The public parts of my notebook.
There’s been an interesting arc in game design. People didn’t use to think about mechanics at all. There were a few people who thought like that but most people thought, “Oh I’m doing cool… games” Eventually you got some thinkers at places like the Game Developers Conference that started specifying the parts of design, and mechanics is one of them. And that’s good because it spread awareness that’s a thing you could think about.
But I don’t think about things in terms of mechanics really at all, because it becomes limiting. Because, really, you want to make a thing that’s integrated. Like, what colour a tree is in The Witness is a game mechanic for several reasons. Forgot all the spoilery reasons, but just like how much attention does it grab when you walk into an area determines how that area is played, and how how puzzle that’s completely unrelated to that tree might work people may have a prominent thing in the back of their mind while they’re trying to do it. That’s a game mechanic, but most people would tell you it’s an aesthetic. At some point, those distinctions don’t matter. At some level of refinement of the craft, they go away.
However, when you’re learning and someone’s trying to get those concepts across, then maybe those things are important, provided they’re taught with the caveat, “You’ll go beyond these eventually”.