Definitions, Batch 5

While writing this video game development diary, I realized that definitions are an essential building block to help keep my thinking on track. Below is my fifth batch of definitions (which are also available here). I was inspired by the examples at and Frictional Games. These four definitions are known collectively as Play Mechanics. They represent the ‘foundational’, technical layer of video game play.

1) Tools
The avatars (generic representation), characters (in-game personality), units (collectives), and abstract objects provided by the video game to the Player. These Tools typically contain many different qualities and abilities and give the Player the means to overcome the Obstacles arrayed against them.

2) Obstacles
The AI/Player opponents, puzzles, resource limits, plot complexity, map design and more that challenges the Player. The Player uses the Tools to overcome these Obstacles. An unbalanced video game would have Tools that are poorly matched against the Obstacles and would lead to disillusionment.

3) Skills
The Player’s synthesis of complexity and depth. Complexity is the mixture of the video game’s Tools. Depth is the Player’s openness, intelligence, knowledge, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination that groks the Complexity.
Skill levels will range (none, beginner, medium, high, and master) and depend on the Complexity (none, mild, moderate, advanced, to infinite) being matched by Depth (below, equal, or above). Poorly matched Skills lead Players to become bored or overwhelmed, while properly matched Skills can lead to flow.

4) Rules
The reward or punishment when the Player’s Tool Skill matches or does not match the Obstacles. Rules reinforce Player behavior and an unbalanced video game that improperly rewards/punishes would lead to disillusionment.

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