5.3. An Example of MDA

Earlier in this text, “spawn camping” was used as an example of how players with different implicit rule sets can result in a situation where some players are convinced others are “cheating” for something that is technically allowed by the rules of the game. Let us analyze this in the context of MDA.

In a First-Person Shooter video game, a common mechanic is for players to have “spawn points” – dedicated places on the map where they re-appear after getting killed. Spawn points are a mechanic. This leads to the dynamic where a player may sit next to a spawn point and immediately kill anyone as soon as they respawn.

What is the problem? A player in an FPS generally is seeking to compete against others - they are playing for the aesthetic of competition. The dynamic of spawn camping is ruining this experience as they never get a chance to do anything - there is no fair competition, only a turkey shoot.

Suppose you are designing a new FPS and you notice this problem affecting players’ ability to enjoy the aesthetic they are hoping for. You cannot simply change the aesthetics of the game to “make it more competitive” – this may be your goal, but it is not something under your direct control. You cannot even change the dynamics of spawn camping directly; you cannot tell the players how to interact with your game, except through the mechanics. So instead, you must change the mechanics of the game – maybe you try making players respawn in random locations rather than designated areas – and then you hope that the desired aesthetics emerge from your mechanics change.

How do you know if your change worked? Playtest, of course!

How do you know what change to make, if the effects of mechanics changes are so unpredictable? This is where your experience as a designer and a student of games comes in. By paying attention to the way the mechanics in other games work to produce various dynamics and aesthetics, you will hopefully develop a mental library of “tricks of the trade” designers use to deal with similar problems.

Through your own attempts to design games, you hopefully will develop an intuition about what mechanics will be effective in different situations. There are few substitutes for experience.


“If the computer or the game designer is having more fun than the player, you have made a terrible mistake.”

-Sid Meier

We design the Mechanics of the game, and designing the Mechanics is fun for us. But it is not the Mechanics that are fun for our players. A common design mistake is to create rules that are fun to create, but that do not necessarily translate into fun gameplay. Always remember that you are creating games for the players and not yourself.

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