Alien Space Bats

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Implausible explanations for alternative realities.

Many games describe situations in alternate realities. When the differences between these realities and the real world are created by introducing fantastical or supernatural agents or by letting unrealistic events occur, this is referred to as Alien Space Bats from a use to describe the implausibility of alternate histories[1].

For more information, see the Wikipedia entry[2] for the concept.

Note: This pattern is mainly a means for gaining freedom in designing the diegesis and narration in a game. However, since this can provide a freedom in what gameplay is possible also it is described as a gameplay design pattern in the collection.


The role-playing game Call of Cthulhu takes place in an alternate version of the world where incomprehensible intelligences, psychic time travelling races, and chthonian entities trapped under the ocean all threaten mankind's sanity and existence.

The background story of the Doom series is that a catastrophic malfunction during a teleport experiment of Deimos opens the gate to hell.

Command & Conquer: Red Alert uses a time-travelling Albert Einstein to sets up a game where Nazi Germany never existed and a larger Soviet Union battles a united Western Europe in the 1950s.

Using the pattern

Alien Space Bats are ways of creating Alternate Realities and Game Worlds by changing aspects of the real world rather depicting them as fictional ones created from purely out of whole cloth. The pattern can be used either before gameplay starts or during gameplay. Both may be used created through Big Dumb Objects and Environmental Effects, but introducing Alien Space Bats during gameplay can motivate the introduction of new Privileged Abilities or Environmental Effects, or the Game Element Insertion of new Enemies, Game Items, or Units as appropriate due to the nature of the Alien Space Bats. These new game elements or abilities can easily be used to differentiate Levels.

Diegetic Aspects

Alien Space Bats is a diegetic pattern.

Narration Aspects

Alien Space Bats are typically introduced as early as possible in games to avoid players having Surprises which may ruin their expectations of a game's theme. This typically means before gameplay, for example through Summary Updates or the commercial information accompanying the game.


Alien Space Bats is a pattern used to attempt to have Thematic Consistency in Game Worlds that are Alternate Realities due to having supernatural or improbable events or agents introduced. Given their nature, they may however cause breaks in the Thematic Consistency if not also the likely effects of what is introduced is applied on the diegesis, the Game World, and the gameplay possible within it.

When applied during gameplay, Alien Space Bats are most often Ultra-Powerful Events that can activate new types of Game Element Insertion and make Levels different from each other. This in turn can be used to provide Varied Gameplay throughout the game.

Quite naturally, the introduction of Alien Space Bats during gameplay will likely be a Surprise that unfold Narration Structures. Even if Alien Space Bats could be improvised during gameplay by Game Masters, they are most often created as part of Summary Updates in Predetermined Story Structures. This since it would be difficult for Game Masters to pull off without being perceived as making arbitrary use of their power, and thereby breaking the Diegetic Consistency.


Can Instantiate

Alternate Realities, Game Element Insertion, Narration Structures, Surprises, Thematic Consistency, Ultra-Powerful Events, Varied Gameplay

Can Modulate

Enemies, Environmental Effects, Game Items, Game Worlds, Levels, Predetermined Story Structures, Privileged Abilities, Summary Updates, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

Environmental Effects, Big Dumb Objects

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Thematic Consistency


New pattern created for this wiki by Staffan Björk.


  1. Wikipedia entry for Alternative History.
  2. Wikipedia entry for Alien Space Bats.