<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-empowerment.html>Empowerment</a>


Players feel that they can affect the events and the final outcome of a game.

Games let players make choices or perform actions that can affect the outcome of the game. This possibility to have an influence over what happens is a form of power and gives players a feeling of Empowerment simply by playing games. Playing a game can thereby be seen as an agreement among all players to give each other clearly defined powers within a game session that are described by the rules of the game. However, this Empowerment is bounded by the rules of the game and the wills and actions of other players, so the level of Empowerment depends upon the specific game design of a game and upon who the other players are.

Example: Gaining new weapons in first-person shooters or gaining access to new units in real-time strategy games empowers players either by letting them perform actions they could not perform before or by making their actions have more powerful effects.

Example: roleplaying games allow players the highest levels of Empowerment, as players and game masters can construct entire worlds, invent and play out stories within them, and change the rules to fit the participants of the game.

Using the pattern

Empowerment can be designed in games both as being present from the start of gameplay and as something that grows as players complete goals.

Self-Facilitated Games always have a high presence of Empowerment on a meta level throughout the entire gameplay, since the enactment of rules is only enforced by the players, and the rules may be changed at the will of the players. This is also the case in games with Game Masters, but here the Empowerment is more formalized and also affects gameplay directly through Player Decided Results, although the players may not be aware of the changes on either of the levels. Judgeshave a similar, but more restricted, form of Empowerment as Game Masters but these powers may only lie within certain areas of the game or be available until a certain Time Limit has expired. Other ways of empowering players throughout gameplay but within the rules include Player Constructed Worlds, Creative Control, and voting.

Incremental Empowerment can be used to enable Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses and synchronize these with the development of Narrative Structures. Common ways to incrementally give players Empowerment during gameplay are through Improved Abilities and New Abilities, especially if they are Privileged Abilities, or the power to choose how to use Producers or Converters. New Abilities can further empower players by giving them a larger Freedom of Choice, and Privileged Abilities can empower individual players by giving them Competence Areas in games with Team Play. Red Queen Dilemmas can easily emerge from designs where players are competing against other players regarding Empowerment, commonly based on Social Status or Gain Competence goals.


Players that have Empowerment in gamesoften have a larger Freedom of Choice than other players and easily have Emotional Immersion, as they can help develop the course of the game in the direction they choose. Empowerment is usually achieved through games providing the Right Level of Difficulty and players achieving Game Mastery, but levels of it can also be provided through Stimulated Planning or even by players Memorizing the Strategic Knowledge in the game.

Unless Empowerment is provided or given equally, it may disrupt Player Balance. This can partially be mitigated through Time Limits, Role Reversals, and ganging up. In Team Play, the effects of unequal Player Balance between players in the same team may not be a problem as long as Team Balance exists, but Social Status within the game may give another form of Empowerment.


Instantiates: Competence Areas, Emotional Immersion, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses

Modulates: Gain Competence, Red Queen Dilemmas, Team Play, Narrative Structures

Instantiated by: Social Statuses, Strategic Knowledge, Stimulated Planning, Player Decided Results, Self-Facilitated Games, Converters, Producers, Freedom of Choice, Player Constructed Worlds, Game Mastery, Memorizing, Privileged Abilities, New Abilities, Improved Abilities, Creative Control, Right Level of Difficulty, Game Masters

Modulated by: Time Limits, Role Reversal

Potentially conflicting with: Player Balance, Team Balance