topical media & game development

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<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-ownership.html>Ownership</a>


Ownership dictates which of the players have access to the Resources and other game components and how.

Often the Ownership in games is tied to specific game elements used as Resources, but the same principles can also be applied to goals, information, and even player-to-player relationships. The most intuitive one, of course, is the Ownership of concrete game elements such as pieces in a board game or cards in card games. The Ownership can also vary between being persistent even between game instances, as in Magic: The Gathering and other collectable card games, to being permanent within the game instance, as with the pieces in Chess, to being variable within the game instance, as with the basic resources in Settlers of Catan.

Example: In Chess, the players have 16 pieces each, the Ownership is indicated by the color of these pieces, and the Ownership governs that only the player that owns the piece can move it on his turn, and that only pieces owned by the opposing player can be captured. The pieces are used to claim Ownership of the grids of the chessboard.

Example: In Diplomacy, the players can claim Ownership of the areas by occupying them with armies. The areas owned by a player are used to calculate the amount of armies and fleets the player can control. Also, only the owner of the army or the fleet can command it.

Example: In collectable card games such as Magic: The Gathering, the player may own hundreds or even thousands of different cards, and one of the main reasons for playing the game is the sense of Ownership of such a collection. The collection is used to create the decks used in single game instances and, naturally, the more cards the player owns the better possibilities there are for creating the decks used in play.

Example: Settlers of Catan incorporates several layers of Ownership. The most basic one is the Ownership of basic Resources, which are used to build roads, settlements, and cities, and to buy special development cards. The player, naturally, has Ownership of these elements as well. The player building the longest continuous road claims the Ownership of the longest road card and the player having most armies claims the Ownership of the largest army card. The Ownership of these cards is used to calculate victory points.

Using the pattern

Ownership is mainly used in games to provide goals for players, provide Resources needed to continue performing actions, or give Privileged Abilities for owning specific Tools or Producers. In some games, the players can also share the Ownership of other game components such as Mutual Goals or information. The game can have several different Resources with several different Ownership structures. Some of these Ownership structures require that the design of both the game itself and the Meta Game level take them into account. For example, most collectable card games in which the Ownership of the cards is persistent between game instances have Trading on the Meta Game level or have Extra-Game Consequences in a form of Betting.

Ownership can either be permanent in game instances or change due to Transfer of Control events. Having permanent Ownership within one game instance is often used in games with Non-Renewable Resources, such as Chess, where the Ownership of the game pieces is fixed at the start of the game and remains fixed until the end of the game or until the pieces are captured and removed from play. Card games almost invariably use Card Hands where the Ownership usually dictates that only the player owning the Card Hand has Perfect Information of the cards and can use the cards in play. The composition of the Card Hand, however, can change radically during the game. Investments are an interesting use of Ownership where Ownership of a Resource is renounced for a while in order to later claim Ownership of the Rewards of the Investments. It can be said that Investments are speculative Ownership structures.

Ownership can be used to motivate many types of goals in games. The most obvious goal related to Ownership is naturally Gain Ownership, where the objective is to achieve Transfer of Control of the goal object to the player. Capture, Guard, and Rescue are also goals that usually involve either the Transfer of Control of the goal object or prevention of the Transfer of Control. These goals are likely to cause Conflict, especially if they cause Player Killing. Collection as a goal naturally involves the use of Ownership for both the parts of the Collection and for completing the Collection itself. This is evident especially in cases where the Ownership is persistent from game instance to game instance as in Collectable Card Games. Pokémon is also an excellent example of using the completion of a Collection as an overarching goal of the game.

As for goals, Ownership--- or the possibility of Ownership ---can motivate players to perform many forms of actions. Trading, both between the players and with the game system, is based on Ownership as Trading involves Transfer of Control. Actions to gain Area Control, even in its simplest forms, are also dependent on Ownership. For example, the piece can be said to own the grid it is standing on. More complex forms of Ownership in Area Control involve explicit Transfer of Control of the areas as is done in many strategy games, such as Diplomacy and Europa Universalis. In some of the strategy games, the Ownership structures of the areas are complex, where the players can also give partial Ownership of the areas, for example, rights to move armies through the areas or even to make the areas Shared Resources, where the other players have the same Ownership rights to the area as well.

Asymmetric Resource Distribution and Symmetric Resource Distribution can be used to create different Ownership structures for different players and motivate both Gain Ownership goals and Trading actions. Ownership can also be shared between many players, as is done in games based on Shared Resources.


Sense of Ownership is a strong basic human emotion, and Ownership can be used to create Tension in the game as is evident in games involving loss of Ownership as a threat. Ownership is also one of the cornerstones for deepening the Emotional Immersion in the game and achieving Identification through, for example, using Avatar s in Persistent Game Worlds. The Tension and Emotional Immersion caused by Ownership is however reduced for Renewable Resources compared to Non-Renewable Resources.

Besides Ownership that games explicitly have given to players, feelings of Ownership are likely to occur of game elements produced by Producers under the players' control, or even stronger, when players have had Creative Control of game elements or other aspects of the Game World.


Instantiates: Emotional Immersion, Identification, Rewards, Privileged Abilities, Tension, Mutual Goals, Betting

Modulates: Meta Games, Conflict, Capture, Resource Management, Units, Rescue, Resources, Strategic Locations, Renewable Resources, Persistent Game Worlds, Collection, Investments, Guard, Non-Renewable Resources

Instantiated by: Avatars, Transfer of Control, Card Hands, Creative Control, Area Control

Modulated by: Shared Resources, Trading, Producers, Shared Rewards, Gain Ownership, Asymmetric Resource Distribution, Symmetric Resource Distribution, Tools, Player Killing

Potentially conflicting with:

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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