Extra-Game Actions

Extra-Game Actions

Actions that are motivated by the game state or game design but do not affect the game state as such.

Games can support actions that are based on the conditions in a game session but which does not affect the game state. These forms of actions are Extra-Game Actions since on one level they do not take place within the game. However, they are dependent on the current game state so their effects are dependent on when in a game session they are performed.

Example: Betting on the outcome of a game is a typical form of Extra-Game Actions that creates a meta game based upon a game. Note that games such as Poker do not have betting as an Extra-Game Action since folding in that game affects the game state.

Example: loading and saving in computer games are Extra-Game Actions which save or restores the entire game state of a game instance. As the whole game state is affected these actions are not considered parts of gameplay but rather ways of setting up play sessions.

Using the pattern

Extra-Game Actions are used for four different forms of effects: to plan or prepare for gameplay before play sessions have begun, to provide Extra-Game Consequences, to change the information players receive about the game state, or to change the entire game state. They are especially common in Multiplayer Games as players may need to do Negotiation or perform Collaborative Actions.

Games promote players to perform Extra-Game Actions before play sessions begin by providing Stimulated Planning through Strategic Knowledge, for example by letting players know their Privileged Abilities well in advance, or by letting players have Creative Control over Character or game elements used. This use of Creative Control is especially common in roleplaying games where players can either design their own characters or, in the case of live action roleplaying games, design the physical clothes and props used in the games. Thus, it is also common in games with Planned Character Development but even more so in Multiplayer Games with Team Development.

Extra-Game Consequences can create Meta Games or give players Trans-Game Information such as providing information about how to perform Combos. Storytelling to give players Emotional Immersion within games can also be considered Extra-Game Consequences as the game state could have been updated without the Storytelling.

One special form of Extra-Game Action is to allow non-players to help players temporarily. This typically requires Spectators with Public Information if the helpers should provide information about the game state or other information relevant to succeed in goals.

Manipulating Book-Keeping Tokens are Extra-Game Actions that likely change players' perception of the game state since the actions change the game state. Changing how players are informed about the game state can either be done directly through manipulating a Camera or by changing the set-up of an user interface, but in both cases modify the Game State Overview players have. Saving and loading game states are Extra-Game Actions that allow Save-Load Cycles and Reversability to previous game states. Other player initiated Game Pauses are also simple cases of Extra-Game Actions.


Extra-Game Actions provide players with an additional level of Freedom of Choice in games which can be done without necessarily affecting the development of the game. Except for Storytelling, Extra-Game Actions typically causes players to lose Immersion since they force players to consider the mechanical or formal structure of the game. Cognitive Immersion is the form of Immersion least affected, since both saving and restoring game states and manipulating information presentation may be motivated by players' interpretations of the game state. Performing Extra-Game Actions can be considered Investments in games which are either not parts of specific game instances or not explicitly related to changes in the game state.

Self-Facilitated Games requires players to do Extra-Game Actions to run the game. In the case of games with Persistent Game Worlds these action are Investments but typically give players large amounts of Creative Control.


Instantiates: Meta Games, Stimulated Planning, Emotional Immersion, Investments, Creative Control, Freedom of Choice, Extra-Game Consequences

Modulates: Cognitive Immersion, Multiplayer Games, Planned Character Development, Team Development, Game State Overview

Instantiated by: Strategic Knowledge, Collaborative Actions, Self-Facilitated Games, Cameras, Book-Keeping Tokens, Persistent Game Worlds, Save-Load Cycles, Negotiation, Game Pauses, Combos, Storytelling

Modulated by: Spectators, Reversability, Public Information

Potentially conflicting with: Immersion