Game Design Elements

This is framework for game design elements. It’s not a complete list; this is only a sampling which should serve as a starting point in game design. Important: Keep in mind that the purpose of implementing design elements is to improve the entire user experience.

Dynamics (the grammar)

  • constraints
  • emotions
  • narrative
  • progression
  • relationships

Mechanics – move action forward (the verbs)

  • challenges
  • chance
  • competition
  • cooperation
  • feedback
  • resource acquisition
  • rewards
  • transactions
  • turns
  • win states

Components: (the nouns)

  • achievements
  • avatars
  • badges
  • boss fights
  • collections
  • combat
  • content unlocking
  • gifting
  • leader boards
  • levels
  • points
  • quests
  • social graph
  • teams
  • virtual goods

Most common elements of gamification – PBL

These elements are somewhat overused in the industry. There is the danger of making these game elements seem like commodities if integrated haphazardly; however, if integrated correctly they can add tremendous value.

Points – a way to keep score and determine win states. Gaming companies typically connect this with rewards. Points are also used to provide feedback, display progress, and provide data for the game designer. The best thing are points is that they are fungible – all points are equal.

Badges – representation of achievement. Badges can improve the flexibility and showoff the style of the game. Badge denote importance and can signal of credentials and status. A great example of badge use is Openbadges.org

Leaderboards – provide feedback on competition. However leaderboards can be dangerous because most player populations show a skewness where the top players are ranked significantly higher than the average player. This can actually be de-motivating. A popular example is the use of leaderboards in sales contests. Researchers have found that competition in a sales contest often makes people less willing to engage. Therefore alternatives might be using personalized leaderboards or friend leaderboards.

Important reminder: Elements are not the game. Overuse can create the problem of making game design elements seem too cookie cutter. Users can get burnt out or become uninterested. The most practical applications of game design elements are implementations that can drive business value.

What was a game experience that was less than memorable?

A recent not-so-good game experience I had was in playing with rubik’s cube. My gf has one lying around her apartment, and I picked it up the other day and tried to solve it while waiting for her to get ready. I spent a good 15 minutes, got one side of colors to match up, then had no idea how to progress. I tried looking for some tips online but I got bored quickly. I may get some hate for this since the rubik’s cube is a classic toy and has obviously sold very well, but I didn’t think it was a great game experience because I had zero incentive to finish. None of my friends have ever talked about solving a rubiks cube. This meant that I quickly lost interest and soon started browsing reddit instead.

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