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5 Basic Elements of Game Design

Some people have a great concept for a game and all the necessary coding skills to bring that game to reality. However when they are done with the development process and all the bugs have been worked out, people don’t like it because quite frankly the game sucks.

Most of the time it is not the idea behind the game that is no good, after all there is an audience for just about any game niche you can think of. What makes some games so bad is that not enough time was given to the development of the core elements of the game’s design.

Like a recipe, a blueprint or even a song; games have many different parts that are all equally important. Neglecting one, or more, of these elements could mean disaster for your game; but spending time to develop and structure each of them could take a good game and make it great.


All games have a world in which they exist known as the space. It describes the look and feel of the game itself including:

  • Visual space
  • Barriers
  • Colors
  • Sounds
  • Lighting

The space you create determines what can take place in the game itself and can influence the type of characters you create. Think of this as the foundation for your game because everything else relies on the rules/restrictions of your game space.


This is simple, how does someone win at this game? Something as simple as “score the most points” doesn’t cut it. Think about how players can achieve the end goal and map that out. Is there only one way to win or can a player take multiple paths to achieve the end goal? Can more than one player win? Are you trying to get the player to learn something? Can players continue on after someone wins? Ask yourself these questions to really determine the goal of the game.


Now that you know the space and the goal(s) of the game you have to add the characters and objects that exist in this world and how they are used to play the game. Examples of components could be weapons, the heroes, the bad guys, vehicles, a maze, dice, etc. Make sure that all components have serve some purpose in the game, even Easter eggs serve a purpose; they encourage players to explore different areas of the space.


These are the actions that characters and other components can do, or have done to them, in the course of the gameplay. This element outlines all of the constraints put on your characters and helps create a level of difficulty for your game.

It is very important that the mechanics follow the rules set up in the game space; for example if a character can break through a brick wall then a wooden barrier cannot prevent them from entering an area. It is also important that you think carefully about the challenges and weaknesses that each character will have so you can give them something to compensate for them.


The rules are what guide a player through the game. It tells them what they can and cannot do in order to win. They not only describe how to play the game, but the rules also help shape the game play experience.

Good designers start by defining all of these elements of their game before they even consider writing code or developing the user interface. Take the time to document all of these elements for your games and refer back to them whenever you have a question about how to work something new into your game. In the end, going through this process will help you develop a game that flows well and is more exciting to play.