April 1, 2007

Game Elements & Layers

by Nick Montfort · , 11:12 pm

Paolo Tajè’s article over at Game Career Guide proposes six layers for gameplay: Token, including elements like the player’s “man,” opponents, and power-ups; Prop, their properties; Dyn, the verbs of game dynamics; Goal, in-game motivations; Meta, elements outide the game itself such as its division into levels; and Psycho, the desired emotional responses of the player. The article applies this “Gameplay Deconstruction: Elements and Layers” (or GD:EL) model to Pac-Man and Tetris. Thanks to ifMUD for the tip about this one.

The foundational token level seems to be based on the same ideas as Peter Bøgh Andersen’s 1990 semiotic approach, which is discussed in Espen Aarseth’s Cybertext. While Aarseth shows that there are some problems with clafssifying elements at this founational level, Tajè does a reasonable job of producing Pac-Man and Tetris diagrams in this framework. I’m not sure why the token layer gets a special layer above it for properties and the other layers don’t – surely game dynamics, goals, meta elements, and psychological responses all have properties, too. And, I’m not sure that all of these are layers the way that the OSI layers of the networking model are. Are the “psycho” responses really based directly on what is in the “meta” layer right beneath it, or are all of these aspects of game experience more interrelated?

The most important question, certainly, is: What new things does this analysis reveal about Pac-Man, Tetris, and other games? Of course, this is just a short article introducing the concept; perhaps more about this will be revealed in future GD:EL analyses.