Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek published a useful framework for analyzing games.
- Mechanics are the components and rules of the game. It includes the verbs or “actions” that players are allowed to do in the game. It also includes algorithms and data structures set up within the game.
- Dynamics are what happens once the mechanics are put in place and players are playing the game. In other words, it is the run-time behavior of the game mechanics and rules that are set up.
- Aesthetics are the emotional responses targeted in the player(s).
Hunicke, Robin & Leblanc, Marc & Zubek, Robert. (2004). MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research. AAAI Workshop – Technical Report.