Typically when people think of the word mechanics, they conjure up an image of a person working on a car, possibly in ill-fitting jeans. In the context of games, however, mechanics are the components by which players engage with the game. (Hunicke et al. 3) They can take the form of algorithms, card shuffling, or weapons to name just a few. (2, 3) While playing Medieval Dynasty for the first time, I came across a game component that I had not originally considered to be a mechanic. However, as I played the game I came to realize that it did act as a game mechanic, and a useful one at that. This is the game’s music.
Music has been a part of video games for decades. Sometimes it acts to foreshadow the arrival of a boss, or heighten tension during an encounter. In Medieval Dynasty the music serves a less overt, but nevertheless important purpose. This is to immerse the player in the game world. Roaming around the idyllic valley where Medieval Dynasty takes place could have been a stressful nightmare. My hunger bar slowly ticks down while I balance conserving my energy and darting after a rabbit, desperate to get some food before the sun goes down and my vision all but vanishes. However, the constant presence of the calming exploration music soothed my nerves and helped me relax. Yes I’m a starving peasant, but I’ve still got a moment to stop and admire the rolling hills bordered by a meandering river. This unexpected dynamic of nature hiking and admiring panoramas was not unwelcome, especially considering the limited options for travel and exploration during a global pandemic. The music and resulting dynamics in Medieval Dynasty made me feel relaxed, happy, and interested in exploring more of the beautiful game-space.
Since it is currently in early access, I am hopeful that Medieval Dynasty will add to its existing repertoire of soothing exploration music in its final iteration.
Hunicke, Robin Et al. “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research.” Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, 2004. https://www.aaai.org/Papers/Workshops/2004/WS-04-04/WS04-04-001.pdf
Medieval Dynasty. Irdning, Austria: Toplitz Productions, 2020. Video Game, early access.