Less input, more output: Investigating multiple purpose game mechanics

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in New Media
7 + 71
Game mechanics are frequently configured to perform multiple tasks in conjunction with multiple game elements that increase their usefulness and enhance the play experience. The versatility of these Multiple Purpose Game Mechanics (MPMs) can be expanded further to generate varied basic and strategic outcomes through their interconnected nature, culminating in a larger possibility space. However, the lack of information on such game mechanics and their design can account for underdeveloped mechanics. This research aims to understand and formalize the concept of Multiple Purpose Game Mechanics (MPMs), ascertain their essential attributes, and realize their contribution to game design. To achieve this goal, existing definitions of game mechanics were broken down into their key components to establish a base for properties that can help increase their value. These properties were then integrated into a simple hypothetical game mechanic that acts as a rhetorical tool to highlight their effectiveness. The resulting claims were evaluated by analyzing the fully integrated hypothetical mechanic and similar functioning mechanics from a selection of existing digital games across different scopes and genres. Consequently, the thesis found that game mechanics serve multiple purposes when they generate many interconnected outcomes that influence the use of other game mechanics and initiate multiple game dynamics. Formulated as the Lens of MPMs, these properties play an important role in increasing game mechanics’ usefulness, depth, and impact by birthing a plethora of influential game states that are more than the sum of their parts. Furthermore, such game mechanics display prospects of providing more interactions with fewer inputs, thereby removing the need for rarely used verbs and increasing accessibility, elegance, and replay value of a game. However, unchecked use of these mechanics risks overwhelming the players and designers with gameplay and production-related complexities, respectively. With their few limitations in mind, this research provides reasons to pursue an understanding of MPMs and their properties as they offer designers another design tool that could potentially improve the experience of their games.
Junnila, Miikka
Thesis advisor
Junnila, Miikka
game mechanics, multiple purpose game mechanics, multiple outcomes, interconnectedness, possibility space, game dynamics, game experience
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