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Freedom of Choice

Freedom of Choice

Players have the ability to make choices in the game.

For a game to be a game at all, the players have to be able to make what they feel are interesting choices. This means that the choices must have seemingly different effects and have effects that are meaningful. If these conditions are met, players can feel that they have the Freedom of Choice within the game system and they can affect the outcome of the game.

Example: Open-ended games like The Sims provide players with a multitude of game elements to interact with and many types of actions for each game element. In addition, they give players the freedom to define their own goals within the game.

Example: Menu-based adventure-based games limit players to only a few choices throughout the entire game.

Using the pattern

The most important thing with Freedom of Choice is not that players can affect game states, it is that they have the Illusion of Influence and a Perceived Chance to Succeed. Freedom of Choice can be achieved in several ways: affecting the actions possible for the players, what can be done with the actions, letting players choose goals, or letting players affect the results in the game.

Freedom of Choice can be increased by expanding players' possible range of actions. This can be done by Improved Abilities and New Abilities and is often represented as Rewards or Character Development. Even allowing players to do No-Ops is a form of expanding the range of possible actions for players and thereby increasing their freedom. Ways of letting players have increased Freedom of Choice of what to do when performing actions include Trading, Conceal, Construction, Character creation, Planned Character Development, deciding how to do Game World Navigation, choosing where Spawning occurs, and giving them Creative Control through the actions. Extended Actions, which players can choose how long to continue doing, are another way of giving players more freedom in how to use actions.

Although motivated by Limited Resources, Resource Management gives players opportunities of how to use Resources, including No-Ops, by saving them in Containers and creating other types of Resources through Converters. The type of Investments that give players the greatest Freedom of Choice are Arithmetic Rewards for Investments, since they does not give any Penalties or disadvantages between making one large Investment or several smaller ones.

Players' goals can be chosen by the players through Selectable Sets of Goals, which still let the game designer control the goals, or Player Defined Goals, which can either be implemented in the game state or be completely under the players' will. Optional Goals can further give players choices of objectives in the game without forcing them. Asymmetric Goals are the effect of allowing players to choose goals in Multiplayer Games.

The most powerful Freedom of Choice players can have is that which affects the results in games. This can range from the relatively limited Budgeted Action Points and Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties to allowing full Reversability through Save-Load Cycles and letting the players freely choose when they want to play the game in first place in Asynchronous Games.


Freedom of Choice gives players Empowerment within the game and can thereby give Emotional Immersion. Being able to choose between different actions or goals supports Varied Gameplay in a concrete way, and when this causes players to have Asymmetric Abilities, itcan promote Replayability of the game. Freedom of Choice can either be due to the ability of affecting the game states or through the possibility of performing Extra-Game Actions, for example, Storytelling or Social Interaction. The presence of Freedom of Choice can also have negative effects: it can cause Social Dilemmas and force players to make Tradeoffs and Risk/Reward choices.

Freedom of Choice lets players plan their actions and thereby promotes Stimulated Planning and Immersion, especially Cognitive Immersion. Too much Freedom of Choice is however a source of Analysis Paralysis, and there are many ways to limit players' Freedom of Choice: Limited Planning Ability lessens players freedom to make long-term plans in a game; Predefined Goals may force players to have certain goals and tactics in a game; Ultra-Powerful Events may enforce Narrative Structures and Downtime and cause Shrinking Game Worlds; Inaccessible Areas and Movement Limitations can hinder players from moving within the whole Game World; what players can do in the game may be defined as a Limited Set of Actions or require commitment to Extended Actions or Collaborative Actions; and actions may further be restricted by Decreased Abilities and Ability Losses during gameplay.

Players' Freedom of Choice can affect their Perceived Chance to Succeed with actions, but having a Perceived Chance to Succeed with several different types of actions gives Freedom of Choice.


Instantiates: Game World Navigation, Cognitive Immersion, Stimulated Planning, Emotional Immersion, Empowerment, Social Dilemmas, Immersion, Replayability, Tradeoffs, Varied Gameplay, Analysis Paralysis, Reversability, Risk/Reward, Perceived Chance to Succeed

Modulates: Character Development, Multiplayer Games, Conceal, Rewards, Improved Abilities, New Abilities, Characters

Instantiated by: Extended Actions, Trading, No-Ops, Asymmetric Abilities, Resource Management, Converters, Planned Character Development, Construction, Budgeted Action Points, Optional Goals, Creative Control, Save-Load Cycles, Player Defined Goals, Selectable Sets of Goals, New Abilities, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties, Storytelling, Social Interaction, Extra-Game Actions, Container, Arithmetic Rewards for Investments

Modulated by: Limited Resources, Asynchronous Games, Spawning, Illusion of Influence, Asymmetric Goals

Potentially conflicting with: Collaborative Actions, Penalties, Movement Limitations, Limited Set of Actions, Downtime, Ultra-Powerful Events, Extended Actions, Shrinking Game World, Decreased Abilities, Ability Losses, Inaccessible Areas, Limited Planning Ability, Narrative Structures

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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