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9. Breaking Games Down

Example: Elements of Tic-Tac-Toe

  • Game board
  • Tokens (X and O)
  • Two players
  • Competitive (one winner, one loser or draw)
  • Players take turns
  • Win and draw states
  • No progression or scoring (just win, lose or draw)


  • Experience
    • The overall impact of the game; how the player feels when playing the game
  • Elements
    • Building up the game from smaller units

The Pyramid of Elements by Professor Kevin Werbach



  1. Constraints
    • Games create meaningful choices and interesting problems by limiting players’ freedom
  2. Emotions
    • Emotions can make the experience more rich and joyful such as the sense of accompishment that encourages players to play more
  3. Narrative
    • Provides a feeling of whole by putting together pieces of the gamified system, rather than simply achieving points or badges that are totally unrealted and limits the effectiveness of gamification
  4. Progression
    • The feeling of having the opportunity for players to improve and progress, such as levels and points
  5. Relationships
    • People interacting with friends, teammates, opponents, etc


  1. Challenges
    • Most games have meaningful (to the players) objectives for players to achieve
  2. Chance
    • Involvement of luck from a random mechanism such as dice roll
  3. Competition
    • Getting people to compete against one another
  4. Cooperation
    • Getting people to work together
  5. Feedback
    • Allowing players to see how they are doing in real time which encourages them to go further
  6. Resource Acquisition
    • Gives players an opportunity to obtain items in which some of them are required in order to progress in the game
  7. Rewards
    • Some benefits that go together with achievements in the game
  8. Transactions
    • Buying, selling or trading with other human players or automated players
  9. Turns
    • Part of the game structure
  10. Win States
    • The state that defines winning the game


  1. Achievements – a form of reward attached to performing specific actions
  2. Avatars – visual representations of players’ characters
  3. Badges – visual representations of achievements
  4. Boss Fights – challenge
  5. Collections – putting a bunch of things together
  6. Combat – competition
  7. Content Unlocking – a form of reward for an achievement
  8. Gifting – people feel good about giving things
  9. Leaderboards – lists the players in order of score, levels and points
  10. Levels – progression
  11. Points – progression
  12. Quests – a form of achievement
  13. Social Graph – able to see your friends and interact with them
  14. Teams – cooperation
  15. Virtual goods – items in the game

Lessons from the Pyramid

  • A variety of options (30 from this framework)
  • Lower levels tend to implement one or more higher-level concepts

Marc LeBlanc’s MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics) Framework

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