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Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics - a Framework Study

Our first video game lab

Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics - a Framework Study

By Sean Hofer  |  September 26, 2019

Video Game Lab #1


For our first video game lab, I played 6 games with Tiffany: This is the only level, Magical Maiden Madison, A Dance of Fire and Ice, QWOP , Canabalt, and Hatlight. For each of these, we took turns playing and watching each other play and compared our experiences.

Differences between Play and Observation

A Dance of Fire and Ice proved to be the most obvious example of a game where spectating differed significantly from playing. As a rhythm game, the objective is to hit keys perfectly in time with a pattern – in this case one illustrating two circles stepping along a path to the beat. The concept is simple, and so is the goal: hit the button at the right time for the duration of the level, and you win; miss a beat, and you fail.

The challenge of the game comes from the mechanical skill test, not determination of a strategy. So while to an observer, the game may already seem solved, the player is still faced with the difficult challenge of timing their presses correctly.

Critical Connection

QWOP and Canabalt share some Aesthetics, which extend to similarities in Dynamics and Mechanics within each game. Specifically, both games appeal to Sensation and Challenge because of their mechanical nature (timed key presses) and explicit measurements of success (scores). While Canabalt is a one-button game, QWOP uses just 4, making them both mechanically simple. The challenge of each comes from the actual mechanical difficulty associated with their respective goals or obstacles. In Canabalt, you must react quickly to jump over things as they appear. In QWOP, you simply have to go forward as far as possible without falling over using awkward leg controls.

These simple-to-understand but difficult-to-execute concepts form the core of the appeal of these games.