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INTC 5590 Gameplay and Game Mechanics

INTC 5590 Gameplay and Game Mechanics

Author: Douglas Harvey

Comprehend the difference between gameplay and game mechanics.

Identify aspects of a game, particularly the game mechanics, when playing a game.


This week you are learning about gameplay and game mechanics, and ruminating on what they are, how they are actualized by games, and what gameplay and game mechanics you might use in your own game designs.

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Games 101

PowerPoint file for the first class meeting.


Gameplay is the purpose of the game and how the rules and mechanics (how you play) get you to the end result. For example, the purpose of Monopoly is to finish the game with the most money and property, and the rules such as collecting money as you pass Go, and rolling the die to move, as well as the way properties are priced and purchased, are how you play.

Game mechanics are how you get there - or the means of playing the game from which the fun and challenge of the 

game are derived. What makes Monopoly fun is the way it is played. Some of that is in the rules, but it is more explicit than the gameplay. For instance, a mechanic in Monopoly is getting a monopoly so you can build houses and hotels. It also is the ways that different monopolies provide strategic advantages, such that the blue Boardwalk and Park Place properties are more desirable but cost more..Mechanics are what makes the game meaningful rather than rote.

A good list of game mechanics is at the website though in the context of gamifying - we are not gamifying a classroom but rather designing  games.Read the white paper in the next section for more on game mechanics.



White Paper

Sharon Boller, creator of Knowledge Guru® and President of Bottom-Line Performance, has authored white paper on using game mechanics and game elements in learning games. The white paper demonstrates how learning game designers can design game mechanics and game elements that support real learning outcomes. You can sign up for and download the paper at:


Game Mechanics Tell A Story?

Can games tell a story through their game mechanics? Or do the mechanics get in the way of the narrative, which often is what we are trying to use to teach the player something? This video explores these questions and is useful as you consider your game design.

Game Mechanic Videos

The website Extra Credits is devoted to games and game design - they have three excellent and short videos that explore the use of metaphors and narrative - watch them (and play the game Loneliness):


Your Challenge

Find a game - any game will do, be it a board game, video game or online game - and analyze it using the worksheet at the end of the article Towards a (New) Video Game Pedagogy: Critical Players Not Digital Natives by Change (attached in the next section).by Chang. Bring that to the next face to face class to share. 

Also begin looking over your chosen tool and see what types of game mechanics and elements are available - some tools are better at providing certain mechanics, and some limit the options for mechanics to simplify the design process.


Chang's Close Playing Plog Worksheet

The attached PDF is from Dr. Edmond Chang at Drew University. Developed for a workshop Dr. Chang runs on pedagogy and games, I am asking you to use the worksheet to determine several concepts in your chosen game:

1. How is the game narrated - what is the story, who are the characters, etc.
2. How is the scene set - video, visuals, audio, environment, and so forth.
3. What are the game mechanics?
4. What are the social and cultural messages inherent in the game?

Do your best and bring the completed worksheet with you to our next class meeting.