Loops and Metagames: Understanding Game Design Structures

Sicart’s loops and metagames? How about five different types of metagames with loops attached? Read to understand more. #metagames #Sicart

An article by Miguel Sicart, ”Loops and Metagames: Understanding Game Design Structures”, attempts to formalize some game design analysis concepts. Namely he touches two abstract aspects of video games which fit between game mechanics and design patterns. Reason for this publication is according to Sicart the need of formal vocabulary to understand underlying structures of games.

First of these aspects is loops presented in any video game. In the article Minecraft and FIFA 15 were used as examples. Minecraft’s basic actions gather, craft and build is considered as one loop, which stays practically the same through-out the game session with workable materials being the only deviation. In FIFA 15 there are two ‘core’ loops: attack and defense. These core loops are essential to the play, but secondary loops exists, such as skill moves to give an advantage to the attacking team. These secondary loops and how well player masters them is the deciding factor between good and excellent player and can be applied to any video game.

Second aspect is metagaming. Shortly put it means that metagaming is essentially any action made external to the game itself that has an effect on the play experience. Furthermore Sicart divides metagaming in five different categories: informational, fictional, economical, performative and physical. Each of these categories can and will be used to explain the context of video game’s loops in order to understand developers intended contexts. One example of a metagame is when a player looks what kind of potions can be made in Minecraft. And that is informational metagame.

These metagame categories and the loops they are giving context to, can be applied to many games in order to further analyze the bridge between game mechanics and design patterns. While maybe a bit hard thought to grasp, Sicart uses simple and clear examples to explain his ideas.

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