As has been discussed previously it makes no sense to analyse a game mechanic devoid of the context in which it occurs. At an abstract level Jump is a mechanic that exists in many games from Super Mario Galaxy to Mirror’s Edge or Far Cry 2. The context within which each mechanic is performed is what imbues an otherwise similar action with a different meaning. The Jump mechanic in Mirror’s Edge is not possessed of the same layers of meaning as the Jump mechanic in Far Cry 2. Neither is a Jump performed at one point in Far Cry 2 as meaningful as a Jump performed at another point; the circumstances surrounding the mechanic have changed.
The specific context in which a mechanic exists is always in flux, previous actions influence the context of future actions.
If I am standing in the desert in a far corner of the world with nobody in sight then Jump has a decidedly different meaning than it would if I was in the middle of a frantic fire fight in the capital city.
It’s natural to expect that the more meaningful a mechanic, the more obvious, and potentially dramatic, the reaction it provokes. If I am alone and I start to Jump the action is not very meaningful at all, so little to no response is expected. If I am in combat in an object rich environment and I Jump the action is rich with meaning. Consequently I respect the world to response in an equally meaningful manner; enemies will change their attack patterns, objects will move if I knock them over, I will land on other objects if my Jump enables me to reach them.
The same actions performed in different contexts should lead to different, but contextually appropriately responses.
Some mechanics are, by their very nature, more inherently meaningful than others. Shoot, is a mechanic full of cultural and psychological implications that imbue it with much richer layers of meaning than those associated with Jump. However if I Shoot when standing alone in the middle of the desert I still expect to elicit very little response, despite Shoot being more symbolically meaningful. This is because a lot of the meaning associated with Shoot is dependant on there being other objects around to act upon. Shoot is inherently more meaningful than Jump but only in certain circumstances. Shooting when in combat in the middle of a city is an action where a dramatic response is expected.
The meaning of a particular mechanic is governed not only by the inherent symbolism and cultural associations of that action (Shooting is symbolically and culturally more meaningful than Jumping) but also the specific context in which each action occurs.
An example of this can be seen in a very specific manner in Mirror’s Edge. The movement options available are highly dependant on the current speed at which you are moving, which is turn is influenced by the previous moves you have performed. No action occurs in isolation as every previous action has some influence on the current context and therefore your range of possible actions and the potential responses to them.
Because all actions alter the state of the game world in some fashion, the context of future actions is determined by the previous actions that led to the current state of the game world. This means all actions that alter the context of the game world, in affect any and all actions, are meaningful as they have an impact on future actions.
All actions are meaningful if they alter the context of future actions.