Video Games: A Frame Model

In my struggle to develope an approach to video games, I constructed this model that I plan to use as a basis for analyses. Its development is still in progress. I thought putting it online could get me some feedback from the game geeks out there. Click on the image to see a larger version of my frame model.

A frame model for video games

Explanation of the Model

First of all, the model can be seen as construct in which several conceptual ends are tied together. The tension between these tied concepts generates the forces that keep the construct on its feets: pretty much like the Golden Gate bridge, just with more ends tied together. Also let me remind you, that the vertical or horizontal placement of the elements within the model are not meant in a strictly hierarchical sense. It is rather done this way for practical reasons, whereas hierarchical or directional relations are indicated through arrows.

The Vertical Ties

On the outer sides of the model we have a pair of tied conceptual ends running vertically. These are:

-Technology and Aesthetics
-Programming and Art

The goal of any game development cycle is to create a balance between these ends which results in

-Story/Narrative, and


The Horizontal Tie

When we cross horizontally through this model, we see that there is an ongoing process that aims to connect these vertical lines to reach an equilibrium. Achieving this equilibrium is the goal of Video Game Tectonics. The Game Developer will engage in Design and Production and go through Iterations until a Balance is achieved that results in a Product, the Built/Experience, or in other words, the Game.

Back to the Vertical

As the Equilibrium is gradually reached a third vertical connection between two other ends is achieved: that between the Medium and the Player. From the game developers attempt, a reciprocal relation emerges that materializes as interplay between procedural processes controlled by articifial intelligence, and input given by an intelligent human being. The result is a simulated representation that progresses as a gameplay cycle.

What’s Under the Hub?

If we imagine the vertical and horizontal ties as the construction parts of a tent or try to see it as a hub, then we find some space to place other important concepts and elements into the model.

The World and its Agents

At the center lies lies the relation between the game world and the agents of this game world, which is regulated and defined by rules, game mechanisms, dynamics and systems. While the world possesses certain qualities and displays a behavior that can be seen as some sort of Grammar, the agents (including the player) will have the means to focus on the transformation and utilization of this world, which will result in the emergence of a variety of player “cultures” that will discover and employ their dominant strategies, tactics and other solutions for the challenge posed onto them. These “playing styles” will often emerge within the frame of a competition in which those “cultures” who are more succesful in analyzing the worlds behavior, will turn out to be the winners.

Atlas or the Powers That Carry The Virtual World

The Game Engine is the technical foundation of this virtual world, making possible the interplay between the world and its agents, the governing rules and the assemblage and articulation of all the elements that are utilized in creating the representations that make up the simulation. Game Controls and the Interface are the means connected to the Game Engine, making possible player input and interaction between human and machine. Finally audio-visual Style adds the chrome, the artistic flair to the simulated representation.

Final Words

This frame model is under constant review and probably it will be replaced by a clearer and more functional model in the future. Making a better model will definately require the feedback of people that are themselves busy understanding games. I hope at least a few of them can find some time and put in their two cents.

Thanks for reading!

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