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Shared <a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-penalties.html>Penalties</a>

Shared Penalties

The penalty for a failure to meet a requirement in the game is shared between some or all of the participating players.

Games where players, willingly or by force, strive towards achieving common goals usually have Shared Penalties for failing those goals. These penalties may be the loss of common resources or the division of penalties between individual players but the penalties are treated as one penalty for failing one action or goal.

Example: in Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings if the players do not cooperate well enough to overcome Sauron they all lose the game.

Example: failure to perform a quest in a roleplaying game can sometimes result in the loss of a certain amount of experience points for all the players in the team.

Example: the loss against the other team in Soccer and other team-oriented sports is, obviously, a shared loss for the team members.

Using the pattern

Shared Penalties are typically designed for games where players have Team Play or perform Collaborative Actions. However, not all players receiving the Shared Penalties have to be the causes, or even aware of the reasons, of the Penalties they have to share. However, if players do not have a good Game State Overview that explains the reason for the Shared Penalties they may lose any Illusion of Influence they have. The loss of Shared Resources is a natural way to create Shared Penalties without singling out any player and can make an Individual Penalty be perceived as Shared Penalties. The combination of Individual Rewards and Shared Penalties often gives rise to Social Dilemmas.

Shared Penalties has some natural structural similarities to Shared Rewards, especially as to how the Penalty or the Reward is shared between the participating players. However, Shared Rewards are more closely related to reaching the goals while Shared Penalties can be applied also to other kinds of failures than just to failures in reaching a goal. For example, the player making a mistake in Ice Hockey is taken out from the play for a while, which is at the same time an Individual Penalty for the player, but also a Shared Penalty for the team as they have one player less in play during the time the Penalty is in effect. This is also the case in Team Elimination where Player Elimination of one player makes the team less efficient.

The kind of Shared Penalty in which the failure of one player has an effect on the efficiency of the whole team is very common in any team-oriented game, from first-person shooters to roleplaying games. Usually the Individual Penalty goes to the player making the mistake, but it is also possible to have other methods from Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties to using Randomness to distribute the Penalty.

The other natural Shared Penalty in team-oriented games is, of course, the failure to reach the Mutual Goal in the game such as having scored more goals in Soccer than the opposing team. The Penalty, however, can be more elaborate and explicit than just losing the game as the previous roleplaying game example demonstrates.


Shared Penalties, especially when used together with Shared Rewards, is a strong way to create more stable and committed Alliances even in the case of Dynamic Alliances and can be used to promote Team Play. Using Shared Penalties for individual failures in Team Play leads almost invariably to situations where the players in the team tend, or strive, to have the same competence levels.

Shared Penalties give more focus on reaching the Mutual Goals of an Alliance as it gives a certain amount of social control to all the members of the Alliance. The use of explicit Shared Penalties, where the participating players lose something in the case of failure, is quite rare in games as it is perceived as something which might lead to social conflicts between the players. Shared Penalties can be used in this way to create and maintain Social Organizations.

Although Shared Penalties are incompatible with Tiebreakers, game designs can motivate players to avoid Tied Results by giving Shared Penalties when they occur.


Instantiates: Penalties, Social Dilemmas, Mutual Goals

Modulates: Individual Penalties, Collaborative Actions, Alliances, Team Play, Social Organizations, Mutual Goals

Instantiated by: Tied Results, Team Elimination

Modulated by: Shared Resources, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties, Player Elimination

Potentially conflicting with: Individual Penalties, Tiebreakers, Illusion of Influence

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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