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Game Mechanics Research Paper: Dice Rolling

How do players actually interact with a game? To be able to take any action at all during a game, players have to use game mechanics. Game mechanics can be either abstract or concrete objects and are used to interact with the game world. The article, “Defining Game Mechanics”, by Miguel Sicart goes into depth on the definition of game mechanics and how the methods are used in different games. Sicart has defined it as “using concepts from object-oriented programming, as methods invoked by agents, designed for interaction with the game state”(Sicart). Game mechanics is a tool that allows players to foster repetitive play, motivation, fairness, skill-building, exploration, learning, and focus among other experiences. They are used with a purposeful design that takes into account the abilities and actions that the player may want to make. It is often used in board games to be able to move around the board, such as using dice to decide how many spaces you will move on a beginning and end game. Not only are they the rules and procedures that guide the player through the game, but they also provide structure for how the game will continue after the player makes the actions. For example, in the game Scrabble, the main game mechanic is drawing and placing letters on the board to score points and win the game. When players use less frequent letters such as “Z” or “Q” they can earn extra points, making players more focused on using those letters. Game mechanics also provide constraint and give players agency during the game. It also promotes fair gameplay and balance between the players. There are various different types of Game mechanics that would include, but are not limited to; acting, alliances, dice rolling, events, hand movements, income, lose a turn, matching, memory, ownership, race, and role-playing(“Dice Rolling”). In this research essay, I will go into depth on the game mechanic of dice. 

Dice are used in a game to provide a random chance that something will happen, and the chance of it happening is confident with every turn a player takes. It provides fairness and complexity to a game’s design and allows everyone the equal opportunity to win the game. The history of dice was expected to be used before recorded history, although it is uncertain where they originated. Dice was actually the very first game to ever be played. The oldest known dice were a part of a backgammon game set in southeastern Iran, at the Burnt City, which was estimated to be from 2800-2500 BCE. There have been claims from Sophocles that the Palameded invested dice in about 1400 BC where they were formed using cubical stones and clay with numbers on their faces. Archeologists have found board games that date as far back as the stone age which contained 49 small carved painted stones. Continuing on, other early dice games were created by painting a flat side of a stick that would be tossed in the air in unison for the player’s turn(Bruning). 

When you think of dice, a six-sided die is what comes to mind as it is the most common. Roll and move is the most basic dice mechanic. With this mechanic, you will roll the dice and it will land on a number, for example, a “4” or an “8”. In a game, a player will roll a one six-sided die and move a player or pawn to that number of spaces on the board. This type of mechanic is known as the “roll to set a number” as the value that you have rolled will decide the number of spaces that the player can move. 

There are many different types of dice. The first type of dice is the single dice, which could be a d20, d6, or a d10 dice. These dice are used in many different games such as Monopoly, Cantan, and Parcheesi. In these games, the player has the same chance to roll a certain number or combination for every single turn they have. This is a key factor for dice games because it is designed to leave it up to chance for the dice to land on different numbers to ensure there is randomness. When you are using this type of random chance in a game, players might try and plan the potential numbers they could receive and make a plan for what they should do while they wait for their turn. In the game Catan, players have to decide where to build their settlements. The way they obtain resources is through rolling the dice and matching the tiles that they are next to. This makes it harder for the player to get the resources and makes some of the more rare and hard to get than others. In regards to the science behind rolling a dice, there is a higher probability of rolling certain numbers, such as number 7, which makes the game more interesting. Having a distribution of the probability of getting a specific number on a roll makes the game more exciting and interesting for the players(Harron). 

Dice mechanics can be used as a positive or negative consequence in games. In the game Parcheesi, there is a positive and negative aspect that comes from needing to roll a certain number to move the player’s piece from the starting place. This not only adds tension to the game but also adds excitement as the player will get more hopeful that they will roll that number. In other games such as Cantan, there are positive, negative, and neutral rolls that the player can get. For example, if a player were to roll a 7, rather than being able to gather more resources, the player must move a token that would allow a different player to steal their resources. This will make the number 7 either a desired or undesired roll for many players depending on their current resources. Overall, the dice rolling mechanics of having a positive and negative result will add a desired result for the players and even create tension in the game. 

There are many games that use the dice mechanic as number matching. This is the oldest dice mechanic that has evolved from many games. In many games that use this element, players will roll the dice and land on a six for example. In the game Backgammon when you roll a six you might end up landing on an enemy piece. On the other hand, rolling an 8 might put you in a vulnerable position for attack making the game more complex. There are a lot of sub-mechanics that are used to make the game more interesting. The game Can’t Stop, introduced the idea of a multiple dice combo. The player will roll four dice and make two sets of two, which produces a larger set of possible numbers that you could match with. This game also introduced the can’t stop sub-mechanic, a mechanic that allowed the player to continue to roll the dice, but if the player does not get the correct number, they lose everything. 

There are many different types of core dice mechanics in a game. While there are many different types, the most common are linear, bell-curved, and dice pool. As I previously mentioned, a linear dice mechanic is the d20 and the d100 dice. The second most common type of dice mechanic is the bell curve. This is the 2d6, 3d6, 2d10, and higher type of dice. When you use this type of mechanic, players will take the total of the dice against a target number to win the game. The most important feature that this type offers is that the bell curve fudge dice are functionally totaling the dice. Lastly, the dice pool involved the WoD and Sr dice(Appelcline). Players will roll the pool of dice and count the number of results that hit the target number. The shape of this curve changes in different games as it is based on the total number of dice. 

Overall, dice have been used in many different styles of games as a game mechanic. This could include role-playing games, board games, card games, and even video games. The dice mechanic is defined as “using concepts from object-oriented programming, as methods invoked by agents, designed for interaction with the game state”(Sicart). The dice mechanic not only fosters repetitive play, motivation, fairness, skill-building, exploration, learning, but it also promotes focus during the gameplay. Using dice introduces fairness and complexity into a game’s design and allows everyone the equal opportunity to win the game. While it is not certain, using dice as a game mechanic has dated back to the stone age. There are also many different types of core dice mechanics in a game, which include linear, bell-curved, and dice pools. The different types affect the probability of getting a certain number when the player rolls the dice. Dice will continue to be used as one of the most popular game mechanics and has been used for thousands of games already.