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Game Design to Learn: The Play


Game Genres
Like books, games are often classified by genre.  Genre are identified by the type of challenge, rather than theme or medium. Broad genre have many sub-genre. Some games fit neatly within a genre, while others cross genre.  Consider how you might cross the mechanics of two genre or mediums to create a new game.

  • Strategy Games (Risk)
  • Cooperative Games (Pandemic)
  • Deck-Building Games (Magic)
  • Race Games (Aggravation)
  • Games of Acquisition (Monopoly)
  • Word Games (Scrabble)
  • Games of Deduction (Clue)
  • Bluffing/Guessing Games (Balderdash)
  • Games of Chance
  • Role Playing Games (D&D)
  • Euro=Style Games (Setters of Catan)
  • Board Games
  • Card Games
  • Video Games
  • Games of Dexterity (Twister)
  • Dice Games (Farkle)
  • Pencil-Paper Games (TicTac Toe)
  • Tile-based Games (UNO)
  • MMO (Massively Multiplayer Onling)
  • Children's
  • Fantasy
  • History
  • Mystery
  • Politics
  • War  



"7 Strange Examples Of Genre Mixing In Card Games." N. p., 2019. 

"Classification of Board Games."  Board Games in Academia IV International Colloquium. N. p., 2019.  

Silverman, David. "How To Learn Board Game Design And Development." Game Development Envato Tuts+. N. p., 2013. 

"Tear Up Your Cards?!? Legacy Games: The Ultimate Guide | The Ultimate Guide."Nonstop Tabletop. N. p., 2018. 

Mechanics of Play







Objective based mission that leads to rewards.

  • Does everyone have the same quest or does each character have their own quest?
  • Do the characters know each other's quests?

A quest appeals to many types of players, particulalry the Collector, the Scholar, and the Collaborator, the Curious. This type of play develops common ideals and comaraderie. Think EPIC! However, narratives that take a long time to master and play out can become boring for players who are thrill seekers (the Player, the Competitor) and that frustrate other players who will be come distracted by their disinterest.




Learning tools that develop player skills.

  • When can player's enter the sandbox area?  

A sandbox or tutorial provides a place for inexperienced players or those who lack confidence to learn the skills they need to succeed. These spaces may not be taken advantage of by the thrill seekers, who can find them unrewarding.


Grand Theft Auto - Open World

Assassin's Creed - Pregame


The way in which actions are taken by players.

  • How many can play?
  • Do they play one at a time, at the same time competitively or collaboratively?
  • What do they do during each turn?

Turns help to manage player input and the rhythm of a game. Taking turns can help players learn the style and strategy of other players, thereby highlighting inter-player cause and effect, and helping each to shape future choices.



The time span in which turns are taken.

  • How long is each turn?
  • How long is each game?
  • How will you monitor time?

Timing devices (countdowns, hourglasses, etc.) help to manage the pace of the game. This is particularly important if untimed responses would prove frustrating or result in inequities of chance. It's also crucial if overall play of the game is constrained to a specific amount of time. Timed play can impede the creative play of the curious.




Randomized effects that are not dependent on player skills.

  • What device will you use to take risks (dice, draw of cards, etc.)?

Chance can be encountered through a variety of mechanisms, including dice, cards, and encounters (with space or beings).



Occurances that effect play throughout the game.

  • How will initial and upcoming situations be introduced?
  • What tools will the players have to avoid or dismiss situations?




Rewards that are based on player actions and may increase their ability to succeed.

  • What actions are necessary to claim expertise? 
  • What advantages will the expert have in play?

Rewarding players for time spent or actions taken with greater power will appeal to players who seek status and influence over the game. This type of mechanic must be carefully woven into other mechanics to avoid randomized rewards.



Economy / Trade

Rewards that allow players to buy objects or advantages.

  • How will wealth be allocated at the onset of the game?
  • Does the economy provide for both reward and loss?
  • How will players gain wealth (auction, vending, other?)

An economy helps to establish success in games that feature several players and those that involve a quest narrative.




Stage of play, generally differentiated by difficulty.

  • How will players move from one level to the next?
  • Will multiple players remain on the same level or move independently?
  • Is the last level defined as success?

Levels encourage the acquisition of new skills, provide an opportunity for reward and can add the the competitiveness of a game.




Actions or objects the boost a player's abilities, generally for a brief period of time.

  • What objects or actions will trigger a power-up?
  • How long will the boost in power last?




Worker Placement

The placement of pawns on a play surface to claim the sole right to a specific action.

  • How will players be given the opportunity to make these claims?
  • How long will rights be retained?
  • Will there be exceptions?



Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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