<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-rewards.html>Rewards</a>


The player receives something perceived as positive, or is relieved of a negative effect, for completing goals in the game.

Rewards are the positive effects that players hope to get by completing goals. The Rewards may be changes to the game state or other game related effects that make other goals easier to complete, or may be effects outside the game.

Example: Managing to pick a box in Mario Kart Double Dash!! or Monkey Race 2 in Super Monkey Ball 2 give the players the reward of a special power they can active later.

Example: Betting in games is a common form of providing Rewards outside the game due to what happens in the game. Betting can be added to all games to add this form of Reward, but some games such as playing on horses consist only of choosing what to bet on.

Example: All games that can be won have the main reward of winning the game.

Using the pattern

Rewards are one of the main ways game designers have to encourage players to do certain actions in a game. However, the players must be aware of the Rewards for the Rewards to be able to influence them, and players must feel that the Reward is purposeful either to advance their chances in the game or give enjoyable Extra-Game Consequences. For example, it makes little sense to let players know what a Reward is for an Unknown Goal, or have Rewards that only support the completion of Excluding Goals.

Mutual Goals allow for a number of additional design opportunities for Rewards, as these goals support Individual Rewards, Shared Rewards, and Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties. The first option can promote Conflict or lessen predictabilitydepending on whether the choice of who receives the Reward is based upon who completes the goal or Randomness. The second option supports Team Play and can support Investment if the proportion of the Reward depends upon some quantifiable measure of effort to reach the goal. Examples of different design approaches for how Investments should affect Rewards are Geometric Rewards for Investments, Arithmetic Rewards for Investments, and Diminishing Returns. Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties can require Negotiation and have Balancing Effects, since the player controlling the distribution can make choices depending on the current situation in the game at the time when the Reward is distributed. In all cases, the motivation for trying to get Rewards candepend upon how much Identification players have with what is trying to get the Reward in the game.

Rewards are an easy way to create Tension and Competition between players. A typical example of this is the Competition in Bidding and Trading where the possible Rewards direct much of the struggle or the Tension in games where Player Killing is possible and can be seen as a Reward for the players doing the action. More abstract, collections of Rewards can be designed to put players in positions where they have Red Queen Dilemmas and must strive to improve simply to maintain their relative position compared to other players. Rewards can also be designed so that they give rise to Social Dilemmas, for example when Betrayal is possible.

Rewards can be divided into rewards that affect gameplay and those that are Extra-Game Consequences, typically winning the game or winning a bet based on the game. Common in-game rewards are Improved Abilities and New Abilities, the latter of which have greater value if they also are Privileged Abilities such as gaining access to new Combos. By tying these effects to Characters, for example through Skills, the Rewards can become permanent and create Character Development, which can drive Narrative Structures. By tying them to Tools, players can instead have Ownership but may risk losing the Rewards. Examples of Extra-Game Consequences are Illusionary Rewards andsocial rewards. These are the usual results of Player Defined Goals, but Illusionary Rewards can be designed as formal results of completing goals to provide Extra-Game Information. Both Extra-Game Consequences and in-game Rewards can give Social Status, although in the second case it is usually tied to Privileged Abilities.

Rewards may allow players to decide the exact configuration of the Reward to support Freedom of Choice. How this affects gameplay depends primarily on when players can affect the configuration: before starting the goal, during the completion of the goal, or after the goal is completed.

The possibility of configuring Rewards tied to goals before trying to complete the goals is only meaningful if these goals are Committed Goals. The commitments may be as simple as not being able to change the configuration later or may be tied to Penalties, but the commitments do represent Risk/Reward choices as players cannot change them later. This causes Stimulated Planning but requires that players have a Game State Overview and that the game supports predictability. Otherwise, the commitment is simply one to Luck, as would be the case with Betting (in contrast to the fixed ante) in Poker before looking at any cards.

