Marla had worked at Joe’s Body Shop for just under a year when it happened, she met Dave, a grad student from Berkeley. He had hit a tree (just a little one) and bent his fender. She hammered it out. Then they dated, briefly, mostly at night after she got off and before he sat down to study. Not that he needed to. He was a wiz, the head of his class, and president of the BNS (the Berkeley Nerd Society).

And she was no slouch either. She had finished high school, attended community college (briefly), dropped out and started working. With her 4.0 in her back pocket, for now. Maybe she’d go back to school later on.

In the meantime, Man! Could she swing that hammer! And she got top dollar for it too. She was a natural. Strong, insightful, and accurate. Almost clairvoyant. Never striking too soon or too often or in the wrong place. Like I said, she was a natural.

So when Dave popped the question and Marla agreed, he not only started a family but also started a brand new life. As a game designer. And he wasn’t half bad either. But, of course, with more and more women as gamers these days, Marla was better. You might even say she was a natural at this too.

And as a consequence, and as the days wore on, Dave went from being amused to dismayed and finally down right annoyed – just in that succession – and he never once noticed that his wife was expecting. Not until the appointed time came (after just 9 months of wedded bliss) and Marla began to be followed by a small tribe of hatchlings. Her offspring, or rather, theirs. A long line of ideas.

And isn’t that what a game is in the first place? A representation of someone else’s ideas? Or , if we have invented a game ourselves, our very own ideas? And for better or for worse, once the game is complete, we’re all simply stuck with the final result – good or bad.

Either way, we’re not really stuck at all. Not these days. Not with so many rules and rule-sets to choose from. And, …

How’s that? Did I what? Let me see … Why yes, as a matter of fact I did. I did spill the beans and actually, just now, explain our thesis.

You see, all those irksome rules and all those tweaks we make to them without even thinking about it all add up to our chosen set of game mechanics. Our preferred way that a game should play out.

So, whether we are the inventor, the critic, the admirer, or a Grade A player (a true gamer) – or, I suppose, even an observer with a single idea for a change to a game we’ve only ever heard about – we are all tinkerers. Mechanics like Marla and very likely math nerds like Dave as well. And when we tinker with this and add that, set this aside and expand that other thing, or whatever our process may be, we give birth – sometimes – to brand new game mechanics.

And that, my friend, is where little game mechanics come from.