5.8. Boss Battle - Critical Analysis Part II

In the last section, we introduced the idea of Critical analysis. Remember that critical analysis is not just a game review. We are not concerned with how many out of five stars, or any numbers from 0 to 10, or whether or not a game is “fun” (whatever that means), or aiding in the consumer decision of whether or not to buy a game. Nor is critical analysis about finding faults. It is about analyzing why a game is or is not successful at what it tries to do.

Critical analysis is useful when discussing or comparing games. You can say “I like the card game Bang! because it’s fun” but that does not help us as designers to learn why it is fun. We must look at the parts of games and how they interact in order to understand how each part relates to the play experience.

Critical analysis is also useful when examining our own works in progress. For a game that you’re working on, how do you know what to add or remove to make it better?

There are many ways to critically analyze a game, but here is an example three-step process:

  1. Describe the game’s formal elements. Do not interpret at this point, simply state what is there. (The mechanics)
  2. Describe the results of the formal elements when put in motion. (The dynamics) How do the different elements interact? What is the play of the game like?
  3. Try to understand why the designer chose those elements and not others. How do the dynamics serve or fail the aesthetics the designer was shooting for. What would have happened if the designer had chosen differently?

Your challenge for this level is to build on the critical analysis you have started. Take the elements you described in the last level (mechanics) and now try to describe the dynamics you see in the game and what aesthetically the game is trying to provide.

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