8.1 Inventing Mechanics

Big Ideas for this lesson 
Guiding Questions          
Recommended Games     
A game’s core mechanic is the action of play: the activity players do over and over again in the game, like jumping, collecting, or shooting.

The qualities of the game space make certain core mechanics more effective than others.
How do core mechanics create patterns of action within a game? Glass Labyrinth


What's on for today:

Real world materials offer great tools of exploration around the concept of core mechanics. In this lesson students will experiment with physical materials and define a set of mechanics to translate into digital games.

What you need:

-Objects such as dice, rubber bands, paper clips etc.
-One copy of the “Reflection worksheet” per student

What's attached:

-Reflection worksheet


Total: 1 hours

Warm Up - 10 minutes
Discuss - 10 minutes
Brainstorm - 15 minutes
Design - 15 minutes
Reflect - 10 minutes

Warm Up
10 minutes

1. Have students identify the main action of the following games based on these examples:
The main action, or core mechanic, in Chess is moving pieces; in Tag, the core mechanic is running and chasing; in MarioKart, it is driving and crashing; in Pokemon, it is collecting and battling. What are the core mechanics of these games:

    Tetris (possible answers: stacking, rotating)
Scrabble (possible answers: creating words,
    spelling, linking letters)
    Musical Chairs (possible answers: walking, sitting)

    Halo (possible answers: running, shooting)

    Wii Tennis (possible answers: hitting balls, volleying)

    Dance Dance Revolution (possible answers: beat matching, dancing)

    Guitar hero (possible answers: matching chords, beat matching, playing guitar)

    Zelda (series) (possible answers: questing, finding treasure, exploring)

10 minutes

Lead a discussion based on the following questions:

    What are some core mechanics you have come across in Gamestar Mechanic? (Possible                answers: collecting, shooting, jumping, walking, racing, hiding, matching.)

    Does the core mechanic have to be fun for the game to be fun?

    What are some other words that can be used to describe core mechanic? (Possible answers:        play pattern, action, activity, main job.)

    What are some factors that affect the core mechanic of a game? (Possible answers: the design     of the space, the type of avatar, the types of enemies, what items you add to the game, the        idea for the game.)

15 minutes

1. Divide students into small groups.

2. Give each group a material such as set of paper clips, dice, coins and tokens, rubber bands, a ball of string, Silly Putty, etc. The materials you choose should have a distinct set of core mechanics, or patterns of action they are able to perform. For example, the core mechanics associated with rubber bands could include, snapping, stretching, grouping, shooting.

3. Ask each group to spend some time playing around with their material and list as many mechanics as they can come up with for it. Teams are competing to come up with the longest list.

4. Have each group share their list with the rest of the class.

5. Have each group divide their list into core mechanics that they think can be recreated in Gamestar Mechanic and those they believe cannot.

6. Post the lists for reference during the next part of class.

15 minutes

1. Divide the class in half.

2. Have each student in Group A select one or more core mechanics from the master list they just created and design a space in Gamestar Mechanic to support it. Have group B design a space in Gamestar Mechanic and then consult the list for a core mechanic appropriate to that space.

3. Students should understand that in Gamestar, core mechanics are tied to four related conditions:

    behavior of sprites (avatar and enemy movement styles)

    qualities of the game space (scrolling or static space, boundry conditions, levels of gravity)

    kinds of items that might be placed in the space (items, blasters, doors, keys, etc.)

    associated system sprites (frag counter, point counter, etc.)

10 minutes

To model this understanding have students write about the core mechanic in their game, describing the core action and how it was created.

How did it go?

Were students able to identify the core mechanic of a game?

Did they experiment with the different kinds of core mechanics certain physical materials give rise to?

Did they make a connection between the physical properties of materials and sprite parameters?

To what extent were they able to invent core mechanics for a digital and non-digital space?

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Jan 4, 2011, 8:16 AM