Game Development Reference
show the same gesture the game is tied. One game of paper-rock-scissors
completes one of the game mechanic cycles. The challenge is to show a
hand gesture that is superior to your opponent on the count of three, the
player action is to make a hand gesture, and the rules determine whose
This chapter introduces common generic game mechanic actions such as
matching, sorting, searching, and hitting. Examples of how each of these
is represented visually in a game and the programming that controls them
are explained in depth. Common algorithms and data structures used for
each mechanic will be worked through with the reader integrating where
appropriate the key art assets.
4.3 Primary Mechanics
All primary game mechanics sit at the very heart of natural human behavior
and ability. Humans have evolved to perform them instinctually. Abilities
that have evolved over millions of years out of the need to survive now find
themselves as repetitive actions in games. Why?
Humans are a pattern-seeking species. Our brains have evolved to deal
with the plethora of sensations and information they deal with every day
by symbolizing our knowledge internally. All decision-making activities
therefore involve a prediction of risks and rewards as we can never have
enough time to do to a rational atomic analysis of a situation. We are good
at developing intuitive understandings of situations and internally develop
our own understandings whether right or wrong, by which we then make
future decisions. So reliable have our brains become on being able to
process information in this way that we receive neurochemical rewards of
dopamine when we make sense out of complete chaos. For this reason we
believe that we can see patterns where there are none. How often have
you heard something like “that cloud looks like an elephant”? The greater
the randomness and the more we make sense of it and have that judgment
justified, the greater the neurochemical reward.
As Raph Koster points out in his book A Theory of Fun for Game Design , the
thing that make games fun is their ability to engage the human mind. They
do this by presenting the brain with challenges that it is best designed to
achieve. In short, this involves repetition and lots of pattern matching. The
following sections outline many primary game action mechanics that all in
some form require pattern matching and involve primitive human ability.
One or more of these actions can be found in all games.
Searching is a basic human cognitive process that involves perception and
scanning of an environment. Whether one is searching for car keys, looking
through a telephone directory, or trying to find a friend in a crowd, the