MDA framework

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Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics from the perspectives of designer (blue) and player (green).

In game design the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) framework is a tool used to analyze games. It formalizes the consumption of games by breaking them down into three components - Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics. These three words have been used informally for many years to describe various aspects of games, but the MDA framework provides precise definitions for these terms and seeks to explain how they relate to each other and influence the player's experience.

  • Mechanics are the base components of the game - its rules, every basic action the player can take in the game, the algorithms and data structures in the game engine etc.
  • Dynamics are the run-time behavior of the mechanics acting on player input and "cooperating" with other mechanics.
  • Aesthetics are the emotional responses evoked in the player - joy, frustration, fantasy, fellowship.

The paper seeks to better specify terms such as 'gameplay' and 'fun', and extend the vocabulary of game studies, suggesting a non-exhaustive taxonomy of eight different types of play. The framework uses these definitions to demonstrate the incentivising and disincentiving properties of different dynamics on the eight subcategories of game use.

From the perspective of the designer - the mechanics generate dynamics which generate aesthetics. This relationship poses a challenge for the game designer as he is only able to influence the mechanics and only through them can he produce meaningful dynamics and aesthetics for the player. The perspective of the player is the other way around. He experiences the game through the aesthetics, which the game dynamics provide, which emerged from the mechanics.

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