MDA & 8 Kinds of Fun: Just Cause

In applying the MDA framework to the open-world game Just Cause, we can examine how mechanics create dynamics that create fun.

First, mechanics. Just Cause is an open-world, third-person shooter. Major mechanics of the game include using a parachute, grappling hook, and wing suit to navigate the world via flying in addition to your ability to run around. Mechanics also include driving planes, boats, helicopters, and cars as well as shooting a variety of types of guns and using explosive equipment.

Next are dynamics, which encourage two types of fun. The first system of the game is the structured, objective-based story where you’re placed on a mission and are instructed to fulfill some goal, made difficult by enemies trying to kill you and sometimes time restrictions forcing you to complete objectives quickly. The second system of the game is a general “world completion” tracker that displays where you’ve been, what territory you’ve liberated, landmarks you’ve seen, and bases you’ve destroyed. This allows for a more creative approach but including the same game dynamics, but letting players do so in a more casual, creative way.

Through this design, multiple aesthetics are accomplished. First, is the game as a challenge, primarily through the structured story where there’s constantly objectives to accomplish and obstacles in the way. Second, is the game as discovery wherein players are let loose on an entire island to discover, encouraged by progress trackers that nudge players towards exploring uncharted territory. Lastly are aesthetics created through visual design and story: sensation and fantasy. Both of these sorts of fun are created through the game’s narrative and aesthetic design with players taking on the role of essentially a super soldier liberating picturesque countries, arguably tapping into each of these aesthetics.

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