Tutorial 1

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Feedback loops in games

Introduction

During his 1999 lecture at The Game Developers Conference Marc LeBlanc introduced feedback loops to the game design world (LeBlanc, 1999). Since then, feedback loops have been discussed by a number of influential designers, including Salen & Zimmerman (2003), Adams & Rollings (2007) and Fullerton (2008). From my own experience as a game designer and researcher I can testify for the importance of feedback loops. Understanding the feedback structure of a game can help to understand the dynamic behavior of the game and sheds some light on the ever illusive concept of gameplay. Especially for games that are mechanic driven (as opposed to games that are story or level driven). This tutorial aims to explain the concept and its relevance to game design. To this end it will make use of Machinations diagrams. This is a type of diagram designed to expose a game’s feedback structure. The Machinations diagrams and framework is part of ongoing research conducted by myself (Dormans, 2009). Do not worry if you do not immediately understand these diagrams. This tutorial was written to introduce both the concept of feedback and the Machinations diagrams.