<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-lives.html>Lives</a>


Lives can be defined as the number of chances a player has within a game session before it is terminated.

The loss of an individual Life is usually also associated with at least some negative effects in the game.

Example: Counter-Strike is sometimes regarded as the first multiplayer first-person shooter that made explicit use of Lives. The player's Avatar that was killed did not respawn, and the player had to wait until the next level started, in principle, giving each player one Life.

Example: Platform games such as Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda series make use of Lives but in such way that the only consequence of losing all Lives is that the player will have to restart from the latest saved location.

Example: In Asteroids, the player initially has three Lives, and they are lost either when the Avatar is shot by the UFO or collides with an asteroid. When all Lives have been lost, it is the end of the game session.

Using the pattern

Lives are typically associated with Avatars, but games using Units can also be regarded as using Lives through the use of Parallel Lives. The main considerations when introducing Lives in a game are: what can cause the loss of a Life, what are the consequences of losing a Life, and how many Lives are available. The loss of a Life is always a Penalty, but the effect can vary. The loss of all Lives typically signifies the end of the game session for that player, but in games that allow players to join the game instance later, the player may simply start a new game session. The loss of a Life usually means that Tools are lost or that the player's Score is reduced but may also signify the loss of New Abilities and Privileged Abilities or require players to have a certain amount of Downtime before the gameplay can resume.

The number of Lives a player has can be set to a static number to limit the time of the game session. Alternatively, the Lives can be replenished during gameplay, for example, by reaching a certain Score or collecting Pick-Ups. The possibility to replenish Lives gives the players clear short-term goals and makes Lives into Renewable Resources. The use of Lives can be modulated by Damage to allow Status Indicators and partial Penalties before more significant penalties occur.

Losses of Lives are typically the effects of Deadly Traps, failing to Evade actions by Enemies or players in Conflict with the player, or failing to replenish Resources within a certain Time Limit. Typically, only one Life is at stake at a time (although some games may refer to Lives when they are actually using something similar to hit points), but games using Parallel Lives are an exception.

Once the player has suffered the consequences of losing one but not all Lives, gameplay continues as the Avatar respawns somewhere in the Game World. The location where the Avatar respawns can be the point of death, which provides continuation but may have Player Balance problems since the cause of death may still be present. The Avatar may also spawn in a random location in the Game World or a pre-determined Spawn Point. If the game design uses Spawn Points, the specific point may be determined randomly, according to an algorithm to provide Player Balance, or the player may be allowed to select from a set of Spawn Points.

Common goals closely related to the use of Lives are Last Man Standing and King of the Hill.


Lives are a form of Resources that allow players to participate in the game as long as players have at least one life left. Lives give the players a clear Continuous Goal: to Survive against Damage from Deadly Traps or Combat against Enemies or other players, in the case of games with Player Killing and Player Elimination.

As Lives are typically linked to Avatars or Characters, they are a way to link the players' successes and failures in the game to those of their Avatar or Character. If players have emotional links to the Avatars or Characters, the risk of losing Lives increases the Emotional Immersion. Regardless of this, the presence of Lives can increase Tension, as players have something easy to relate to that can be lost in the game.

As multiple Lives do not exist in reality, the use of them in games can break a Consistent Reality Logic, not only by players having several lives but also through the process of Spawning.


Instantiates: Continuous Goals, Emotional Immersion, Resources, Tension, Player Killing, Spawning

Modulates: Conflict, Combat, Last Man Standing, Evade, Survive, King of the Hill, New Abilities, Characters, Player Elimination

Instantiated by: Parallel Lives

Modulated by: Damage, Deadly Traps, Penalties, Renewable Resources, Spawn Points

Potentially conflicting with: Consistent Reality Logic