The performing of actions, and exchanging of information and resources, done by several agents in order to reach common goals or subgoals of the game.
Cooperation is simply the intentional joint effort by several agents to try and reach a goal. In games, this allow players to divide tasks between them and rely upon each others' abilities and resources to work more efficiently together than would have been possible alone. It may enable players to perform otherwise impossible actions or may make players feel that they are part of a team.
- 1 Examples
- 2 Using the pattern
- 3 Consequences
- 4 Relations
- 4.1 Can Instantiate
- 4.2 Can Modulate
- 4.3 Can Be Instantiated By
- 4.4 Can Be Modulated By
- 4.5 Possible Closure Effects
- 4.6 Potentially Conflicting With
- 5 History
- 6 References
Very many sports, e.g. Soccer, Basketball, and Baseball are team based and require the players to cooperate well in order to have a chance of winning over the opposing team. Laying Jigsaw Puzzles together with friends has Cooperation between the players, but one can still see the puzzle as containing Competition (or even Conflict) against the game system or designers of the puzzle.
In Lord of the Rings, the board game, the players have to work together in order to defeat Sauron. The gameplay her is fully cooperative since the main goal, defeating Sauron, is common to all players, that is, either the players win the game or they all lose. Space Alert has the same main design even if in a different setting. In contrast, Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and Shadows over Camelot ensure that at least one player is a traitor but still requires all players to cooperate, at least until it has been revealed who the traitor is. Games do not have to have any concept of teams for Cooperation to be necessary; So Long Sucker and Diplomacy make players join up to beat other players only to later have to battle each other.
Although only one needs to make it to a safe room for a level to be completed in the Left 4 Dead series, players can cooperate by healing each other, saving them from being incapacitated, or hand over healing equipment to each other.
See the category of Co-Op Games on this wiki for additional examples.
Using the pattern
Cooperation is typically achieved by creating Symbiotic Player Relations between those players that are supposed to cooperate. The most direct way of doing this is through Teams, but equal levels of Cooperation can be achieved by introducing Mutual Goals combined with Shared Rewards to players. The Mutual Goals, however, do not need to be the highest level goals in the game; that is, it is possible to have Competition and Conflicts between the players as a high level goal and use Mutual Goals as subgoals for reaching the high level goal. One way of doing this is to introduce Collaborative Actions as the only way of performing aggressive actions - this design solution can be found in So Long Sucker and in practice is required to win in Diplomacy. Another is to provide Game System Player that players need to cooperate against (e.g. Genesis or The Republic of Rome). Tied Results can be considered an alternative to Cooperation in some cases; it can be viewed as Cooperation that only results in equal consequences if players have performed equally according to some metrics.
Collaborative Actions in general make players cooperate, even if it is not clear who benefits the most, something often the case in Trading. Transferable Items is a prerequisite for Trading but can also in itself support Cooperation for Teams. Parties can also be used to foster Cooperation but do this more from a diegetic perspective than Teams and may not have explicitly described goals. Cooperation typically requires players to be able to coordinate and synchronize with each other (but see Asynchronous Collaborative Actions for an exception). This means that games that do not have Unmediated Social Interaction need Communication Channels of some sort, typically Chat Channels since these are most flexible.
Making players have to do actions that require Timing in relation to each other, e.g. most Team Combos, is a more difficult type of Cooperation in that it requires Coordination. Games wanting to use this type of Cooperation can consider using Landmarks (including Geospatial Game Widgets) since these ease Coordination. Cooperation can also be made more challenging by requiring players to do things with limited Communication Channels: this can either be simply because they are at different places (e.g. to have Area Control over several places) or because disturbances are introduced that make communication difficult (Space Alert does the latter by at certain points forbidding player discussions and playing white noise).
All Alliances, even Uncommitted Alliances ones, are based on Cooperation between the players. Even the lowest level of Alliance, agreeing not to hinder or harm the other player, is a form of Cooperation, as the players coordinate their actions, even though they might not be trying to achieve Mutual Goals. While Enemies in themselves do not support Cooperation they can do so by making the typically Dynamic Alliance of My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend. PvE gameplay encourages these types of Alliances and thereby Cooperation if they do not also simultaneously have PvP gameplay since players have a common opposing force and no reason why not to help each other.
Related to this is Cooperation where the benefits are unequal, even to be point where only one part is helped due to Individual Rewards. This can however be beneficial to all involved due to Delayed Reciprocity, that is some players help other players under the belief that they may later be helped in return. Altruistic Actions, such as Free Gift Inventories, is one way of ensuring this type of inequality since the player performing the action does not get any direct benefit.
