MDA framework

3 min. read

Mechanics are the base components of the game - its rules, every basic action the player can take in the game, the algorithms and data structures in the game engine etc.

Data and Actions

Dynamics are the run-time behavior of the mechanics acting on player input and “cooperating” with other mechanics.

Normally consists of a combination of mechanics.

Mechanics during gameplay

Aesthetics are the emotional responses evoked in the player.

Players reaction to dynamics

Types of Aesthetics
Sensation (Game as sense-pleasure): Player experiences something completely unfamiliar.
Fantasy (Game as make-believe): Imaginary world.
Narrative (Game as drama): A story that drives the player to keep coming back
Challenge (Game as obstacle course): Urge to master something. Boosts a game’s replayability.
Fellowship (Game as social framework): A community where the player is an active part of it. Almost exclusive for multiplayer games.
Discovery (Game as uncharted territory): Urge to explore game world.
Expression (Game as self-discovery): Own creativity. For example, creating a character resembling the player’s own avatar.
Submission (Game as pastime): Connection to the game, as a whole, despite constraints.

six emotions
Fear: one of the most common emotions in games nowadays. Thanks to the newest technologies, it is now possible to represent realistic environments and situations where fear can easily be triggered: think of all the recent survival horror games or dungeon explorations in RPG games for plenty of examples.
Anger: A powerful emotion that is often used as a motivational factor to play again or to advance in the story to correct any wrongs that some bad guy did.
Joy / Happiness: Arguably, one of the most relevant emotions for having a fun gamingexperience. Usually this is a consequence of the player succeeding in some task and being rewarded by means of power ups,story advancements and so on.
Pride: rewarding players and making them feel good for their achievements is animportant motivational factor for pushing them to improve further and advance in thegame to face even more difficult challenges.
Sadness: Despite being an emotion that doesn’t seem to match with the concept of “fun”, game designers have always been attracted by it as a way to reach new artisticheights and touch more complex and mature themes.
Excitement: most games worth playingshould achieve this and it should happennaturally as a consequence of successfullytriggering other emotions and/or instincts.
eleven core instincts


The Aesthetics of Play - Chariot Rider

Aesthetics of Play - Redefining Genres in Gaming - Extra Credits

Game Design and Tuning Workshop Materials, 2004

Combining Genres - How to Pick the Right Design Mechanics For Your Game - Extra Credits