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"The Language of Games: Verbs"

The background. Not always the most notable when done well, but horribly obvious when done wrong. And it’s not the only element of game design whose’s subtlety is often overlooked. You’ll realize as you start working with physics just how important even the smallest details can be.

character on a platform moving up, right, and left

Art and sound work together to create sensory environments, and physics dictate how realistic those environment are; from the most lifelike virtual worlds to the highly fantastical platformers.

With thousands of free resources available to learn these elements of game design, you are literally limited only by your imagination.

Explore: The World of the Game

Game environments are made up of hundreds of components, many of which you’ve already encounted (such as characters, objects, and rules). But the actions and dynamics of play are also a large part of how the game functions. We can break these up into two main areas: the “mechanics” (esentially what we can do in the game) and the “forces” (how physics define how these actions can be performed).


Game mechanics is an abstract concept used to describe the core fundamentals of the game’s design. Most easily defined, mechanics are the “verbs” of the game; the things you do, like jumping, shooting, or puzzle-solving (and all the associated tasks).

But this is a very simplistic way of looking at mechanics, and doesn’t necessarily account for the weight attached to the use of these verbs. For example, consider the jumps made by the player in the animation below:

You may be tempted to say, “well, Mario jumps to move,” but this is incredibly limiting to both what this mechanic is, and how it’s being used. Let’s consider the jumps in order:

  1. The player jumps to avoid taking damage.
  2. As a consequence, the jump positions him on a higher platform.
  3. The player jumps vertically to break a block and release a power-up.
  4. The player jumps vertically and switches direction to collect the power-up, instead of taking the extra time to jump to the higher platform, switch directions, and collect the power-up as it falls.

A lot more strategy is applied than simply “jumping to jump,” yes? The fact that this decision-making goes unoticed by the player is what makes Mario’s jump one of the greatest game mechanics ever created.

Another way of thinking about mechanics are as tools players must use to construct the game experience. It is how we use the jump mechanic that defines it.


Continuing our example of jumping, many games play with physics and how certain factors effect the jump and its use. In Mario, if you take a running start, your jump will be both higher and longer, with a faster frame rate on the fall.

You’re working with joints in your Unity game, but physics most likely effect everything in your game. Simply consider gravity, which has to be programmed into every game.

Viewing: The Lanugage of Games, Part 3: “Verbs”

Let’s continue the discussion with a game’s “verbs!”


Mechanics (the "How You Push") and Forces (the "What Pushes Back") of the Game

Lab: “The Rantler,” Part 3: Backgrounds and Physics

Part 3 gets you adding tiled backgrounds and experimenting with physics, as well as adding some audio to your production.

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Interested in Learning More?

We may be small, but we’re glad to offer you additional (and excellent) places to go if you’re interested in learning more.


More from Missoula’s own Seazen Studio!

2D Scrolling Backgrounds

Unity live training session on scrolling 2D backgrounds.

2D Physics: Area Effector 2D

In this lesson you can explore the Area Effector 2D component which allows you to add 2D physics forces to objects which enter a trigger volume.

2D Physics: Distance Joint 2D

The Distance Joint 2D allows a sprite controlled by 2D Physics to rotate around a point, but maintain a certain distance from that point.

2D Physics: Slinding & Bouncing

Sliding and Bouncing are all controlled by a Physics Material applied to a Collider Component. In this video they set up both Bouncy and Slippery 2D Physics Materials, and apply them to GameObjects.

Audio, Collectables, Slider Joint 2D

More from Missoula’s own Seazen Studio!

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