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Single-Player Games

Single-Player Games

Games where there is only one player in a game instance.

The player in Single-Player Games is in a conflict situation with the game system. It is possible, and sometimes even desirable, to analyze these games in such a way that conflict with the game system is framed as a conflict situation in Multiplayer Games. This personification of the game system often helps to clear the goal structures and the motivations for the conflict situation.

Example: The vast majority of computer games are Single-Player Games where the player is competing against or in conflict with the game system.

Example: Puzzles of any kind can be classified as Single-Player Games although they are a borderline case between games and game-like activities, because they do not typically have the conflict situations common to games in general.

Using the pattern

The amount of the possible Social Interaction can be increased by using, for example, Score to measure the performance of the player. This allows players to compare their performances to one other and to use Highscore Lists to create simple Meta Games with multiple players. A more refined method is to have Ghosts in the game where players can directly compare their performance between each other during the play.

The goals and conflicts, as previously noted, can even in Single-Player Games be structured in similar fashion as in Multiplayer Games. For example, by analyzing Pac-Man as a game between the Pac-Man and the ghosts reveals somewhat surprising similarities with Tag, including the Role Reversals. Even Tetris can be thought of as a conflict between the (computer controlled) player who is trying to fill the screen and the player who is trying to keep the screen clear. The Rewards and Penalties in Single-Player Games are best crafted as Individual Rewards and Individual Penalties.

Single-Player Games are free to have player specific modulations of game time, such as Game Pauses and Cut Scenes. Other game state manipulations, which are outside the game itself, are trivially possible in Single-Player Games. Reversability with Save-Load Cycles is simple, as all that is required is to store the game state for later use.

The ways to modulate Right Level of Difficulty can be done somewhat differently in Single-Player Games compared to Multiplayer Games. First, by having players complete Levels, the game designers can control what sort of challenges the players should meet. Second, it is easier to control what information the player has that can be used to give a player Limited Planning Ability.


Single-Player Games cannot have Social Interaction between the players of the same game instance, but if the game is played in a social situation, such as an arcade machine in a pub, there is a possibility for spontaneous Social Interaction with the player and the Spectators. Even though the potential players are not sharing the game instance, they do share the Alternative Reality provided by the game, and this can, in games with Narrative Structures and applications of Imperfect Information, especially Easter Eggs and Exploration, lead to another kind of Social Interaction around the game where the players share their experiences and sometimes help each other solve difficult problems and progress in the game.


Instantiates: Individual Penalties, Individual Rewards

Modulates: High Score Lists, Reversability

Instantiated by:

Modulated by: Meta Games, Spectators, Exploration, Downtime, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Ghosts, Save-Load Cycles, Easter Eggs, Imperfect Information, Score, Narrative Structures, Cut Scenes, Game Pauses, Right Level of Difficulty, Limited Planning Ability, Asymmetric Resource Distribution

Potentially conflicting with: Social Interaction

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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