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When you hear the term "game mechanics", what comes to mind? This phrase has evolved rapidly with new technology, and it now represents the rules and feedback systems that are in place to generate an accessible and enjoyable game. From driving the user's experience to every aspect of the way a game runs, the mechanics are the heart and soul of the design of a game. Good game mechanics are harmonious, engaging, and are in tune with the needs and wants of the targeted audience. Seems simple, right? In actuality, defining and implementing game mechanics can be difficult, as audiences and technologies are constantly changing. That being said, innovative, engaging, and detailed game mechanics are important, especially in today's society where there seems to be a new game or style of game coming out every day. From using the appropriate platform to pinpointing a targeted audience and developing a game that will have users coming back for more, there are a handful of things to remember when truly trying to understand what goes into the mechanics of a successful serious game.
It may be helpful to look at game mechanics as a series of puzzles that are all connected. What we mean by this is that each and every step or action performed by the user is integral to the overall experience of the game. Whether the game requires users to beat a certain level before they can proceed or answer a question, the user is perhaps the largest piece of the puzzle. Basically, a user performs a prompted action, the action then causes some effect in the game (e.g. receiving tokens or points or proceeding to the next level), and then the user receives feedback which is used to perform another action. This cycle of action and feedback continues, and is in essence the mechanics of the game.
This continuous cycle of feedback, or feedback loops, is essential to the overall operation and user experience. Additionally, the need for feedback throughout the various steps of the game shows that users are itching for information, especially when it will help them solve a problem or "beat" a game.
So what is the most important part of game design? You guessed it, engagement. Without promoting user interactivity and captivation, a game will not succeed. And in order to get people interested and coming back for more, the game mechanics must be top-notch. Since it all begins and ends with the game users, having (and understanding) a targeted audience should always be the first step. Once you have an audience in mind, it is important to remember that easy games quickly become boring and repetitive, causing users to look for a more challenging (but not too difficult) game. Implementing incentives and new ways to achieve the goals of the game as well as constructing a game that requires a little bit of thinking and problem solving are the keys to a successful game. When it comes to the mechanics, remember that people are looking for a combination of entertainment, interaction, and challenges that tests their skills and knowledge.
Game mechanic design takes long-term dedication, planning, and knowledge. From understanding a targeted audience to having the capability to create a game that is both engaging and interesting, the mechanics of a game are integral to its overall success. With this, user feedback is another central part to a game and it is important to ask yourself time and time again, "why should people want to play?"