Being able to affect Rewards while trying to reach them is usually done through Investments, where the Investment represents the commitment and well as part of the Penalty if it is lost if the goal is failed. Betting is a typical example of such an Investment where the Reward is in direct proportion to the Investment. The function between the Investments and the Rewards can be used to modulate player interest in Investment: Geometric Rewards for Investments encourage specialization, increases the Risk/Reward of the Investment, and may disrupt Player Balance; Arithmetic Rewards for Investments have the most Predictable Consequences but may negatively affect Perceived Chance to Succeed; while Diminishing Returns encourage diversification between different goals if possible and may have Balancing Effects.

Freedom of Choice to personalized Rewards affecting Character is common in roleplaying games and supports Planned Character Development. In games with Conflict, choosing what Resource to replenish or what New Ability to receive can have Balancing Effects. Giving Penalties to other players is another form of player controlled Reward that can be used in games with Conflict.

Another way of making it possible to affect how Rewards are distributed after a goal has been achieved is to embed the Reward in a game element. For example, gaining Area Control may give Resources or New Abilities but it is impossible or at least difficult to steal the actual area. If instead the Rewards are given through Resources, Pick-Ups, or Tools, these resources may be moved, given away, or be stolen by Enemies. However in both cases, change of Ownership can change which player has the Rewards.


The presence of Rewards in games makes goals desirable, and the value of the Rewards raises the Anticipation and Tension for players trying to complete the goals and usually provide short moments of Emotional Immersion when they are received. Knowing the long-term value, rather than the immediate value, of Rewards is Strategic Knowledge for a game and is often required for Game Mastery. Rewards advance gameplay by offering new goals or making existing goals easier to complete, for example, by giving players Improved Abilities or New Abilities. For this reason, they often introduce new concepts to the game, requiring the expansion of the Alternative Reality to maintain the Consistent Reality Logic. Rewards that allow players to choose the exact effects on the game state from a couple of opinions promote Freedom of Choice. When these choices affect players' Characters, this allows for Planned Character Development.

What type of goals the Rewards are linked to affects the value of the Reward. The Rewards of Player Defined Goals are, unless the game allows formalization of such goals, social rewardsor Illusionary Rewards, without impact on the game state. Rewards for Unknown Goals are Surprises but once received, the knowledge of the existence of such goals and their rewards is Strategic Knowledge. Goals and actions linked Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties create Risk/Reward situations as effort put into reaching the goal may not be rewarded but may also create Balancing Effects.

A Penalty can modulate a Reward and vice versato affect the overall value and Risk/Reward of a goal. This can make a goal less attractive by combining the Reward for completing the goal with a Penalty affecting another aspect of the game state. Likewise, the Penalty for failing to fulfill a goal can be partly mitigated by having an effect similar to a Reward. Continuous Goals provide a special relationship between Penalties and Rewards: the Penalties occur as soon the requirement for the goal fails, while Rewards either do not exist or are only given after the requirement has been kept until a certain amount of time has passed or another event in the game has occurred.

The actions of receiving Rewards can be seen as a form of Collecting, especially when the Rewards are from goals that are part of Hierarchies of Goals. This can be strengthened by using Outcome Indicators that show statistics of the currently collected Rewards.


Instantiates: Social Statuses, Surprises, Strategic Knowledge, Stimulated Planning, Emotional Immersion, Anticipation, Balancing Effects, Tension, Planned Character Development, Collecting, Competition

Modulates: Attention Swapping, Character Development, Penalties, Ephemeral Goals, Red Queen Dilemmas, Social Dilemmas, Player Defined Goals, Narrative Structures, Game Mastery, Alternative Reality, Area Control, Skills, Risk/Reward, Combos, Characters, Bidding, Trading, Betrayal, Player Killing

Instantiated by: Resources, Investments, Improved Abilities, New Abilities, Betting, Individual Rewards, Shared Rewards, Ownership, Tools

Modulated by: Continuous Goals, Penalties, Committed Goals, Unknown Goals, Diminishing Returns, Balancing Effects, Identification, Player Defined Goals, Mutual Goals, Freedom of Choice, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties, Outcome Indicators, Geometric Rewards for Investments, Arithmetic Rewards for Investments, Extra-Game Consequences

Potentially conflicting with: Consistent Reality Logic