Chapter 9 of 21 from Will Wright

Game Mechanics


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.

Topics include: Enable a Conversation Between Player and System • Find the Right Mechanics • Create Both Overt and Hidden Rules • Use Simple Mathematics • Use Probability and Chance to Your Advantage • Ensure Player Agency Determines Fate • Expand Your Palette of Game Mechanics

Will Wright

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.

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Class Info


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 some of the most popular simulation games of all time—SimCity and The Sims. Will teaches you how to design games that empower players and unleash their creativity. You’ll develop a toolset for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will's approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.

The Sims creator Will Wright teaches you his personal strategies to design fascinating games that engage players and enable their creativity.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with an exclusive Game Design Document template to use in your own work.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Will will also critique select student work.


Will Wright

Will Wright Teaches Game Design and Theory