Friday, April 29, 2016

Gamification FAQ #3: What are Game Elements? (Part I)



Several researchers and developers proposed different definitions for gamification. A central component in most of those definitions, including the one from Deterding et al. (2011), is the notion of game elements or game mechanics.  

http://www.epicwinblog.net/2013/10/can-we-use-game-mechanics-for.html

There is an unclear distinction between the concepts of game mechanics and game elements, like in Huang and Soman (2013) view that refer “... game-like elements, also called game mechanics ...” (p. 13). Most of the times, mechanics refers to what is considered as elements and for other sources they are a mixture of both. For example, Manrique (2013) proposed a list of 35 mechanics, the wiki on gamification.org shows another list with 24 mechanics and Paharia (2013) identified 10 gamification mechanics. The items in these lists came from the observation of actual video games, finding the components that are present in most of them.

To emphasize the lack of agreement in the classification of game elements, Dicheva et al. (2015) showed that a widely used game element – the badge – is classified by different authors as a game interface design pattern (Deterding et al., 2011), a game mechanic (Zichermann and Cunningham, 2011), a game dynamic (Iosup and Epema cited by Dicheva et al., 2015, p. 3), a motivational affordance (Hamari et al., 2014), and a game component (Werbach and Hunter, 2012). The study conducted by Dicheva et al. concluded that there is not a commonly agreed classification of game design elements. Other terms are also found, like gameplay mechanics, game attributes (Wu, 2011), or game metaphors (Marczewski, 2012). The most common term is game mechanics. These game mechanics are often listed without taking into account that there are elements with very different characteristics, purposes and roles within the game. Most of the times, game mechanics usually appear related to interface design patterns, like badges, trophies or leaderboards.

In industry, digital marketing practitioners, place greater emphasis on the use of the terms game mechanics and game dynamics, often making little distinction between them. Some mention that game mechanics and game dynamics are confusing terms usually used interchangeably. The mechanics are indicated as the rules and rewards that allow players to play the game and intending to cause certain emotions in them. The dynamics represent the motivations and desires that lead to such emotions. Players are motivated by game mechanics due to the presence of game dynamics. Zichermann and Cunningham (2011) also define game dynamics as “the player’s interactions with the game mechanics”. Most of these definitions are unclear.

Approaches from the academia and from authors who position themselves as game designers and game developers, try to be more rigorous, applying terms like game elements, game mechanics and game dynamics distinctively but not always with the same meanings. According to Dormans (2012) “when the game design community talks about game systems, they prefer the term ‘game mechanics’ over ‘game rules’. ‘Game mechanics’ is often used as a synonym for rules but the term implies more accuracy and is usually closer to an implementation” (p. 6). Still concerning game design, the MDA games framework proposed by Hunicke et al. (2004) considers mechanics and dynamics as design elements.

Within the gamification community of researchers and practitioners, Codish and Ravid (2014) mention that “game elements are also referred to as game mechanics and dynamics” (p. 36) and Werbach and Hunter (2012) consider dynamics and mechanics as categories of game elements. For Deterding et al. (2011), game design elements are all the elements that are characteristic of games or that can be found in most of the games. Deterding et al. proposed a taxonomy for game design elements by different levels of abstraction (ordered from concrete to abstract): game interface design patterns (e.g. badges, leaderboards, levels); game design patterns and mechanics (e.g. time constraints, limited resources); game design principles and heuristics (e.g. clear goals, enduring play); game models (concerning models of the components of games); and game design methods (concerning game design-specific processes). 

References:
  • Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R., and Nacke, L. (2011). From game design elements to gamefulness: Defining ”gamification”. In Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments, MindTrek ’11, pages 9–15, New York, NY, USA. ACM.
  • Huang, W. and Soman, D. (2013). A practitioner’s guide to gamification of education. Technical report, Rotman School of Management University of Toronto, Canada.
  • Manrique, V. (2013). The 35 gamification mechanicstoolkit v1.0
  • Dicheva, D., Dichev, C., Agre, G., and Angelova, G. (2015). Gamification in education: A systematic mapping study (in press). Educational Technology and Society, 18(3).
  • Zichermann, G. and Cunningham, C. (2011). Gamification by Design. O’Reilly.
  • Werbach, K. and Hunter, D. (2012). For the Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business. Wharton Digital Press.
  • Wu, M. (2011). What is gamification, really?
  • Marczewski, A. (2012). Gamification: A Simple Introduction. Marczewski, A.
  • Dormans, J. (2012). Engineering Emergence: Applied Theory for Game Design. PhD thesis, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
  • Hunicke, R., Leblanc, M., and Zubek, R. (2004). MDA: A formal approach to game design and game research. In Proceedings of the Challenges in Games AI Workshop, Nineteenth National Conference of Artificial Intelligence, pages 1–5.


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