Game mechanics

Game mechanics are in most games an essential part of the experience. They are what makes the game more complex, potentially adding layers of depth into it. Or it could be a simple mechanic what keeps you coming back for more. Here are twenty-four examples of game mechanics ranging across many genres and devices.

Countdown game mechanic 

Countdowns appear in various games in different situations to put the player under pressure. One example of this would be a timer that counts down until a bomb explodes. This could be used in a competitive game such as counter strike, were if a team plants a bomb the other team has to diffuse it before the time runs out, of course if it does the bomb explodes leaving the other team at a loss. By using this mechanic, it provokes tension and pressure were as otherwise if this was not implemented the game would be less exhilarating and the game mode would most probably cease to exist. Numerous other shooters have used this mechanic in the same way also such as battlefield and call of duty etc.

Many other genres of games use timers to from puzzles to strategy games. One more example would be racing games also use this mechanic one that comes to mind is Crazy Taxi were you have a time limit to get a customer from one destination to the other. If you get there on time you will be rewarded but if you run over the timer, you will be penalized.


Cascading information

Games can often have a lot of information to give out to the player in order for the player to understand what to do or what needs to be done. This is where cascading information comes into the equation. By releasing information slowly and over time the player can take it in and generally, if done right, remember the information without over loading them with too much. The game could use a list allowing you to see quickly what you need to do but also see your progress increasing satisfaction.

Reward schedules

­Many games use reward schedules in their games. This is due to how the player reacts when they get a reward. It gives them a good feeling, a sense of progression, achievement and success. It’s a strong driving force and can motivate players to play that game more and not lose interest as quickly. Not all games use it but a few do due to how effective it is. One hugely popular mobile game that does this is Farmville were you wait a set amount of time for your crops to grow and when you come back after a certain amount of time they will be fully grown. Other games can give you a star rating based on how well you did or some may give you in game cash and some mobile games such as boom beach reward you with diamonds if you take over a base which are worth real money via in app purchases.



Points are used to show the player/s information based on their score or actions. This could be the score of a football game or the points they get for destroying their opponents base of a strategy game. Points can be used to show the player if they are winning or losing providing it is a competitive game.



Based on a random on random selection a person wins by chance often resulting in the winner going again and the loser questioning the fairness and most likely leaving the game. Some games allow real world money to be used increasing the stakes and intensity of the game. Due to the random nature it can become addicting especially if you are lucky enough to win more than lose, which gives those players a reason to come back and try it again just for that chance of a win.



Many games use an achievement system which means that the developer can set an achievement to pop up when you complete a certain action. You could get an achievement for completing a level on a hard difficulty or completing the level in a specific way if the developer so desires. Achievements are on many platforms such as Xbox one, Ps4, Ps3 and other platforms and devices. Each achievement can be worth something different and this varies from platform to platform, for example Xbox has Gamerscore (the higher the Gamerscore the harder the achievement) and Playstation has trophies ranked from bronze to gold and then unlocking them all will earn you a platinum trophy. By unlocking an achievement, it gives the player a feeling of progression and reward making the time they spent trying to unlock it worth it. It also has a social element to, in which players can compare each others achievements and this has a potential motivating effect were the player wants to play more of that game to earn the trophy their friends got.



Collaboration typically involves players to work together in order to complete their task or objective. This could be to defeat a boss in a MMO like guild wars or working together to defeat an enemy team like Dota 2 which requires a team to collaborate and plan in order to defeat the other team. They are also co-operative games such as Borderlands were up to four friends can explore the world and level up together. Playing with friends often strengthens the experiences in games and is a strong mechanic to have, that being if the game is suitable. It also can add more mechanics to the game such as being able to heal each other, make each other more powerful etc.



By showing progression it allows the player to see how far they have come and generally how far they have got to go before a next level or item, but this is not always the case depending on what type of game it is. Rpgs are generally well known for progression menus/bars and statistics because a player needs to know the statistics for their character so they know how powerful they are and how many more experience points they need to get to the next level. Other games could show progression in the form of how far they are through the game with a percentage number which gives the player an idea of there progression through the game.



Many casual games which are on mobile and web browsers use this mechanic due the ease of sharing the content over a medium like Facebook which makes it easy to share with friends. Which in turn makes the game more visible and noticeable therefore gaining more popularity. A game called 8 ball pool allows you to invite friends to the game which will give you benefits if you do this.



While fairly self explanatory countdowns are as you would expect normally found in racing games with lap times and time trails as such. But can be found in other genres such as platformers, having to get across a level within a certain time limit and then grading the player based on how fast they completed it.


