Seth Priebatsch recently gave a tedtalk entitled “Building the game layer on top of the world.” In it, Seth described four “game dynamics,” techniques used by game designers to make games fun and addictive. The four dynamics that Priebtsch described were:

  1. Appointment dynamic-a dynamic in which to succeed, one must return at a predefined time to take a predetermined action. (Real life example: happy hour)
  2. Influence and status-the ability of one player to modify the behavior of another's actions through social pressure. (Example: different color credit cards as a reflection of status)
  3. Progression dynamic-a dynamic in which success is granularly displayed and measured through the process of completing itemized tasks. (Example: linkedin profile progress bar)
  4. Communal discovery-a dynamic wherein an entire community is rallied to work together to solve a challenge. (Example: finding interesting content on Digg.com)

Seth explained these four game dynamics in his talk and added that his company has an additional three. Does anyone know (or have any theories) about what the other three game dynamics are?

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I have a hard time believing that there are only/exactly seven game dynamics. Anyone looking to keep their list of dynamics a secret is looking to extract money from players on an ongoing basis. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24, 2010 at 0:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't Raph Koster discuss this stuff in his A Theory of Fun book? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24, 2010 at 2:14

8 Answers 8


What he said in his speech is "...with seven game dynamics you can get anyone to do anything..." there was the implication that there were only four more. Then I did some digging and found: http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/25/scvngr-game-mechanics/ If the site I accessed is at all correct, there are not four more game dynamics - there are forty four more (for a total of 47). >phew< Instead of listing them all here - just visit the link. :)


From the MDA paper:

  1. Sensation: Game as sense-pleasure
  2. Fantasy: Game as make-believe
  3. Narrative: Game as drama
  4. Challenge: Game as obstacle course
  5. Fellowship: Game as social framework
  6. Discovery: Game as uncharted territory
  7. Expression: Game as self-discovery
  8. Submission: Game as pastime

Certainly sounds close, though not quite the same.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Those are aesthetics, not dynamics, in the paper's terminology. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Jan 21, 2020 at 12:16

A word of warning: it sounds from your description like Seth is talking specifically about Facebook and other "social media" games. If those are the kinds of games you're designing then great, but be aware that the entire space of game design is much larger. (As others have said, the world has more than 7 dynamics.) If you want to know the other 3 that Seth was referring to, I'd suggest playing a bunch of Facebook games and looking for patterns. I'd be shocked if "set collection" isn't one of them.

Another thing to be aware of: there is a difference between Mechanics and Dynamics, and what you're listing are actually Mechanics. It's good to be clear about exactly what you're looking for.

The MDA paper (referenced in coderanger's answer) is talking about kinds of fun (what the authors refer to as "aesthetics" rather than mechanics and dynamics), although that paper does a good job explaining the difference. Note also there are other kinds of fun beyond these, as the authors admit.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I quite agree with "set collection". The phrase Collect them all! appears very often in marketing and look at Stack Overflow with its badge list. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 25, 2010 at 9:15

Here's my guess: one of them is scarcity. It's like (in the real world) a closing down sale (or any sale): it's now or never. Various games have limited resources which you must get to beat your opponents. Think of the ore miners in Command & Conquer.


I think he actually left out 4 major points (as opposed to 3). These are my guesses based on experience.

Economies - Not only do you earn points and level up but you may also spend them at your own will. For instance, look at the bounty system on Stack Exchange sites... I had a burning question to ask that was getting no feedback and had no reputation to spend on it, so I spend 4 days answering a ton of questions so I could post a juicy bounty (and it got me a great answer). There are players in China that play World of Warcraft as a full time job dubbed gold miners because all they do is run around collecting gold in the game to sell online for real money. The same was also true in Diablo II where some of the items were so rare than out of the hundreds of thousands of players playing at any given time over the course of a few years would only find a couple. The rarest item (a Zod rune) of which only one had been found after 3 years of gameplay sold for a reportedly 1100 USD on ebay. If games are the future of social engineering, than Blizzard Entertainment are poised to take over the world because they are the masters. I quit playing World of Warcraft after two weeks because I could tell that the game was more designed to have go on forever, be relatively boring and slow moving, while being designed to be extremely addictive (I had been through a pretty extensive Diablo II phase in the past and learnt that lesson).

Identity - Not only is it important to be able to level but it's important to be distinguishable as an individual. Whether that means that you use a alias as your handle or you use your real name. That's what made Facebook win over MySpace. By getting people to use their real names, not only was it easier to find your friends (past or present) online but, by attaching real identities to the handle, most of the trolling/trash talking/spaming/lurking stopped because the people taking part in it could be held accountable. Stack Exchange sites do this by adding the profile to each user's account. World of Warcraft does it by allowing you to customize your character in many ways to look unique. Tiger Woods Golf, as well as Nintendo Wii and XBox360 does it by allowing you to create a custom 3D avatar. Twitter, Stack Exchange, and many other social networks do it by allowing you to respond to a unique user by adding the @ prefix to their name making it easier to have a direct dialog instead of the typical 'talking to a wall' experience of commenting systems that don't use it (IMHO the single greatest simple innovation in social networking ever).

