Muddy dissonance

I wasn’t looking for it but I found a way to look at game design that I had overheard nearly a year ago and promptly forgot: Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics (PDF).

Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics
Rules + Content Play Emotion

When trying to organize my thoughts on player-environment interactions, I wanted a way to separate the narrative experience (Aesthetics) from the actual algorithms that run the sessions (Mechanics).

Using the MDA model, I sought about trying to organize verb models to get used to it.

Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics
Jump An obstacle was jumped over. Higher score
Interact A switch was pressed. A door was opened for another player

Player choice (agency) arise from the mechanics through the dynamics and result in an emotional response (aesthetics).

But what about the Aesthetics, the “fun” bit? How do you organize that? Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc and Robert Zubek (the authors of the framework) list eight ways that “fun” might be expressed.

1. Sensation
  Game as sense-pleasure 
2. Fantasy
  Game as make-believe
3. Narrative 
   Game as drama
4. Challenge
  Game as obstacle course
5. Fellowship
  Game as social framework
6. Discovery
  Game as uncharted territory 
7. Expression
  Game as self-discovery 
8. Submission
  Game as pastime

I found this interesting because all of these are positive outcomes. What about the results of an instance of play, using the game’s content and rules, that has a negative effect?

So, I went about trying to define some terms for when dissonance is introduced.

Unresponsiveness – lack of appropriate feedback.
Disbelief – Remembrance of reality
Falsimilitude – Narratively nonsensical.
Capitulation – Continuity rejection
Isolation – Social separation
Cognizance – Realization of pattern
Impassivity –
Unresponsive communication
Domination – Exigency impotence

Using these new terms, the experience of breakdown between layers can be discussed.

[I will have to come back to this idea. This post has grown quite long and the breakdown of each area of failure could very well be their own posts each.]