Systemic Design and Game Design: The equilibrium gameplay loop

Format: Papers, RSD11, Topic: Methods & Methodology, Topic: Sociotechnical Systems

Laureline Chiapello

School of Digital Arts, Animation and Design, at the University of Québec at Chicoutimi (NAD-UQAC), Canada

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 visualisation 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 visualise core game systems? The theoretical framework comes from the French systemic approach (De Rosnay, 1979; De Rosnay, 1979 [1975]; Le Moigne, 1977, 1990; Morin, 2008) and builds specifically upon the work of Joël De Rosnay. This author showed 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, equilibrium, feedback loops, complexity

Citation Data

Author(s): Laureline Chiapello
Year: 2022
Title: Systemic Design and Game Design: The equilibrium gameplay loop
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 168
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 21 September 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404

Copyright Information

Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design (ISSN 2371-8404) are published annually by the Systemic Design Association, a non-profit scholarly association leading the research and practice of design for complex systems: 3803 Tønsberg, Norway (922 275 696).


Open Access article published under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License. This permits anyone to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or form according to the licence terms.

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Author(s). (20##). Article title. Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design, RSD##. Article ##.

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Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design are published online and include the contributions for each format.

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In 2022, the Systemic Design Association adopted the scholars spiral—a cyclic non-hierarchical approach to advance scholarship—and in 2023, launched Contexts—The Systemic Design Journal. Together, the RSD symposia and Contexts support the vital emergence of supportive opportunities for scholars and practitioners to publish work in the interdisciplinary field of systemic design.

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