4. Elements of Games

Looking back at our attempts to define what makes a game we see see some recurring themes: games have rules, conflict, goals, decision-making, and an uncertain outcome.

Take a few minutes to play Understanding Games - Episode 2. It demonstrates the essential nature of these basic features (and is a nice demo of a very simple yet fun game):

Understanding Games - Episode 2

Understanding Games - Episode 2

But there are other things that seem to be common attributes of games: games are activities, they are artificial / safe / outside ordinary life, they are voluntary, they contain elements of make-believe / representation / simulation, they are inefficient, they are art, and they are closed systems.

So what exactly are the essential elements that make up games? This depends on who you ask. Like the definition of “game,” no list is perfect, but by looking at all of them we can see some emerging themes that can shed light on the kinds of things that we need to think about as game designers if we are to make games. This level focuses on some of these essential elements.


Materials on this page adapted from:
Game Design Concepts by Ian Schreiber (CC BY-NC 3.0)