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HTML5 Game Development from the Ground Up with Construct 2 by Roberto Dillon

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13
Chapter 2
Understanding How
Games Work
A method is needed in order to reason accurately.
—René Descartes
T
    to jump right into practical game development
exercises, in my experience from years of teaching, the quality and
eectiveness of your work will benet greatly from starting out with a thor-
ough understanding of the main theoretical principles behind the eld.
So what are these “principles”? How can we uncover them to gain a bet-
ter understanding of what makes games tick and turns them into some-
thing engaging, and ultimately fun, for so many people?
As the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes
(1596–1650) once said, A method is needed in order to reason accurately.
*
Unfortunately this is an area where games have always been struggling:
game designers, in fact, still lack a common jargon. ey oen refer to dif-
ferent concepts using the same words or dene the same concepts using
completely dierent words, making idea sharing and denitions of pos-
sible methods challenging to say the least.
Despite the diculties, a rst real attempt to dene uniform terms was
made a few years ago by three game designers named Robin Hunicke, Marc
LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek, whose approach, called the MDA framework,
was to understand games by dividing them into the three main layers:
*
Regulae ad directionem ingenii (Rules for the Direction of the Mind), unnished treatise, 1628.
14  ◾    HTML5 Game Development from the Ground Up
mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics.
*
eir groundbreaking work also
served as an inspiration for dierent methodologies, including one that
has been successfully used both by myself in my own work and by my
students, the AGE framework (standing for actions, gameplay, and experi-
ence), which I will present in this chapter.
As with the MDA, the main idea behind the AGE model is to oer a
reliable approach to understanding how games work by breaking them
down into dierent levels of abstraction and then analyze how they relate
and integrate with each other.
In the case of the AGE framework, the levels we focus on are as follows:
Actions:e core, atomic actions that a player can perform in a
game, which can usually be described in terms of verbs: for example,
moving, jumping, kicking a ball, punching, shooting, taking cover,
shiing tiles, etc. (see Figure2.1).
Gameplay: e result that players achieve by using and combining
the available actions, which can be described either in terms of verbs
or higher-level concepts: for example, ghting, race to an end, ter-
ritorial acquisition, etc. (see Figure2.2).
Experience: e emotional experience that engages players during
the game.
*
e interested reader can check their original paper, “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design
and Game Research,” available online at http://www.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/MDA.pdf.
FIGURE 2.1 Jumping is a typical action characteristic of most platform games:
here, Super Mario Bros. Wii. (© 2009 Nintendo.)
Understanding How Games Work  ◾    15  
ese concepts do not work in isolation, but they can be related to each
other for describing a game in all its complexities by realizing that players
apply the predened rules to give a purpose to the available actions, pro-
ducing the resulting gameplay. is then is used to overcome dierent
challenges and goals, which serve to link the gameplay to the experience
by providing players with a reason to immerse themselves in the gaming
world and then get emotionally engaged in what they are doing (see the
AGE model in Figure2.3).
Now, while describing actions and gameplay can be relatively straight-
forward, how can we eectively describe the emotional experience of play-
ers in a way suitable for relating it back to the gameplay?
To answer this question, the AGE framework adopts another model,
the “6-11 Framework.
*
e idea behind this model is that games can be so engaging at a sub-
conscious level because they successfully rely on a subset of six basic emo-
tions and eleven instincts that are well known in psychology and deeply
rooted in all of us, regardless of our cultural background or ethnicity.
*
First introduced in On the Way to Fun: An Emotion-Based Approach to Successful Game Design,
A K Peters, 2010.
FIGURE 2.2 Race to end is a typical and straightforward example of gameplay
we can nd in countless games. In Super Mario Bros. Wii, for example, our run-
ning and jumping are nalized to reaching a agpole, allowing us to proceed to
the next level.

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