<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-consumers.html>Consumers</a>


A game element, usually some kind of a resource, is consumed as a consequence of a player action, certain game element configuration, or other type of a game event.

The consumption of the game element means that the element is out of the game totally or that the status of the game element changes radically, as for example blocks in Tetris having a fixed position after being placed. The latter category, of course, takes the consumption metaphorically, but in some cases it is a useful level of analysis.

Example: Tetris has (at least) two levels of Consumer governing the behavior of the blocks. The first one, when the falling block stops, "consumes" the block metaphorically by changing the state from being dynamic and under player control to static. The next consumption level happens when the full horizontally aligned rows are removed from the screen.

Example: in Pac-Man the pills are consumed by Pac-Man and ghosts can consume Pac-Man when he is not under the effect of the power-pill.

Example: the units in Civilization are consumed, that is, removed from the game, when they lose battles against other units or cities.

Example: in fantasy roleplaying games the hit points of the character are consumed when the character is hurt, for example, in a melee combat.

Using the pattern

From the players' point of view there are two distinct variants: Consumer as a threat or as an opportunity. The first variant, Consumer as a threat, is more concrete. The Consumer in this case is simply something that tries to forcefully take over or destroy the players' Resources. For example, in Chess the Consumer pattern dictates that the other player can capture the players' pieces and in Civilization the units can be eliminated in combat against hostile units. The Damage pattern can be used to modulate the Consumer so that the Resources are not immediately destroyed by the consumption. The players' Resources can also be automatically depleted according to the game time, to create a Time Limit and to raise Tension. Another way to create this kind of Tension is to have a Time Limit before automatic consumption of the Resources and giving the players a possibility to control the Resources before consumption. For example, the Tetris block is a Resource for the player, and there is a Time Limit before the block is consumed by touching other blocks. The player is able to move and rotate the block within that Time Limit. Using Non-Renewable Resources with Consumer also naturally limits the lifetime of a game instance.

The second variant, Consumer as an opportunity, is most often used in games based on explicit Resource Management. In these cases the players have certain Resources, for example Cards, which they have to use in order to reach their goals. The Resources are consumed by the players' actions and the players have to choose which Resources to use and when, forcing players to do Tradeoff choices. These Resources are also often used as Investments and sometimes in complex chains of Producer-Consumers. Another way to accomplish this is to have the players Eliminate certain game elements. For example, in Pac-Man the goal is to eat all the pills in the level, that is, to Eliminate the pills by Contact with Pac-Man. Another, slightly more complex, example is the consumption of available space in Qix. To do this the player encloses the area by drawing with the marker.


Similar to Producer, Consumer is almost always an integral part of the Producer-Consumer pattern and is usually tightly connected to the Producer part. Consumer is an abstract pattern but with very concrete effects on the flow of the game. The existence of non-player controlled, and often hostile, Enemies that can consume players' Resources are a threat for the player and sometimes also to a motivation for the struggle in the game. For example, without the ghosts being able to consume the Pac-Man there would not be much of a game left. The Consumer, however, can also be the opposite of a threat, a sort of opportunity, for the player. For example, the consumption of full rows in Tetris is rewarding to the player in two ways: first, the player's Score increases and second, there is more room for the player to move the blocks around.


Instantiates: Producer-Consumer, Tension, Eliminate, Investments, Tradeoffs

Modulates: Deadly Traps, Cards, Resource Management, Resources, Eliminate, Enemies

Instantiated by:

Modulated by: Damage

Potentially conflicting with: