Feedback Loops in Game Design [Infographic]

Feedback Loops in Game Design


as observed by Jesse Catron, Jay Barnson, Kyoryu

Design: Daniel Solis (

In a feedback loop, the output affects the input.

POSITIVE FEEDBACK AMPLIFIES the output and tends to destabilize the system. For example, the runaway leader. One player takes an early insurmountable lead.

In Settlers of Catan, the player with the most productive settlements will generate the most resources, which enables him to build more settlements and gain even more resources.

NEGATIVE FEEDBACK DIMINISHES the output and tends to stabilize the system. For example, a “take-that” mechanic that gives trailing player’s more opportunities to constrain the leading player’s efforts.

In Settlers of Catan, players are less likely to accept trades with the leading player. The leading player is more likely to be targeted by the Robber.

Balancing feedback loops is an important skill for all game designers.


[ + ] You can use low value “copper” cards to buy higher value “silver” and “gold” cards, thus leading to greater and greater amounts of buying power later in the game.

[ - ] Victory is determined by collecting Victory Point cards, which have no short-term tactical value and simply take up space in your deck.


[ + ] Once a driver takes an early lead, they can shift to high gear to increase speed. While the trailing drivers jockey for more optimal position, the leader has few obstacles.

[ - ] Curves and hazards can make speeding dangerous, allowing trailing drivers to catch up. If cars have weapons, this makes the leader a likely target.


[ + ] Players collect several different types of resources. Each resource has unique properties. Some of which may buy upgrades that make acquiring resources easier.

[ - ] Victory is determined by collecting the most full sets of all resources. Focus is spread across a broad spectrum of tactical decisions.


“Refresh” symbol by Joris Hoogendoorn, from The Noun Project
“Flag” symbol by Brad Hollander, from The Noun Project

Released under a Creative Commons - Attribution license
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.