Discovery mechanic often used in open world games when you are exploring the area finding new places, buildings and items and can often reward you for finding these places. The Fallout series uses this and gives you experience points which allow you to level up by finding new places. It also can give you little bits of backstory and engrosses you and immerses you into the world even more. Minecraft can also has discovery in the form of combining elements and items together to create other items. You can use a stick and combine it with coal to make a torch and you can do this with many of the other items within the game. It allows the player to experiment and find out new things by themselves creating a “aha” moment which makes the player feel clever and resourceful.


Free lunch

This mechanic relies on another player putting more work in than you in order for you to get something for what feels like “free”. The player still needs to put work in, but as long as the reward is greater than the work you put in then the player will feel like it is free. The reward could be an item or experience.


The game needs to be designed to be productive in the way it’s objectives are designed and handled. If for example, you have a quest that requires the player to go to a certain place collect something then go back, but then the next mission/objective is in the same place as where they went the first time the player won’t feel productive and have the feeling of progression we all love so much which means that the player will lose interest. Some games do this really well and have to be considered though. Dead space involves a lot of backtracking going down the same areas you have been before. Normally you would go down a corridor and nothing would happen. On your way back you know you have been there so you don’t expect anything, you think it’ll be safe, think again.  It gives you tension going down the same areas with the game being unpredictable you get the feeling nowhere is safe.

So in short, a productive game is one that will more likely keep the players playing and interest for longer periods.



Status is when the game shows you your level/status to see what you have achieved. So for example, Call of duty Modern warfare 2 allows you to prestige when you reach a certain rank and start again, then once reaching that rank again it allows the player to prestige again and this can be done up to ten times. The only point is to show other players that you are a higher rank or prestige than them.modern-warfare-2-prestige-emblemsmw2-cod-modern-warfare-2-10th-prestige-lobby-xbox-for-sale-qt9k3fwm.jpg


Some games give quests in order to tell the player what to do and give some context to the situation. Some games also reward you for completing a quest and give you items that often benefit you, or it could also give you experience points or maybe you get nothing but story. Diablo 3 uses quest in order for you to progress the story and allows you to get to the next section once completed.


Urgent optimism

This is a mechanic in which you instantly feel like you can progress and succeed. So if there if a particularly hard level that or moment were it’s not looking good for you, the game could out a part in which could immediately help you. Fallout 3 does this when a massive super mutant comes out of nowhere (and at that point in the game you don’t have the rich inventory needed to kill it) the game points you to a weapon (call fat man) which basically kills it in a few shots.

Loss aversion  

­This is used in games in order to make the player want something they had back, which could have been more powerful than what they were left with. It could be a weapon, an item, ability or something else along those lines. Losing something the player once had creates a strong feeling that makes it hard psychology, to give it up and makes the payer want it back.


This is where a game can create and emotional attachment with the player. So this could be a pet in a game, human/alien or anything living and make you care for them. Some games like this require you to feed them, look after them and provide basic living needs in order for them to survive. This make the player feel like they have to come back to check on, lets say their pet because its hair will grow to long or starve if they don’t feed it. A game called Nintendo dogs uses this mechanic which leaves the player looking after dogs as the names implies. You have to feed them and care for them which creates and emotional attachment for the player.


Behavioural momentum

Behavioral momentum refers to the player repeating what they have already done. This is in order to get something they still haven’t got from doing the thing they have done. So in the game diablo you could kill a group of enemies, get the experience points and get close to leveling up. So the player could then go back kill the same group of enemies again and level up.



This is used to make the player believe that the actions they are performing and the story they are taking part in are larger than themselves and give the player a feeling of well… epicness as the name implies.

Infinite gameplay

This one is rather self explanatory, the game has infinite gameplay and has no ending. Many games do this, especially mobile games since they are more casual than something that is on a console and cost more money. A mobile game called temple run has infinite gameplay and consist of a randomly generated corridor like path that is randomly generated and gets faster as the player gets further.



Some games use levels to show the advancement of player progression and usually come with benefits to the player when they level up. Normally in a game that uses levels, leveling up provides more power or better equipment, agility, stamina among other things but is not always the case.  Some games that come to mind is final fantasy and the fallout franchise to name a few.



Combos are usually in fighting games and allow the player string hits together in order to produce a more powerful attack and better score. This mechanic allows more depth to the game by giving players different combinations of hits they could use in order to defeat there opponent. Super smash brothers use combos in order to knock back the player far enough out of the arena.



Games deal with bonuses in different ways. Some games have bonus quests or missions after the main mission with provide benefits to the player if completed. These allow the player to get more points to go towards there score.

Appointment dynamics

This mechanic uses your consoles time in order to create in game events that are specific to that time/place. Persona 4 does this where at a specific place when it rains you can eat this special meal at a restaurant that increases your character’s abilities. The weather and time can also effect where you can go and what you can do causing the player to plan ahead using the weather channel.



Author – Paul Starkey

Created – March 2nd, 2014


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