Game Mechanics

6 min. read

Game Mechanics

Game mechanics are algorithms


What are Game Mechanics?

“Core mechanics represent the essential moment-to-moment activity of players. During a game, core mechanics create patterns of repeated behaviour, the experiential buildings blocks of play” Katie Salen Eric Zimmerman - Rules of Play

“Mechanics are the various actions, behaviours and control mechanisms afforded to the player within a game context. The mechanics support overall gameplayer dynamics” Robin Hinicke, Marc LeBlanc and Robert Zubek - MDA Framework

“These are the procedures are rules of your game. Mechanics describe the goal of your game, how players can and cannot try to achieve it, and that happens when they try” Jess Schell - The Art of Game Design, a book of Lenses.

Game Mechanic Frameworks

The MDA Framework

The 4 Elements of Game Mechanics (Stephen Trinh)

Quantity Element

Definition: Mechanics that can be represented as a number
Examples: Resources: Health, mana, energy, rage
Currency: Gold, zeny, bells.
Abstract: time

Spatial Element

Definition: Mechanics that affect space
World: Position and rotation of objects
Tangible: Collision, characters, props

State Element

Definition: Mechanics that apply additional rules
Player: Grounded, airbourne, swimming, alive, dead
Game: Victory, lobby, loading
Object: On, Off, open, closed

Action Element

Definition: Mechanics that drive change
resource: Health regen, shooting ammo
World: Running, jumping, teleporting
Object: Unlock door, open chest

Mechanics can use more than one element

Using the example from Stephen’s blog post:

“We can start with the metaphor, as that’s always the most visible aspect:
Mario turns big when he eats a mushroom. When Mario is big, if he takes damage, he turns small, and when Mario is small and he takes damage, he dies.”

Which translates to:

“Big or small are state mechanics that (1) apply to Mario, (2) visually represent Mario’s health points (quantity), and (3) affect how tall Mario is when he is standing (spatial). When Mario collides with another entity (spatial), that entity may change Mario’s health state to big, to small, or to dead (action).

Being able to convert metaphors into mechanics is an important skill to have when analyzing systems”


Game Mechanics in Gamification (Andrzej Marczewski)

“A distinct set of rules that dictate the outcome of interactions within the system. They have an input, a process and an output”

TODO: Link to IPO Model


“The user’s response to collections of these mechanics”

HEXAD User Types

52 Gamification Elements



Lottery Mechanics


Social Status

Evolution Mechanics

Horizon Zero Dawn - Each time you kill an enemy, all those enemies become better.

Level Scaling

When you become stronger, the enemies become stronger.

Stealth Mechanics

Hiding-behind-cover Mechanic

Offensive Cover System (OCS)

Resource Collection



Shelter Mechanics

Dodge Mechanics

Secret Endings



Pet Mechanic

Talent Tree





Inventory Mechanics

Skills and Skill Trees



Load/Save System

List of Game Mechanics

  • Bullet Time - Max Payne, F.E.A.R, GTA, RDR, Sands of Time
  • Physics
  • Dodging - Zelda, Assassin’s Creed, Dark souls,
  • Healing - Self, team
  • Shoot - Enemy, environment, steam, self?
  • Reload
  • Projectile Reflection
  • Attack of Opportunity
  • Overwatch - queue, or all at once, cone
  • Downed/Death
  • Cover - environment, team member, dead body
  • Fear
  • Double Jump
  • Active Reload - Gears of War, Returnal
  • Grappling Hooks - Batman, Sekiro, Ghost of Tsushima
  • Kill party member to cause the enemy to flee out of fear
  • Maiming
  • Pushback/knockback when hit
  • Bleeding, Freezing, burning, poison,
  • Revive
  • Grenades, trajectory
  • Friendly fire
  • Traps
  • Wall running
  • Kill all (Goal)
  • Escort (Goal, quest)
  • Get to extraction point (goal)


10 HIDDEN Mechanics Big Games Never Tell You About