Basic Introduction to Game Design

Game System Dynamics

Cite this article as: Lennart Nacke. (October 1, 2014). Game System Dynamics. The Acagamic. Retrieved August 10, 2020, from

Welcome to the fourth week of class in the course: Basic Introduction to Game Design. Thanks for coming over from GameCareerGuide if you read my guest post there. Make sure to read the syllabus and course information before you continue. Today, we are going to discuss system dynamics in games. This text follows closely from our textbooks (Game Design Workshop, Chapter 5, Challenges for Game Designers, Chapter 2, and Salen and Zimmerman Rules of Play chapters 13,14,16,17,18). In previous lectures, we have discussed the utility of rules. As game designers, we use rules to determine the actions players can take and the outcome of those actions. In digital games, the game logic often provides parts of the rules of your game. The audiovisual manifestation of your game (even the story of your game) is however not considered a component of the formal elements of games. When audiovisual elements influence the formal structure of your game, this should be considered as a factor of your game rules. Salen and Zimmerman distinguish between constituative rules and operational rules as well as implicit rules.

  • Constituative rules are all about a game’s internal events. They are the main logic behind your game. In a digital game, these are contained directly in the code of your game.
  • Operational rules are all the rules needed to run the game (not just the constituative or internal events) including all external events related to your game, such as input and output of the game, the way that you express choice in your game and how outcomes are defined for players.
  • Implicit rules are the unstated assumptions of a game (often similar to a player’s honour code, but also relating to the nature of the computing platform that your game runs on). Implicit rules often relate to the contextual situation of a game that we are taking for granted. However, this contextual situation can be played with, to experiment with innovations in game design.

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