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Design & Style

Game Mechanics

Will Wright

Lesson time 14:54 min

Game mechanics govern the interactions within your game system. Will teaches you how to identify mechanics in other games, and how to choose the game mechanics that will enhance your player experiences.

Will Wright
Teaches Game Design and Theory
Collaboration, prototyping, playtesting. The Sims creator Will Wright breaks down his process for designing games that unleash player creativity.


There are tools, or mechanisms, or patterns of interaction that you can use that you have the player-- this kind of creativity, this kind of affordance, this kind of agency. Underneath the hood, you know, the game is actually-- [BABY CRIES] --doing some causal connection between when the player does that, this happens, or here's the limitation. And it really kind of comes down to an affordance or an action that the player is allowed in a game and how the game response to that action, and it kind of defines what the challenge is. If it's a locked door, what is the puzzle, or what are the items needed to unlock that door? If it's an exploration thing, what path do you have to take through this maze to get to the exit? If it's a resource allocation thing, it's what are the basic resources? How they being consumed? How are they being earned? Each one of these is kind of what we call a game mechanic. They're like little closed system of somehow interaction, balance, economy that you can connect together to make a larger interactive experience. Mechanic is some kind of process going on between the player and the game that you might attach metrics to you. Might attach a leaderboard or scoring system to that. But once you have that, that process going on, you can now use that process either to moderate the player's progress. You can use that process to, you know, add difficulty. You can use that process to make the world more interesting, more mysterious, more kind of tangible. You know, there are a lot of ways to use these kind of what I'd call, like, micro processes to build up that larger process of here's what it feels like to be in that world. In some sense, I think, of this as the dynamics. You know, as a player's doing things in the game, how is that game responding to the player? You know, what is the conversation that the player's having with the game system? And each one of these mechanics is kind of one type of phrase, or interaction, or you know, word the player can kind of express within that system against the game, and the game will respond in certain ways, and the player's kind of learning to kind of converse with the game system through these mechanics. [MUSIC PLAYING] When we talk about game mechanics, you know, again, to me these are parts. OK, and you know, it can be a part that's been used many, many times, or it can be a brand new part that you've invented all on your own. And to me, you know, what really matters is the whole that's built out of these parts. You know, so I might have, let's say, you know, a fuel injection unit, and an engine, and a differential, and wheels, and I start putting these together to make some kind of a car. And maybe I decide I want a flux converter, you know, and I'm going to invent a flux converter and stick it in there. That's great, you know, but what really matters is the entire car, you know. How is that car going to drive or not? You know, with the existing mech...

Explore the Possibility Space

Learn the art and science of game design with Will Wright, the mind behind SimCity and The Sims. In this game design class, Will teaches you how to create games that empower players and unleash their imagination. You’ll develop a tool set for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will’s approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Will is the secret hero of my childhood. I've been playing The Sims since 9. I'll watch this over and over again because every lesson is priceless.

Dude's a genius. He really knows his stuff and how to communicate really complex subjects in a way that makes it easy to understand. Thank you so much. Peace.

I've played the Sims for 20 years. It was such a joy to hear the creator's process. I'm also a user experience designer, so many concepts are directly applicable. I'm excited to learn more about system design as well.

Really interesting insight into game design. Though not a field I intend to work in, there's a commonality in the design approach to other fields, but also some broader approaches that will be of use. The focus on system thinking, together with psychological techniques, are all valuable to being a professional designer.


A fellow student

There's a name for what Wright calls "the simulator effect" in the video: apophenia. There's a good GDC video on YouTube where Tynan Sylvester (the creator of RimWorld) talks about using this effect in game design.

Daniel B.

Hi everyone, I was wondering if you can help me find Game examples for 3 Aesthetics that I want to include in my game: Aesthetic #1: Challenge: While seeing the whole world, you are asked to find something specific. Examples: Memory game (Find a matching pair), Candy Crush (Find 3 or more candies that can be aligned), Jigsaw Puzzle Find a specific piece that can match with an other). Sequence (Find a place in the board where you can place your tile). Aesthetic #2: Expression: Allow the player to write their own story Examples: Minecraft (you can build your own world). The Sims (you can create your own family and experiences). Game Dev Story (you can choose what games to develop and even Name them). Aesthetic #3: Fellowship: Two players are able to interact simultaniously with the same world Examples: Jigsaw Puzzle (two players can look for the same piece or match different pieces simultaniously), Legos (Two people can help build the same structure) and Disney's Find and Seek (two players could be looking for objects). I would really appreciate if you can help me out by naming other games that have either of these Aesthetics. It could really help me research more mechanics. Thanks in advance,

Daniel C.

Hi guys, Having a bit of trouble really getting this one. I'd be interested in hearing how these would be applies to specific games of different genres. So my understanding is something like this: Street Fighter 2: Aesthetics - *Sensation (it looks great and feels fun to hit other fighters) *Fantasy (I get to be a cool fighter) *Challenge (I need to overcome different fighters & fighting styles) *Expression (I can fight in a style that I personally like) *maybe a bit of Narrative also (the journey of each fighter and their story) Dynamics - * Tension/Danger * Adversariness/Conflict * Domination/Victorious (sense of being bad ass/tough/skillful martial artist) * Personal playing style * Specific fighting situations/strategies such as combos, feints, cornering etc that arise from the fighting system & move sets Mechanics - * All the different specific moves of each character * The overall fighting system * Limited health & Damage * Increased opponent difficulty What do you guys think of this breakdown and anyone want to volunteer a breakdown for another game? Also found some additional reading & Extra Credits episode if anyone is interested

Emmi K.

I love it, so many of the thinks he says are something that I have intuitively used in our games, and now I get affirmation that it was right to think so! - Feedback for the player has to be a signal, not noise. - Use certain mechanics because it's the right one, not because it's a new one - Gamer has to have feeling, that they are in charge of the end result in the game

Levon Z.

At 4:38 the subtitles include "[INAUDIBLE] keys", but I'm pretty sure that Mr. Wright meaned "WASD keys".

Shan K.

Hi guys, (Mechanics vs Dynamics vs Aesthetics, Mechanics->Dynamics->Aesthetics rramework for Game Design).