Game design is a recent design discipline concerned with the making of games, especially digital ones. Game designers must often tackle complex, wicked problems; Indeed, in game design literature, games are increasingly referred to as “complex systems” (Fullerton, 2008; Maiorana, 2020; Salen & Zimmerman, 2003; Sellers, 2017; Zubek, 2020). However, research in game design using a systemic approach is still in its infancy, and the visualization of game systems poses certain challenges for game designers. Firstly, a mechanistic approach still dominates the field of game studies (Koenitz & Eladhari, 2021). Secondly, representing game systems visually is a daring task, as stressed in various works about game loops and game diagrams (Berube, 2019; Francillette et al., 2017; Guardiola, 2016; Palavalli & Harsha, 2020). Therefore, the present paper asks: how can a systemic approach help designers understand and visualize core game systems?
The theoretical framework comes from the French systemic approach (De Rosnay, 1979; De Rosnay, 1979 ; Le Moigne, 1977, 1990; Morin, 2008) and builds specifically upon the work of Joël De Rosnay. We show how systems maintain themselves over time in a dynamic equilibrium. The result of this study is a visual representation of game systems, namely the equilibrium gameplay loop. In the end, equilibrium gameplay loops can be used to better understand game systems—both existing and new—and further develop systemic design research and practice.
Keywords: video games, game design, game system, prototyping, equilibrium, feedback loops