What are Game Mechanics

Video games are a vast universe, the basics of which we at ARC Academy have set out to introduce you in a series of publications. After going through the history of video games, business models, design, storytelling, and concept art, it’s time for another constant ingredient of any title – game mechanics.

What are the game mechanics?

The term “game mechanics” refers to the set of rules that govern a player’s activities within a game. They are an essential part of the gameplay, which, in turn, is how the user interacts with the title. Game mechanics refer to the basic elements of a game such as players (number, roles, interaction patterns), goals, procedures, rules, resources, conflicts, boundaries, and outcomes. Using the right mechanics results in a highly motivating and satisfying player experience.

The task of game mechanics is to follow the goal of the game. They are an extremely important element of good game design and are determined at the beginning of the design of a game, but do not necessarily remain unchanged during the entire process of its creation. On the contrary, it is extremely important that the mechanics are tested and, if necessary, changed, removed, or added.

Games are made up of different combinations of mechanics that determine both their complexity and how the player interacts with them. Let’s take Tetris as an example. It’s one of the most famous puzzle games that has sold over 170 million copies since its release. It has four game mechanics:

  • Rotation System: The position in which the different pieces appear on the screen and start falling;
  • Random Drop: The order in which the different types of pieces appear;
  • Scoring systems: The points a player gets for clearing lines; 
  • Mobility: The player’s ability to manipulate pieces by rotating and dropping them; 

Mechanics can describe both the rules the player follows and the rules the game itself follows.

Examples of explicit rules or mechanics that players follow:

– If you are the pilot, you can reach any point on the island (from the game Forbidden Island).

– When the player passes Go, they get $200 (from Monopoly).

Examples of game mechanics follow:

The following mechanics are coded into the game. These are not explicitly stated for the player, but he can usually figure out how they work while playing. All examples are from The Knowledge Guru title.

– A level remains locked until the player successfully completes the previous level.

– When players answer a question incorrectly, they get instant feedback on what the correct answer should be. This is followed by an opportunity for them to try to answer the question again.

– Correct answers to Path A questions earn the player 50 points, correct answers to Path B questions – 250 points, and Path C – 1000 points. This scoring algorithm is a great example of the game mechanics that the game itself follows.

– Once the first level is completed, all subsequent levels are unlocked and available to be completed in any order the player chooses.

What are the most commonly used game mechanics?

Earn points

Points are the basic units of measurement in games. Through them, the system reports the actions of the players and motivates them. For example, FourSquare reports every check-in and LinkedIn every connection.


After players accumulate a certain number of points, they can receive badges. Badges are a form of virtual achievement and address players’ motivation to collect and achieve. 


Leaderboards add a social element to collecting points by showing players in a list according to the number of points collected, with those with the most points at the top. The potential downside of the leaderboard is that it can be demotivating for new players. For example, if player A has 10,000 points and is at the top of the leaderboard, and a new player B has 10 points and is at the bottom, it is possible that player B may quit the game because of the chance to compete with the leaders. 

Other fairly commonly used game mechanics include different movement types (running, crawling, flying), card drawing, time limit, resource gathering, shooting, weapon switching, aiming, pushing, pulling, pulling, win condition, condition for loss, randomly generated numbers.

A good balance of the number and type of game mechanics is essential for a video game to be fun, challenging (but not too difficult so that the player doesn’t give up too early), and engaging. The ultimate goal of video games is to transport us to new worlds in which we are the protagonists, and to achieve this requires the knowledge and skills of a team of people for whom creating games is not just a job, but a calling. The earlier the talent is discovered, the better it can be honed. It is the king here at ARC Academy, we’re extremely excited about the school game clubs we’re launching with partner schools.