Awareness of Surroundings

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The ability of algorithmic agents to detect and react to all diegetically relevant phenomena.

For agents of game worlds to behave convincingly, they need to exhibit some characteristics. One of these is having an Awareness of Surroundings, i.e. noticing and reacting appropriately to things, agents, and events that they can perceive.


The enemies controlled by computers in First Person Shooters such as the Doom series or the Counter-Strike series are programmed to be both aware of players and the items one can retrieve from the environment. While the inhabitants of the Elder Scrolls series and Fallout series and many other Computer-based Roleplaying Games have the same functionality, showing proper responses to movement, closeness, etc., in non-combat aspects of the gameplay make these games lack some Awareness of Surroundings that socially believable characters should have (see Lankoski & Björk for a more detailed exploration of this[1]).

The "Sims" in the Sims series of games can both react and interaction with much of their environments. This is implemented in the games partly by having appropriate reaction coded in the various items of the environment, something which allows the games to easily be expanded with new items.

Using the pattern

Awareness of Surroundings is a pattern applied to Enemies or Non-Player Characters run by Algorithmic Agents to make them react to what exists in Game Worlds. Typically things that Algorithmic Agents need to have responses to include other Algorithmic Agents (especially Enemies), Pick-Ups, and Power-Ups.

While reacting to something in the environment based solely on the relationship the Algorithmic Agents has to that something is sufficient for a basic Awareness of Surroundings, more complex and believable responses may require the use of Context Dependent Reactions and Memory of Important Events.

Diegetic Aspects

Providing Thematic Consistency is one of the reasons for making Algorithmic Agents have an Awareness of Surroundings.


That Agents have an Awareness of Surroundings provides one of the requirements for them to display both a Sense of Self and an Own Agenda. This can also help for a game to have Thematic Consistency.


Can Instantiate

Own Agenda, Sense of Self, Thematic Consistency

Can Modulate

Algorithmic Agents, Enemies, Non-Player Characters

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Context Dependent Reactions, Memory of Important Events

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



A rewrite of a pattern that was part of the original collection in the paper Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters[1].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lankoski, P. & Björk, S. (2007) Gameplay Design Patterns for Believable Non-Player Characters. Proceedings of DiGRA 2007.