Game Mechanics


Phone: +44-7780-660753

Facebook: Ernest W. Adams

Skype: ewadams





"I've been waiting for a book like this for ten years: packed with game design
goodness that tackles the science without undermining the art."  — Richard Bartle

Game Mechanics book cover

See it in Peachpit's catalog

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From the Introduction

This is a book about games at their deepest level. No matter how good a game looks, it won't be fun if its mechanics are boring or unbalanced. Game Mechanics will show you how to design, test, and tune the core mechanics of a game—any game. Along the way, we'll use many examples from real games that you may know: Pac-Man, Monopoly, Civilization, StarCraft II, and others.

We also provide you with two unique features that you won't find in any other textbook on game design. One is a new free tool called Machinations that you can use to visualize and simulate game mechanics on your own computer, without writing any code or using a spreadsheet.

The other unique feature of Game Mechanics is our design pattern library. We have assembled a collection of classic patterns in various categories: engines of growth, friction, and escalation, plus additional mechanisms that create stability cycles, arms races, trading systems, and many more. You can load them in the Machinations Tool and see how they work.

If you are a bona fide instructor in higher education based in the US,
please follow this link to order a free evaluation copy (registration and verification of status required). If you teach elsewhere, please contact me.

A few unsolicited testimonials:

    pattern_dynamic_engineGame Mechanics: Advanced Game Design by Joris Dormans & Ernest Adams formalizes game grammar quite well. Not sure I need to write a next book now!

      - Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design

    Wonderful book...I've been recommending it to everyone I chat with. You really have shown a bright light on internal economies in a way I think will stand the test of time.  The patterns in particular have been useful since I use many of these on a regular basis but I've never had the ability to verbalize the underlying components.

      - Daniel Cook, Chief Creative Officer at Spry Fox

    Once I read Game Mechanics by Joris Dormans and Ernest Adams, it became much easier for me to think about game design in terms of interacting feedback loops. Being able to actually visualise these interactions with a diagram made the whole process much more efficient. I have a non -trivial design on my plate right now, and I've made as much progress in a day as I would normally make in a week.

      - Jacek Wesołowski, Game Designer at QLOC

First-Level Table of Contents

This table of contents shows the chapter titles and level 1 headings. Most sections have several subheadings as well.


    Who Is This Book For?
    How Is This Book Organized?
    Companion Website

1 Designing Game Mechanics

    Rules Define Games
    Discrete Mechanics vs. Continuous Mechanics
    Mechanics and the Game Design Process
    Prototyping Techniques

2 Emergence and Progression

    The History of Emergence and Progression
    Comparing Emergence and Progression
    Games of Emergence
    Games of Progression
    Structural Differences
    Emergence and Progression Integration

3 Complex Systems and the Structure of Emergence

    Gameplay as an Emergent Property of Games
    Structural Qualities of Complex Systems
    Harnessing Emergence in Games

4 Internal Economy

    Elements of Internal Economies
    Economic Structure
    Uses for Internal Economies in Games

5 Machinations

    The Machinations Framework
    Machinations Diagram Basic Elements
    Advanced Node Types
    Modeling Pac-Man

6 Common Mechanisms

    More Machinations Concepts
    Feedback Structures in Games
    Randomness vs. Emergence
    Example Mechanics

7 Design Patterns

    Introducing Design Patterns
    Machinations Design Pattern Language
    Leveraging Patterns for Design

8 Simulating and Balancing Games

    Simulated Play Tests
    Playing with Monopoly
    Balancing SimWar
    From Model to Game

9 Building Economies

    Economy-Building Games
    Analyzing Caesar III
    Designing Lunar Colony

10 Integrating Level Design and Mechanics

    From Toys to Playgrounds
    Missions and Game Spaces
    Learning to Play

11 Progression Mechanisms

    Lock-and-Key Mechanisms
    Emergent Progression

12 Meaningful Mechanics

    Serious Games
    Communication Theory
    The Semiotics of Games and Simulations
    Multiple Layers of Meaning

Appendix A: Machinations Quick Reference

Appendix B: Design Pattern Library

    Static Engine
    Dynamic Engine
    Converter Engine
    Engine Building
    Static Friction
    Dynamic Friction
    Stopping Mechanism
    Escalating Challenge
    Escalating Complexity
    Arms Race
    Playing Style Reinforcement
    Multiple Feedback
    Worker Placement
    Slow Cycle

Appendix C: Getting Started with Machinations