Positive and negative feedback loop

Feedback loops are a fundamental concept in game design that can have a significant impact on the player's experience. They are mechanisms that provide responses or consequences based on a player's actions within the game. These feedback loops can be categorized into two main types: positive and negative. In this blog post, we'll explore the dynamics of both positive and negative feedback loops in games and how they influence the gameplay.

Positive Feedback Loop

A positive feedback loop in a game rewards the player with more of the desired outcome when they succeed, and penalizes them with less when they fail. This reinforcement system can have profound effects on the game's flow and players' experiences.

Snowballing Effect

One notable characteristic of a positive feedback loop is its tendency to create a snowball effect. Imagine a player who wins a match in a game. The system rewards their victory with a bonus, making them even more powerful or advantaged. This can lead to a significant gap between players and potentially shorten the duration of the game. As the winning player accumulates more rewards, they become increasingly dominant, discouraging those who are falling behind.

Discouragement for Losing Players

On the flip side, losing players face a double-edged sword. Not only do they experience the sting of defeat, but they also receive penalties, pushing them further down. This can quickly lead to player frustration and a sense of hopelessness. "I've already lost," they might say, resigning themselves to their fate, and this can significantly impact their enjoyment of the game.

Unbalancing Gameplay

In a game like chess, when a player captures an opponent's piece, it reduces the adversary's influence on the board, making it easier for the capturing player to win further. This positive feedback loop can make the game less challenging for the winning player, potentially detracting from the overall experience.

A similar scenario can be observed in games like League of Legends. When a player eliminates an opponent, they gain gold and experience, enabling them to level up and purchase items, making them even more superior in future battles. While this can be satisfying for the winning player, it can be frustrating for the losing side.

It's essential to note that a positive feedback loop doesn't necessarily reward the same player who triggered it. Instead, it can penalize other players, which still results in the same overall effect of unbalancing the game.

Negative Feedback Loop

In contrast, a negative feedback loop in games offers penalties for success and rewards for failure. This mechanism can lead to comebacks and more balanced gameplay.

Potential for Comebacks

Negative feedback loops can create exciting comebacks in games. When a player is losing, the system provides them with bonuses, giving them a chance to catch up. Depending on the impact of the comeback mechanic, a game might remain undecided until the very end.

Prolonging the Game

If a game doesn't have a clear end condition (such as a time limit or a set number of rounds), negative feedback loops can potentially prolong the gameplay. This can result in thrilling matches that remain unpredictable until the last moment.

An example of a negative feedback loop can be found in Mario Kart. The player who is leading receives weaker items like a banana or a green shell, while those at the back of the race get powerful items like the Star or the Bullet Bill. This equalizer mechanic ensures that the race remains competitive and engaging for all players, regardless of their current positions.

Similar to the positive feedback loop, a negative feedback loop can also impact players who aren't directly responsible for triggering it.


For a more in-depth exploration of how games use feedback loops, consider watching the YouTube video "How Games Use Feedback Loops" by Game Maker's Toolkit channel.

In conclusion, feedback loops play a vital role in shaping the dynamics of gameplay. Positive feedback loops can lead to unbalanced, shorter games with discouraged losing players, while negative feedback loops introduce opportunities for comebacks and prolonged excitement. Game designers carefully consider the type of feedback loop they incorporate into their games to create the desired player experience.