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The goal of forming a linear alignment of game elements.

Many games make use of the spatial relationship of game elements to cause effects in the game state. When the pieces have to form a line (typically defined by three game elements) for an effect to occur, this can be described as giving players the goal of Alignment. The goal usually requires the aligned elements to be next to each other. There are, however, games where this is not the case and Alignment is instead used to determine the movement paths of game elements, e.g. leaping in Draughts. Using the term Matching Tile Games, Jesper Juul provides an analysis of a group of games using a form of the pattern in the fourth chapter of his book A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players[1]


A well known, and perhaps the simplest, game of Alignment is Tic-Tac-Toe where the winner is the first to have three markers in horizontal, vertical or diagonal Alignment in a three by three board. Hnefatafl and other 'Tafl games'[2] are believed to have rules that allow captures by surrounding a piece on two opposing sides. As mentioned above, Draughts uses Alignment for

'Match 3' games such as Bejeweled, Staries and Zoo Keeper all lets players swap game elements which are neighbors, removing them and rewarding the player with points if three or more game elements become aligned.

Tetris uses the horizontal Alignment of blocks to remove them from the screen and increase the player's score.

Using the pattern

The prime challenges that can be designed for Alignment goals consist of how players can move or place the necessary game elements into the correct position and how game elements can be removed in order to hinder the completion of the Alignment, which are a type of Puzzle Solving. Due to these changes of a game the pattern introduced, it affects Game Element Insertion or Movement, or both. The difficulty of the goal can easily be increased by making the game elements move on their own or making them moveable by other players and introducing Preventing Goals. The pattern is typically used in board games to create Capture after Alignment has been achieved.

Although not directly a goal, the use of Line of Sight to detect or attack other game elements has much in common with Alignment. Further, when players can detect Enemies or other target through other means and need to achieve Line of Sight to perform certain activities, the two patterns do overlap since gaining Line of Sight becomes the same as gaining an Alignment without any Obstacles in between.


Alignment is a form of Configuration, and offers the possibility of Hovering Closures by offering players clear visual Progress Indicators using the Gestalt Law of Closure[3]. Alignment can be a case of Connection, but does not have to be so, since the game elements involved in the Alignment do not necessarily need to have Connection between each other.

Alignment is typically used as a prerequisite for Capture. In Real-Time Games where shots move instantaneously to the target, or the target is stationary, the action of Aim & Shoot has Alignment as a goal and typically required Timing. In other cases, Alignment is typically a part of Puzzle Solving.


Can Instantiate

Capture, Configuration, Connection, Hovering Closures, Preventing Goals, Progress Indicators, Puzzle Solving

with Real-Time Games

Aim & Shoot, Timing

Can Modulate

Game Element Insertion, Movement

Can Be Instantiated By

Line of Sight

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Alignment that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[4].




  1. Juul, J. (2010) A Casual Revolution: Reinventing Video Games and Their Players. MIT Press.
  2. Wikipedia entry for Tafl games.
  3. Wikipedia entry on gestalt psychology.
  4. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.