field is confined to one dimension
6. Proximity to risk yields points
7. Invert attributes or states
8. Game mechanics
9. Video Game Mechanics: A Beginner’s Guide (with Examples)

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