Layers Game Design Tool is a set of cards conceived to help game designers develop and analyze their games. It is made up by a set of cards the designer can arrange among six different layers. The layers represent different aspects of the game and are in direct relationship with each other. This way a card can have a meaning when placed into a layer and another meaning when placed into an another one.

You can use Layers both to brainstorm game ideas and to represent a game and the inner relationships between its components, thus better understanding the way it works and produces sense.

The science

Layers Game Design Tool is based on Paolo Tajé's work on gameplay deconstruction. The original article was conceived in order to further explore concepts like the MDA Framework (Hunicke, Zubek, LeBlanc) and Game Design Patterns (Björk, Holopainen) using a formal structure which tries to describe in a more detailed way the relationships between various aspects of a game. You can read the original article here.

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You can buy a deck of Layers from The Game Crafter for 14.99$. Just click on the button below and you will be directed to the website.

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Or, you can just get it in PDF format. Of course, then you have to print and cut out the card for yourself, but hey, who are we to stop you?

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How to use Layers

So, now that you got your copy of the tool, you may wonder how to use it. It's fairy simple. You just lay down the Layers card (the ones with the layer name) to create a workspace. Then you can use the other cards (by choosing them or maybe by picking them randomly) to represent elements and relationships.

Please note that the cards are not linked to a particular layer (though they have a sort of main reference layer), but you can move them freely between layers. See how the same card can have a different meaning when moved around the layers. For further information you should check out the original article.

The layers

Here is a complete description of all the layers. Each layer represents an aspect of the game, which can be formalized by adding cards to it. You can use Layers both to analyze and to brainstorm a game idea. Isn't it awesome?



This layer contains suggestions on how the player interacts with the game. You can associate a card to a specific mechanic (VERB) or to a game avatar (TOKEN).

Examples: Swipe, Hold, Shake



This layer contains all game elements or entities that can be influenced by player’s inputs or that has an important role on gameplay. Some of these cards represent characters or avatars and can be further described by adding VERBS and PSY cards.

Examples: Enemy, Sidekick, NPC



This layer contains those actions that activate the gameplay process through time thanks to interaction. These cards can also be easily used in other layers.

Examples: Jump, Throw, Hit



This layer contains all in-game motivations that will make the player want to keep on playing.

Examples: Collect, Conquer, Survive



This layer contains game elements that are not part of game settings or mechanics. However, meta elements affect the gaming experience. Levels, for instance, were introduced to overcome memory limitations.

Examples: Tutorial, Achievements, Score



This layer lists the desirable emotional responses of the player and all the different emotions that are part of the game experience. A top-down approach can be used: how could you stimulate a certain feeling in the player?

Examples: Tension, Empathy, Shame