Locations   Program   Online Learning   Who We Are   Blog   Careers   Contact

E-Line Media, April 10 2020

What Makes a Game...a Game?

Whether designing a board game or a video game, you must answer this important question. It may be nice to build levels, create components, design particle effects, and write rules. But in the end, it has to add up to a game!

Below are three of the most important elements of every game system. When we can identify each of these three elements in an interactive system, we know what we're playing is a game. 


The thing or things a player is trying to achieve. To create goals for your game, ask yourself What is the player trying to do?


The actions a player can take in a game. The verbs of a game. To create mechanics for your game, ask yourself What can the player do?


Obstacles that get in the way of a player achieving their goals. What is in the player’s way?


To practice creating Goals, Mechanics, and Challenges, it can be helpful to see them within other games. Here are a few examples.


The Goal is to avoid knocking down the tower.

The Mechanics are pulling out blocks, and placing blocks on the top of the tower.

A Challenge is the tower's instability, which increases as the game goes on.


The Goals are to guess words correctly, and to draw an accurate picture depicting your word on your turn.

The Mechanics are typing in words to make guesses, and drawing a picture with the mouse on your turn.

A Challenge is the time limit for each round.


The Goal is to take the opponent's King.

The Mechanics are moving your pieces on the board according to their allowed movement patterns.

A Challenge is the other player,  who does not want their King to be taken, and is trying to take your King.

Fortnite Battle Royale

The Goal is to stay alive, remaining the last person or team standing. 

Some Mechanics include attacking other players, building, and crafting.

Some Challenges include the other players, who are trying to attack you, and limited availability of resources.

Don't forget...

While the three above are the most important, there are other aspects to game systems as well. Especially for analog games, these include components, the rules, and the space a game takes place in. And we haven't talked about how to make a game fun. This post only covers the bare minimum—what has to be in any game so we can consider it one!

Written by

E-Line Media

Previous The Spring 2020 Video Game Design @ EdAlliance Digital Showcase
Next The April 2020 Game Making Challenge: Building a Prototype