The action of doing nothing.

Sometimes the best action in a game is to do nothing and wait for the environment to change. These actions are called No-Ops from the instructions from programming with the same name. No-Ops can also be forced on players as punishments for other players or as effects of the player's own actions.

Example: trying to avoid guards in the Thief series of games requires that one combines silent and careful movement with periods of inactivity to not be noticed.

Example: powering down in the board game RoboRally to repair damage requires that a player is prepared to spend one turn doing a No-Op.

Using the pattern

The prime design choice for No-Ops is if they are voluntary or not. Turn-Based Games can enforce players to do actions every turn in order for the game to continue and may have No-Ops as Privileged Abilities. No-Ops are also used in these games as a form of Penalty for performing Privileged Abilities. Tick-Based Games and Real-Time Games cannot require players to do actions all the time so they support voluntary No-Ops. But this is a matter of perspective, in Real-Time Games where the player's Avatar or Units move continuously, which can be described as applying The Show Must Go On on players' game elements, this can be seen as an action and players only have the choice between doing the pre-chosen action or another from a set of possible actions.

The possibility of doing No-Ops, or actions with little consequence to the overall game state, is a requirement for Camping. Similarly it is often used to allow Stealth goals.


Having the possibility of No-Ops widens players' Freedom of Choice and allows Timing of actions, for example to wait for other players to do actions before acting themselves. As No-Ops can be perceived as being force to wait, having too many of them consecutively may hinder reasonable waiting times. Extended Actions that do not have an effect on the game state before they are completed can be seen as consisting of an initiating action, several No-Ops, and a finishing action where the game state is updated.

Forcing players to do No-Ops while noticing the action of Enemies can increase Tension but so can doing voluntary No-Ops to wait for Enemies to appear. Extensive amount of No-Ops in games of course negatively affects Varied Gameplay.


Instantiates: Penalties, Tension, Freedom of Choice, Extended Actions, Privileged Abilities

Modulates: Stealth, Turn-Based Games, Camping, Timing

Instantiated by: Tick-Based Games, Real-Time Games

Modulated by: The Show Must Go On

Potentially conflicting with: Varied Gameplay