Mechanicsare the Message
Hello, I’m Alex. 
•Game designer by desire 
•Entrepreneur by necessity 
Astroslugs (2009 –2011) 
San Juan (2012) 
Das Tal ...
What I‘m going to talk to you about 
Game criticism & its importance 
How game systems talk to us 
Fictional layer vs. mec...
GameCriticism
“Game criticismhappens when someone dissects and discusses a game that is no his own – or talks about the medium games in ...
Major sources of games criticism 
The Press 
Media Critics 
(Former) Designers 
Academia
Why games criticism is important
Common angles of criticism 
•Technology & graphics 
•The „fun factor“ 
•People & politics 
•Story & narrative 
•Characters...
Are these really what make a game? 
•Audiovisual quality? Real-time? 
•Immersive settings, stories & characters? 
•Digital...
No. Actually it‘s ... 
•Interaction & impact 
•With & on game systems 
•With & on other players 
•Decision making flow 
•E...
GameSystems
Mechanics and systems 
•Mechanics == rules 
•„press A to jump“ 
•actions 
•restrictions 
•Systems== combinations of rules ...
The MDA model (simplified) 
•Mechanics | dynamics | aesthethics 
•Actions | behaviours | feelings
Designers make us feel things 
1.Designers create rules 
2.Combinations of rules create systems 
3.Systems make us act in ...
Systems talk to us 
•Systems talk to us through the way they make us act and feel 
•Systems often talk about their creator...
Electronic Super Joy
Selected quotes 
•„You made mestomp right into the dirt!“ 
•„Stop agreeing [...], game –I don‘t need your sass!“ 
•„I jump...
Kinect Joy Ride
Selected quotes 
•„I WONDER IF THIS GAME HAS AUTO-STEERING. WHAT DO YOU THINK?” 
•„Yes. This really happened.“ 
•„In sovie...
GameDesign
“The pinnacle of game design craft is combining perfect mechanics and compelling fiction into one seamless system of meani...
Fictional layer vs mechanical layer 
•The fictional layer 
•Setting, Story, Characters, Narrative 
•Graphics, Audio 
•The ...
Do fictional and mechanical layer fit? 
Both fictional and mechanical layer create emotions in the player 
If those emotio...
Bioshock Infinite
Selected quotes 
•„OK I don‘t even know what I just picked up. But I picked up something. I got 9 dollars. Sweet.“ & „I‘m ...
Brothers –A Tale of Two Sons
Selected quotes 
•„If he drowns I‘m throwing the controller out the window and I‘m quitting.“ 
•„Oh no, he‘s gonna have to...
Take these sentences home with you 
1.Game criticism is important to make better games 
2.Spend time looking at game mecha...
Mechanicsare the Message
Thank you& please get in touch 
alexanderzacherl.de 
alexander.zacherl@gmail.com 
+49 (0)163 6852365
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Mechanics are the Message

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Game mechanics talk to us. Game critics and game designers should listen to what they say. Also: mechanics and fiction should fit, dummy. =D

Audio Recording: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qr2jkvwvivh2h5t/Zacherl_Alex_final.mp3?dl=0

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Mechanics are the Message

  1. 1. Mechanicsare the Message
  2. 2. Hello, I’m Alex. •Game designer by desire •Entrepreneur by necessity Astroslugs (2009 –2011) San Juan (2012) Das Tal (since 2013)
  3. 3. What I‘m going to talk to you about Game criticism & its importance How game systems talk to us Fictional layer vs. mechanical layer
  4. 4. GameCriticism
  5. 5. “Game criticismhappens when someone dissects and discusses a game that is no his own – or talks about the medium games in general.“ my definition for this talk
  6. 6. Major sources of games criticism The Press Media Critics (Former) Designers Academia
  7. 7. Why games criticism is important
  8. 8. Common angles of criticism •Technology & graphics •The „fun factor“ •People & politics •Story & narrative •Characters & imagery
  9. 9. Are these really what make a game? •Audiovisual quality? Real-time? •Immersive settings, stories & characters? •Digital graphics / technological prowess?
  10. 10. No. Actually it‘s ... •Interaction & impact •With & on game systems •With & on other players •Decision making flow •Emergent behaviour
  11. 11. GameSystems
  12. 12. Mechanics and systems •Mechanics == rules •„press A to jump“ •actions •restrictions •Systems== combinations of rules & actors •Complex •Often hard to predict •Again: emergence!
  13. 13. The MDA model (simplified) •Mechanics | dynamics | aesthethics •Actions | behaviours | feelings
  14. 14. Designers make us feel things 1.Designers create rules 2.Combinations of rules create systems 3.Systems make us act in certain ways 4.Acting makes us feel things •-> Designers make us feel things
  15. 15. Systems talk to us •Systems talk to us through the way they make us act and feel •Systems often talk about their creator, the game designer(s) •The show us how the designer sees •His audience (the players) •His work ethic •Our common culture •The path to success
  16. 16. Electronic Super Joy
  17. 17. Selected quotes •„You made mestomp right into the dirt!“ •„Stop agreeing [...], game –I don‘t need your sass!“ •„I jumped right into it. I am so awful!“ •„Rah! Rah! Raaaw!“
  18. 18. Kinect Joy Ride
  19. 19. Selected quotes •„I WONDER IF THIS GAME HAS AUTO-STEERING. WHAT DO YOU THINK?” •„Yes. This really happened.“ •„In soviet Russia, gamezplay you.”
  20. 20. GameDesign
  21. 21. “The pinnacle of game design craft is combining perfect mechanics and compelling fiction into one seamless system of meaning.“ Tynan Silvester: Designing Games –A Guide to Engineering Experiences
  22. 22. Fictional layer vs mechanical layer •The fictional layer •Setting, Story, Characters, Narrative •Graphics, Audio •The mechanical layer •What you can do (Mechanics) •What the systems make you do (Dynamics) •-> The game experience(Aesthetics)
  23. 23. Do fictional and mechanical layer fit? Both fictional and mechanical layer create emotions in the player If those emotions fit together the player‘s experience will likely be as the designer intended If those emotions don‘t fit we have a mental disconnect that damages the intended experience
  24. 24. Bioshock Infinite
  25. 25. Selected quotes •„OK I don‘t even know what I just picked up. But I picked up something. I got 9 dollars. Sweet.“ & „I‘m just taking everything.“ •„Can I turn this off? ... Nope.“ •„Someone just really has bad parking.“
  26. 26. Brothers –A Tale of Two Sons
  27. 27. Selected quotes •„If he drowns I‘m throwing the controller out the window and I‘m quitting.“ •„Oh no, he‘s gonna have to swim. [...] Tom‘s not here to help!“ •„I‘m still moving both sticks even though there‘s only one kid now. Oh why is that so terrible that I noticed that?“ •„He‘s growing up and becoming stronger [...]“
  28. 28. Take these sentences home with you 1.Game criticism is important to make better games 2.Spend time looking at game mechanics when criticising games 3.Game systems talk to their players and about their creators 4.Game designers should look at their system‘s messages 5.Create fiction and mechanics that fit together
  29. 29. Mechanicsare the Message
  30. 30. Thank you& please get in touch alexanderzacherl.de alexander.zacherl@gmail.com +49 (0)163 6852365

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