Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics

Framework Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics (MDA): The Theory Behind Game Design

In the following article with will cover some basic overview of that is the Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics (MDA) Framework and how it could help you make better games.

Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics (MDA) is an approach to understanding game design and game development that has been used for some years now (2004), and that specifies a very clear framework on how to approach game design as a whole.

Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics mds
Importance of elements of game by gender – Source ResearchGate


Why Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics?

Because Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics allows you to break down a game into three basic categories and work through each category until you have the perfect game.

Introduction to Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics


One of the main concepts to understand is that developers create games and players consume games.

This led to the following approach

Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics mda


The player receives the game and begins to play. The game phase can be divided into three simple phases from the player’s perspective


The player understands the rules, interacts with the system, and begins to have fun.

From the developer’s point of view, this leads to three main components of the MDA Framework:

Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics.

  • Mechanics: Mechanics describes the “hidden” parts of the game. Mechanics are the rules and interactions described by algorithms and data structures.
  • Dynamics: Dynamics is the part of the mechanics that the player can actually see. It describes what happens when a player presses a button or, more generally, sends input to the game.
  • Aesthetics: Aesthetics describe the desired emotional response of the player when he or she interacts with the game system.

Looking at this from the player’s and developer’s perspective in the MDA framework, we arrive at the following situation.

MDA Player perspective Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics
Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics – Source: Github

The player begins the experience with the aesthetic part of the game.

The player can interact with the mechanics, but not with the dynamics. Since this is the person who creates the game, the designer starts with the mechanics and only then gets to the dynamic aspect of the game.

When working on a game, it is very useful to consider the perspectives of both the designer and the player, and to try to provide the best possible experience for the player. It is also useful to observe how small changes in one layer affect other layers and the game as a whole.

Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics
Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics – Aesthetics


Aesthetics


Aesthetics describe the desired emotional response evoked in the player.

when interacting with the game system.
When describing aesthetics, we avoid words such as “fun” and “gameplay” and use a more restrained vocabulary. This includes, but is not limited to, the taxonomy listed here

  • Perception: play as sensory enjoyment.
  • Fantasy: play as imagination.
  • Narrative: play as drama.
  • Challenge: play as obstacle race.
  • Community: “play” as a social framework
  • Exploration: play as uncharted territory
  • Expression: Play as self-discovery
  • Contribution: Play as entertainment

Take games such as Quake, Final Fantasy, and The Sims, for example. They are all interesting, but they all have very different aesthetic elements.

  • Quake: Fantasy: challenge, excitement, competition, fantasy.
  • The Sims: exploration, fantasy, expression, narrative.
  • Final Fantasy: fantasy, narrative, expression, discovery, challenge, obedience.


Thus, each game expresses multiple aesthetic goals to varying degrees.

Dynamics


Dynamics addresses the creation of aesthetic experiences. For example, time pressure and opponent play create a sense of challenge. Sharing information with individual members (teams) in the game and providing victory conditions that are difficult to achieve alone (e.g., taking the enemy’s base) can energize the community.

Dynamics, along with aesthetics, are vehicles that drive users to desirable experiences and are often used to emphasize aesthetic feelings.

Dynamics are based on mechanics.

Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics - Mechanics
Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics – Mechanics Source: researchgate


Mechanics


Mechanics are the various behaviors, behaviors, and manipulation mechanisms given to the player in a game. Along with game content (levels, tools, etc.), mechanics support the overall dynamics of the game.
For example, card game mechanics include shuffling, trick-taking, betting, and other dynamics such as bluffing.

Further Reading on the Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics

The original Concept from 2004

The Framework of a game design (2022)

Aesthetics of Play – Redefining Genres in Gaming – Extra Credits

Aesthetics of Play – Redefining Genres in Gaming – Extra Credits

Conclusion


Mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics are useful methods to better understand how to categorize games and, in particular, to predict how changes will affect aspects of the framework and the resulting design/implementation.


Furthermore, by understanding how formal decisions about a game affect the end-user experience, this experience can be better dissected and applied to new design, research, and critique, respectively.

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