How to Apply Hunicke’s MDA Framework in Microlearning Game Design

hunicke's mda framework

Do you want to try gamifying your microlearning asset? If so, Hunicke’s MDA framework of game design is what you should be looking at it not only helps you engage with your game designer meaningfully, but it will also boost your own creativity. 

Introducing Hunicke’s MDA Framework

hunicke's mda framework
hunicke's mda framework


Mechanics describes the main components of the game – the various actions, behaviors, and control mechanisms available in the game for your player . For example, card game mechanics include shuffling, trick-taking rules, and betting.  

Dynamicsare the game design principles that create and support an aesthetic experience. Game dynamics focus on the run-time behavior of a game design. For example,timepressure andopponentplayare two game dynamics that help create and support the aesthetic ofchallenge. 

Aesthetics invoke desirable emotional responses from the player. It has to do with sensations and  corresponds to different ‘goals’ and components of ‘fun’ in a game. 

double loop learning

The MDA framework breaks down a player’s game consumption process into 3 components rules,system, andfun. From a game design perspective, they correspond to mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics as shown: 

double loop learning

Mechanics is used to fulfil the game’s emotional purpose aesthetics through the creation of dynamics. 

A Deep Dive into Hunicke’s MDA Framework

1. Mechanics the Rules

Mechanics describes the specific components of the game at the level of data representation and algorithms. It involves code architecture and implementation of the game rules and object interactions.   

Game mechanics define the rules that dictate the outcome of interactions within the system – with an input, a process, and an output. Game dynamics, on the other hand, are players’ responses to those mechanics. 

Mechanics can be classified into: 

  1. Implied mechanics: The ‘doing’ responsibilities within a game such as running, jumping, shooting, killing, picking, and dying.  
  2. Core mechanics: The ‘main action or responsibility’ within the game such as the player running, shooting. 
  3. Extra mechanics: The extra actions that provide dynamism and effects in a game, such as camera shaking, blurring effects, etc. 

2. Dynamics – the System

Dynamics take care of the ‘run-time behavior’ of the mechanics based on the player inputs. And so, dynamics can come into play only when the interactive game is on.  

Dynamics enable the game design principles that create and support the aesthetics. Designers can create or control dynamics by working on the mechanics that creates them. In turn, desirable aesthetics of a game are shaped by dynamics.  

A game designer of a microlearning lesson needs to design the dynamics to create desirable emotional responses in the player/ learner. 

Dynamics can be simple or complex, and include: 

  • Game codes: Game architecture, input/ output, game objects, game rules (code levels), user-interface, interaction design. 
  • Game rules: Structure, balancing, timing, space, plot branching. 
  • World description: World & game rules, flora & fauna, societies, characters, religions, etc. 
  • Other elements: Style, functional interface, content interface (graphics, sound, narrative). 

The ‘interface’ that the player interacts with includes the design with everything that communicates the ‘game world’ to the player how it looks, sounds, and interacts with the gamer or learner. 

Creating perfect game dynamics needs proper planning and documentation throughout the design development. 

3. Aesthetics – the Fun Element

Aesthetics describe the desirable emotional responses evoked in the player while interacting with the game system. It makes the game fun (intrinsic motivation) and provides exciting rewards (extrinsic motivation).  

microlearning gamification asset needs to engage – to focus, involve, and challenge the player. It should create a mental ‘state of flow’ creating an optimal experience for the player, where the player loses his or her sense of space and time.  

But it’s important to find a balance between the challenges of the gaming activity and the  players’ abilities.  

The 4 engagement levels of game mechanics include: 

  • Hard fun: This includes meaningful challenges, strategies, and puzzles. Players like the opportunities that allow them to strategize and solve problems. The more challenging the  
    game, the morefun it is.  
  • Easy fun: Included here are elements that grab attention such as ambiguity, incompleteness, and detail. Players enjoy intrigue and to explore new worlds.  
  • Altered state: During an altered state, the player loses touch with reality, life’s problems and concerns. This is like ‘game therapy’, generating varied emotions, and fully immersing the player into the game-space.  
  • The people factor: This is about using games as mechanisms for social experiences, where  players enjoy competition, teamwork, and social bonding with other gamers. 

There are also different fun types that can be used to evoke emotional responses. Marc LeBlanc, an educator and designer of video games, proposed 8 kinds of fun 

  1. Sensation: The game that provides pleasure and engages the senses—by visuals or sound. 
  2. Fantasy: The game as a make-believe world, creating an alternative reality. 
  3. Narrative: The game as a well-narrated drama or story with characters. 
  4. Challenge: The game as an obstacle course that evokes competition.
  5. Fellowship: The game as a social framework where the player is engaged in social relations with friends, family, or other gamers.
  6. Discovery: The game as uncharted territory that motivates the player to explore and discover something new.
  7. Expression: The game that enables self-discovery where the player finds ways to express oneself. 
  8. Submission: The game as a pastime with the intent of creating a distraction for the player. 

Interplay Within the MDA Framework

double loop learning

This figure shows the interaction among game mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics that can elicit the most desirable emotional responses from the player. 

The MDA model allows you to work backwards – you could start out with the player’s experience (aesthetics), and work backwards to assemble the right building blocks (dynamics and mechanics) –much like reverse engineering.  

How do you work backwards with MDA when developing a gaming lesson?


  • First, define the game’s core aesthetics (the main experience the game should invoke in the player) 
  • Next, determine the dynamics to achieve those emotional objectives.  
  • And from these dynamics, define and fine-tune the mechanics that invoke them.  

To conclude, mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics help you better understand, categorize, plan, design and execute your microlearning gamification asset. 

Visited 81 times, 1 visit(s) today
Share the Post: