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The Four Perspectives of Game Design: Insight from the Mobile Fringe
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The Four Perspectives of Game Design: Insight from the Mobile Fringe

May 26, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4


At this point you may feel that many more questions have arisen than have been laid to rest. How should you balance the benefits of fresh concepts and familiar concepts?

How granular should the definition of paradigms be? What is the best way to organize features so that they are defined by both by upward-facing behavior and underlying mechanics? How should interface requirements be prioritized?

The benefit of defining a game by the four layers is that it opens up understanding of the design and allows visibility to the deeper questions that need to be asked.

Each of the four layers is surprisingly deep in its own way:

  • Concept requires marketing prowess
  • Paradigm calls on psychological deconstruction
  • Mechanics are the building-blocks of pure game design
  • User Interface is the focus of a whole field of usability specialists

On a small mobile project, all of the above are most likely the responsibility of one person -the designer- but this can be an advantage.

When all of the layers of a game design are understood by a single person, that person is in the position to make the most informed and effective decisions. If an entire team can be brought to understand the game as a whole, the entire team can make informed decisions.

The purpose of this article wasn't to explain how to design a game as much as how to approach designing a game. Once the four layers have been addressed, the design is only just begun, but at least you're pointed in the right direction and you understand where you're going.

For Further information

The Rules of Play -- Zimmerman and Salen
Universal Principles of Design -- Lidwell, Holden and Butler

Related articles:

Lopes and Kuhnen's take on understanding design in terms of Top Down and Bottom Up approaches:

Ernest Adams' rail against bottom-up design:

John Rose's argument for parsimony with Mechanics:

Phil Goetz' argument for parsimony with Interface:

Berbank Green's investigation of the fundamentals of interface and mechanics:

Brett Johnson's discussion of user expectations, or as I've called it, paradigm:

Specific examples of managing features, mechanics and interface, in Black and White 2:


Title photos by P.A. Hudson, Nicolas Nova, Richard Hagen, and Kerri 2009, used under Creative Commons license.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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