Featured Blog

Adding Weight to Your Game Design Part 10: Exaggeration

Applying the animation principle of exaggeration to game design.

Part 1 - Squash and Stretch : Part 2 - Anticipation : Part 3 - Staging

Part 4 - Straight Ahead & Pose to Pose : Part 5 - Follow Through & Overlapping Action

Part 6 - Slow In, Slow Out : Part 7 - Arcs : Part 8 - Secondary Action : Part 9 - Timing

Part 10 - Exaggeration : Part 11 - Solid Drawing : Part 12 - Appeal


Weight is a physical and emotional sensation that people feel everyday.  And conveying that in a visual way can be incredibly challenging.  But it is something animators do all the time, and the principles they use can be applied to game design. 

In fact, it needs to be, as many of these principles are sacrificed by the animator for the good of playability.  Thankfully, since both animators and designers have to juggle multiple disciplines to bring their creations to life, they speak much of the same language.  They just use a slightly different alphabet.   

Each part will lay out the 12 principles of animation, and how they are not only used in animation but how they directly relate to game design.  Both animators and designers will realize quickly that many of these are unspoken truths, but the benefit comes in knowing that they can now speak to each other on a deeper level.  A level that takes animation and design past being purely functional, but now fully functioning towards creating an honest experience. 

It is how both can add an extra sense of weight and purpose to the game and the characters within it.  Many of these fundamentals are inter-connected, and it is through a combination of all of these working together that you will have characters that move with weight and emote with weight.  And that is what will stick with players.

 “It is important for the animator to be able to study sensation and to feel the force behind sensation, in order to project that sensation.” – Walt Disney


Applied to Animation

Simply mimicking life isn't enough, and often times in order to really find the emotion and weight of the scene, and of the character, you must exaggerate the expression or pose.  This is how you can show just how powerful an action or feeling is.  Again, this goes hand in hand with squash and stretch.  Knowing which pose or emotion to exaggerate is key so that you can really choose your emotional and physical beats.  Because if you exaggerate everything, nothing is exaggerated, and you will quickly overload the player.

Applied to Game Design

With game design, this is a great way to make certain mechanics feel more powerful than others, or lead the character into a certain play style that best fits certain situations.  Exaggerating play styles or mechanics that require the player to think openly to their application can really give them the feeling of exploration and lead towards beneficial experimentation.  If you have a really solid mechanic, then feel free to exaggerate it as the game progresses.  It means you will have fun designing something that you know works well and is engaging.  This will then translate to the player having fun with all the possibilities they are granted.  It is always better to push it too far, and then reel it back, than to not go far enough.  Because until you've made it so strong that it breaks the gameplay, you won't know just what it is completely capable of.  Anything you can exaggerate and give to the player will empower them and make them feel like what they are doing is big.  Just make sure that your anticipation and follow through matches.

What producers or leads can both think of and look like when you ask for the chance to exaggerate something.

What producers or leads can both think of and look like when you ask for the chance to exaggerate something.  


Often times, as with squash and stretch, people like to go overboard when they get a chance to use these.  And that often makes the people in charge scared of even opening up the possibility to these principles being used.  But instead of completely eliminating these principles, it is far more important to encourage responsible use.  If the vision of the character, item or mechanic is clear, then the people working on them will respect the intent, and only exaggerate enough to make them truly resonate.  But if you lock it off, the people working on its creation will quickly become stiff and cold to its true potential.  And instead of reaching the top of its realistic intent, you will get less than that, because they can be wary of even exaggerating it to its honest extreme.  

Locking off any of these principles is the fastest way to drain the life of not only the creation, but the creator.  This principle is meant to push beyond just visual reality and into what it means to FEEL real.  And often times, our feelings, thoughts and emotions are exaggerations of reality. That exaggeration is what takes an expression from being insincere and fake looking towards becoming actually believable.  One just has to be mindful not to exaggerate insincerely so much that it becomes melodramatic and over the top. 

Which looks more believable, the restrained expression or the exaggerated one? Exaggeration IS believability.

 Which looks more believable, the restrained expression or the exaggerated one? Exaggeration IS believability.


So while it is as important these tools are always given to us as creators, we need to be mindful of how to use those tools and when to not overdo it.  Because trust is essential for honest exaggeration.


Next : Part 11 - Solid Drawing

Latest Jobs


Hybrid, Cambridge, MA or Chicago, IL
Quality Assurance Lead

Bladework games

Remote (United States)
Senior Gameplay Engineer

High Fidelity, Inc.

Game Interaction Designer

Fred Rogers Productions

Hybrid (424 South 27th Street, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Producer - Games & Websites
More Jobs   


Explore the
Advertise with
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Advertise with

Game Developer

Engage game professionals and drive sales using an array of Game Developer media solutions to meet your objectives.

Learn More
Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more