Each game aims to engage users to make them feel pleasure and relaxed. How do game developers do it? A lot of peoples says that developers uses clever psychology tricks to access the pressure of the players. The obstacles, user encounters are designed to control difficulty peaks and satisfaction. However, none of these “tricks” wouldn’t worked fine if the mechanic wasn’t so good or “fun.”
In which case, what does “fun” factor is? To correctly answer this question, we need to know the definition of “fun”. For example, the idea of fun for my father in law is to fly gliders; for me, it’s more fun to fly a plane instead boring glider. Comparing to games, puzzles games will be fun for one person, whereas strategy games are fun for another.
One of the most common solutions in the industry is Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA). This framework is a tool used to analyze consumption of games by breaking them down into three components — Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics. These three words have been used informally for many years to describe various aspects of games. This framework was created by Marc LeBlanc, Robin Hunicke, and Robert Zubek in 2001. Many companies rewrite and adapt this model to their needs, but to start you have to know fundamentals:
Mechanics are the base components of our game — its data structures, algorithms and every basic action the player can take in the game.Mechanics are the various actions, behaviors and control mechanisms afforded to the player within a game context.
For example: Banjo-Kazooie mechanics includes: moving, jumping, automatic screen scrolling, moving platforms and objects.
Dynamics are the run-time behavior of the mechanics acting on player input and “cooperating” with other mechanics. Basically, what we as designers can do within the very rulesto enhance the player experience.
For example: Dynamic game difficulty balancing is an infamous hidden feature of racing games that allows computer-controlled opponents to catch up no matter how far behind they are. It is intended to keep challenging the player, but can also give AI opponents an unfair advantage.
Aesthetics are the emotional players’ feedback or feelings from our game. Common sense would suggest that aesthetics are a visual aspect.
In the paper, they mapped the word “fun” into 8 different meanings to make it easier to grasp:
We can distinguish eight type of the “fun” word:
Do you remember the genesis of the word fun? Fun is the feelings that the user has to receive during playing. therefore, we can perceive types as feelings:
Here are some examples of aesthetics in some selected games:
As developers, we become accustomed to think about the game mechanics first, and how they will lead the player to the dynamics and aesthetic feeling. However, you always have to remember to look at it from the other side… from player perspective.
I hope that you understand what the MDA framework is and what we can achieve thanks to it, but how to put them into practive?
This framework is a tool which help us making better products and define what will be fun for our players. Remember to devote a few days to the creative process before starting production.
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