August 29, 2009


I believe that defining terms is a very important step for game designers. So many of the concepts we deal with are so abstract and malleable that they can be interpreted in almost any way. The most basic description of our job is "making fun," and yet I've yet to see two designers agree on exactly what that word actually means.

Because of this, I think it's important to agree on definitions of terms in the context that you're discussing them, so that subjectivity doesn't become a problem. These glossary posts should help clarify some of the more specific terms I employ when discussing game design.

I'm not suggesting that these are neccessarily the "right" way to define these terms, but they are the ones that work best for me. I find it's much less important that a definition be correct than that everyone in a discussion have the same definition in mind.
Diminishing Returns
For any efficiency, the tendency of increasing costs to be less effective at increasing rewards. Diminishing returns may only apply above a certain cost level, or they may scale over the entire range of possible costs.
The ratio between the cost of an action and the perceived value of its reward.
1) Assuming something to be an absolute truth when it is only true in specific cases.
2) Mistaking correlation for causaulity as a result of such faulty logic
The usage of metaphors to present game mechanics and gameplay as a cohesive and logical whole.
Game Mechanics
All stimuli the game presents a player with, in the hopes of encouraging or discouraging certain gameplay.
Anything that a player does or thinks as a direct or indirect result of a game's mechanics.
A game's plot or story. This includes the conflict, specific characters and their arcs, the backstory of the world, and the happy ending.
The amount of rewards generated in a particular span of time, regardless of how efficiently those rewards were generated or how much effort and resources they cost.
Productivity = (Effort x Efficiency)/Diminishing returns


Jason Schklar said...

Thank you for taking folks like me to task. I'm so lazy in the way I use the term "game mechanics" (vs., for instance, game play) that I have no doubt it has led to reader confusion in some of my writings.

I can't promise to stick with your definitions, but I appreciate the effort!



Mike Darga said...

Hey thanks Jason. I just wanted to get them all in one post I could hang off my front page somewhere.

If anybody else uses these it's an added bonus, I just like to see people aggree on ANY definitions, mine or otherwise.

It starts to become a pretty tedious precedent to follow though. It seems like every time I think of something interesting to post, I realize I'd need to write one or more precurser posts just to define the terms. I need to figure out a better system.