One of the challenges with Cooperation is Player Unpredictability. Betrayal can be added to games with Cooperation to strengthen this unpredictability and create Inherent Mistrust and Tension. This can either be voluntary action by players for personal gains or be forced upon some players by designating them as Traitors, as for example is done in Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game or Shadows over Camelot. Shared Resources gives players the opportunity for Cooperation in how to use the Resources but can have the same effects as Betrayal and both can easily introduce Conflicts into the gameplay. Shared Resources also add the Social Dilemmas to the gameplay which Betrayal only does if not forced upon players (i.e. not instantiated through the use of Traitors). However, Cooperation can also emerge from the Negotiation of handling Social Dilemmas concerning Continuous Goals (often Shared Resources but not necessarily so). Stronger than Betrayal, Internal Conflicts can make Cooperation impossible.
Although Cooperation is most natural to consider for Multiplayer Games, it does not need to be limited to these - Agents controlled by Dedicated Game Facilitators can better guarantee that Cooperation is always maintained than players can. Likewise, Companions based upon Algorithmic Agents or Non-Player Characters with Supporting Goals will not betray or trick unless designed to. If a player does not have enough players, or the right players, to have Cooperation with a solution can be to support Invites, but this makes is necessary to also support Drop-In/Drop-Out or Late Arriving Players.
Even if a game is not a Multiplayer Game other people can become involved in Cooperation. This either through Public Interfaces which makes it difficult to judge how many are actually providing input (an example of this can be found in the iPad version of Flight Control), or through Non-Player Help that allows people not playing a game to have Cooperation with those playing.
For Multiplayer Roleplaying games players need to engage in Cooperation regardless of if their Characters do so to uphold an Alternate Reality, so combining Roleplaying and Multiplayer Games is one way to require Cooperation. This can allow for Entitled Players which can modify the game itself to maximize the enjoyment of the Cooperation. Encouraging Playing to Lose may further increase the level of Cooperation in Roleplaying since then players are putting the development of a common story before the well-being of their Characters.
Any restriction in abilities to communicate with each other poses challenges to Cooperation, and for this reason Mediated Gameplay can make Cooperation more difficult. Being aware of each others' identities and locations can mitigate this, and games with Avatars or Mediated Gameplay can support this through Handles. This is easier in games with Split-Screen Views since players can see the other players locations and actions from their perspective, but even so the other patterns can help.
Cooperation increases Social Interaction between the players, as they have to do Coordination of their actions in order to reach the goals of the game. This makes the differentiating of players into different Social Roles likely for games with Cooperation and also encourage players to display Social Skills to succeed better with the gameplay. Having, or having the possibility, to cooperate allows players to make use of Competence Areas to find Functional Roles and this provides a form of Constructive Gameplay as the Coordination necessary for this is in itself a common accomplishment. This may lessen focus of players on whom the other players are outside the game and thereby promote Actor Detachment in the game. If players are required to cooperate, the presence of Privileged Abilities can be used to enforce Competence Areas while providing New or Improved Abilities during gameplay can make Competence Areas emerge. Cooperation is a basis for having Social Organizations in a game, and when Shared Resources are used or Betrayal is possible Social Dilemmas are likely to occur. Different levels of Game-Based Social Statuses may lead to spontaneous chains of command in Cooperation situations.
Games with Cooperation typically makes for more Complex Gameplay, but this becomes especially pronounced when Cooperation and Competition. While it may increase the amount of Social Interaction this can also introduce Tension between the players. When there is a possibility of Betrayal for the cooperating players, this also tends to raise the Tension and sometimes lowers the motivation for Cooperation due to the Inherent Mistrust. This is especially the case in games that include Asynchronous Gameplay, since the two patterns together give rise to Asynchronous Collaborative Actions where players do not have to directly interact with each other.
Engaging in Cooperation is likely to require Stimulated Planning, especially if Coordination is wanted, but also considering whether or not to cooperate causes Stimulated Planning. Failed Cooperation can lead to Ragequitting.
with Competence Areas
with Improved, New, or Privileged Abilities
Can Be Instantiated By
Agents, Alliances, Altruistic Actions, Collaborative Actions, Coordination, Entitled Players, Free Gift Inventories, Game System Player, My Enemy’s Enemy is my Friend, Non-Player Help, Parties, Playing to Lose, Public Interfaces, PvE, Symbiotic Player Relations, Teams, Team Combos, Trading, Transferable Items, Uncommitted Alliances
Can Be Modulated By
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
A revised version of the pattern Cooperation that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design.
- Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.