How Feedback Loops Work in Game Design

Ever wondered why Mario Kart invented the Blue Shell?

How Games Use Feedback Loops

There’s a lot of hard work that goes into games to make them interesting for players.

Recently I’ve been watching Mark Brown’s Game Maker Toolkit videos that do a fantastic job at explaining the design and logic behind different games. If you’re even a little curious about how games work, they’re well worth your time.

What are feedback loops?

The video above is especially interesting, as it explains one of the most important systems in game design – feedback loops.

Basically, feedback loops are systems where the game reacts to how well the player is doing in order to make the games more rewarding – or for the tougher games, more challenging.

There are basically two kinds of feedback loops – positive and negative.

Positive feedback loops pretty much mean that when you’re doing well, the game rewards you with stuff so you can do even better. Earning kill streak bonuses is one example here, as is getting in game currency to upgrade your gear.

Of course, positive loops need careful balancing to avoid making the game too easy for the winners (and too frustrating for the losers).

Negative feedback loops are used to bring balance to games that would otherwise get too boring. This is why the Civilization games punish you with increased upkeep if you expand your empire too quickly.

Mario Kart is another really popular example here. Ever wonder why the worse players are given Blue Shells just so they can ruin the winner’s life? It may feel unfair if you’re leading, but the powerful items help motivate the less experienced players. Otherwise they’d lag too far behind with no way of catching up to the leaders, which in turn would make them not wanna play the game (the opposite of what any game designer wants).


If you wanna know how mechanics affect gameplay, check out my comic on game mechanics explained with weapons.

I might do more comics on game design – if you know of a topic that would be fun to cover, drop it in the comments where it says “comments”!


Published by

Crash Gordon

Maker of comics at

15 thoughts on “How Feedback Loops Work in Game Design”

      1. You didn’t know extra creditz?!!! Being one who recently found out about Game Maker Toolkit, you will LOVE Extra Creditz. They also have a whole lot more videos than GMT, and mostly about games


  1. Feedback loops are based on homeostasis. If the behaviour is causing the system to be unbalanced it sends signals to restore the status quo. Negative feedback is vital error-correcting information for bodies and machines. When the system is going in the right direction information is sent to confirm this. This is positive feedback. (Michael P. Nichols)


  2. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking a few minutes
    and actual effort to produce a very good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole
    lot and never seem to get nearly anything done.


  3. Pingback: Diablo on the Go

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