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Game Design

  • What is a game?

    โ€œGames are a type of play activity, conducted in the context of a pretended reality, in which the participant(s) try to achieve at least one arbitrary, nontrivial goal by acting in accordance with rulesโ€

    Earnest Adams, Fundamentals of Game Design, 3rd ed.1

    • Play is an active form of entertainment rather than passive. Watching TV, YouTube, the theatre, or a concert is passive entertainment, but play involves active participation from you.
    • Games are pretending that the stakes matter, that the game environment is real for a moment.


Games have a goal. Adams2 separates goalless play from game play. Creative or sandbox games such as Minecraft or Eve Online have the goal of creation.

Goals donโ€™t need to be achievable. You eventually die in Pacman and Space Invaders.

Adams defines three specific terms when talking about goals and end states:

  • The termination condition is when the game ends. For example, when the timer ends.
  • The victory condition is when a set of players has definitively won the game. Having the most points when the timer is up, for example.
  • The loss condition is the equivalent of the victory condition, except for losing the game. Running out of lives, for example.


Rules define how the game is played, the goal, and what is (or is not) allowed.

When writing rules, itโ€™s important to be as clear as possible. Players need to understand them and there canโ€™t be conflicts between the rules. If two different players interpret the rules differently, then that breaks the game completely.


Game play involves a series of challenges for a player to overcome, and a set of actions a player can perform to achieve those challenges. The challenges donโ€™t need to be required to win the game (for example, side quests). As the name implies, challenges should be challenging.


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  2. p. 5 โ†ฉ