Scarcity - Blizzard have mastered this since the days of Diablo I with the 'normal item', 'magical item', 'rare item', 'unique item'. In the early parts of the game, normal items work. As it gets harder magical items become a necessity. Harder still and rare items become a must. Then unique items. Then (in the case of Diablo II on hardest difficulty) they went as far as to make it near impossible to beat without working as a team. As I remember the trade for unique items was a pretty brutal marketplace. It took a lot of work/time/effort on the hardest difficulty to gain worthwhile unique items and it was always a hard bargain to trade for them. World of Warcraft took this a magnitude further by creating the automatic-auction system that mimics ebay to sell items online over the course of a pre-defined time allotment.

Social Dependence - In World of Warcraft, It's a lot harder (sometimes impossible) and a lot less fun to play alone. That alone makes it necessary to socialize and group up with other players. In Call of Duty, if you have a decent team all with headsets you gain a huge advantage by being able to share intel on the other team and coordinate attacks. A lot of services sold today offer the 'sign up a friend and save x amount on your first bill' bonuses. Facebook offers the like button and ability to comment on other's posts. Without comments and approval micro-blogging becomes pointless. Ever since the earliest games, the multi-player option has always been a necessity because once you beat a game on single player, there isn't much point in beating it again (IE, the story line is over). Multi-player games enable humans to play together or against each other. In almost every game I've ever played multi-player, with an equal set of advantages/disadvantages the human is always harder to play. About the upper limit of a single player game for playability length is about 60-100 hours of content. Anything beyond that feels tedious. With multi-player, it becomes unlimited (or until the next great multi-player game comes out) because human strategy is dynamic. A top sniper spot on one map one day may become common knowledge in a week thereby making it an easy target. Sometimes, there are anti-strategies where picking a strategically poor position may be a huge advantage because it is unpredictable. The only games where a computer can consistently win are lame algorithmic games with really limited sets of rules and dynamics like chess (IE the computer can calculate every possible move and counter-move before playing out its turn). IMHO, chess is too simplistic to be a chess game. I prefer to place it in the category of mental masturbation. The best part about social dependence is, the game sucks without your friends so you have to get them involved. How much more viral do you get than that. That's how MySpace and Facebook became successful. Nobody wants to have 0 friends online.



Back at scavenger we like to joke that with seven game dynamics you can get anyone to do anything, so today I'm going to show you four because I hope to have a competitive advantage at the end of this still.

You certainly won't get the other three out of him. :)

None of those four discusses creating a history of experiences. I think this would be a good one; take Minecraft, for example. A whole community has arisen out of Minecraft because it is so open-ended that people build things and remember those fun experiences long after their physical (virtual) manifestations have been destroyed or deleted. They continue to have fond memories, and hopefully continue to return to the game. The same can be said of many games; it's not only how you are currently playing the game but how you have played it in the past that gives you a good feeling of fun and excitement even after hundreds or thousands of hours of play time. And very few games have that.

I think we should ask Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky for their insight on this. After all, Stack Exchange is a perfect formula of these different "game dynamics" as evidenced by all the programmers now addicted to the sites.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Game dynamics are too powerful to let one person keep a "competitive advantage." \$\endgroup\$
    – Ami
    Aug 23, 2010 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm thinking and going through my game design books, I'll surely be editing this answer a few times before I give up. Already just after your comment I added one that I think might be good. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ricket
    Aug 23, 2010 at 23:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Back at scavenger we like to joke that with seven game dynamics you can get anyone to do anything... As I figured- it's a method to milk money out of people, and he's not claiming that they believe that there are only seven, just that they only need to implement seven to do their extraction. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 24, 2010 at 2:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree - all 4 dynamics are in use at Stack Exchange. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 17, 2010 at 17:42

Another guess: creativity. I'm thinking here of the Command & Conquer series and especially the various Sim games (most notably Sim City). Both give you huge amounts of freedom to create bases / cities etc. Games like Grand Theft Auto do it in a different way: multiple ways to solve the same problem.

Maybe, based on GTA, also exploration is also a motivation. But even in C&C exploration is part of the game, discovering what new units do. Perhaps discovery, then, is a better (more general) word than exploration.


Here are some possibilities:

Problem solving-A game should require of its players creativity insight and problem solving skills to progress. Examples: I'm completely addicted to pacman and tetris.

Evolution-progress in a game should be rewarded by opening new facets and changing the gaming experience. Examples: moderator tools provided to high reputation users on the stackexchange network.

Productivity-The sense that what you've done is somehow productive and useful in some way, even if its intangible and/or abstract. Not all gaming experiences offer this, but some that do have been surprisingly successful. I think this dynamic is the only way to explain the success of sites/projects like stackoverflow.com, wikipedia and opensource software.


Not quite a dynamic but necessary for any successful game:

Seamless interaction-a neat, flawless and clear user-interface that does what the user expects it to do and does not overwhelm with choices.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think evolution is part of the progress bar and / or influence / status. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 17, 2010 at 20:14

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