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Visual aims to help players aim.

Many games require players to aim at what they want to interact with in the game worlds. While some games lock the point players can aim at to the middle of the screen, it can be difficult to judge exactly where this is. Crosshairs can be overlaid on the game world presentation to make this more easy, and in other games where players can move their aim point freely it is more or less required that players are provided with Crosshairs to be able to know what they are pointing at.


Given its definition, Crosshairs are used in Computer Games. They practically exist in all First-Person Shooters, e.g. Borderlands and the Battlefield, Far Cry, Left 4 Dead, Quake, and Unreal Tournament series. Other games that make use of Crosshairs - because they also contain shooting as part of the gameplay - include Mirror's Edge and the Fallout, Mass Effect, and Tomb Raider series.

While most with Crosshairs have them fixed in the middle of the display, exception such as Missile Command and ports of the Operation Wolf series exist.

The site GiantBomb has a list[1] of games using Crosshairs, and has another one under the name Iron Sights[2] for sights that have to be activated (both these are assumed to be part of this pattern). Actually, it also has a list[3] for games that does not have crosshairs, something which is done to increase difficulty or to make people make use of the in-game scopes.

Using the pattern

While the actual design of Crosshairs is more a question of graphical design than gameplay design, there are a couple of gameplay-related options for them. The first is if their location should be fixed (as in the Quake and Unreal Tournament series) or moveable (as in Missile Command). They can be modified by Auto-Aim functionality, either directly through making the system more them through the use of reticule magnetism or indirectly (in Combat contexts) by letting bullets aimed near Enemies hit anyway. Variable Accuracy can either require players to activate scopes (e.g. through Iron Sights[2]) or make players that aim for a longer time have higher chances of hitting where they aim, and games using this pattern often indicate the current accuracy through the Crosshairs.

Crosshairs can also be modified to provide more information about what is aimed at. Showing Handles and Health are typical examples of this but this can also be used to show Tooltips. Crosshairs also make natural starting points for creating context-dependent Pie Menus since they already allow players to indicate their point of interest.

Interface Aspects

Crosshairs is an Interface Pattern and many of the options surrounding Crosshairs are related to interface issues. For example, the actual design of Crosshairs is often changed to reflect which Weapon is being used as well as the status of Variable Accuracy systems. The Crosshairs can also be used to provide additional information about what is being aimed at, most commonly Health or Handles, the latter to avoid Friendly Fire (another, more extreme, solution is to remove Crosshairs when aimed at friends). Later installments in the Battlefield series show how Pie Menus can be used to allow optional actions based upon what is in the Crosshairs.


Crosshairs are visual aids for players to interact with Game Worlds, and are most often used to support Dexterity-Based Actions - especially Aim & Shoot actions in Combat. They are a form of God Fingers for triggering specific actions directly rather than selecting game elements to interact with, but this is mainly relevant when the Crosshairs are moveable.

As visual aids, Crosshairs may be part of HUD Interfaces or create these, and may introduce Non-Diegetic Features in games.


Can Instantiate

God Fingers, HUD Interfaces, Non-Diegetic Features

Can Modulate

Aim & Shoot, Combat, Dexterity-Based Actions, Friendly Fire, Weapons

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Auto-Aim, Handles, Health, Pie Menus, Tooltips, Variable Accuracy

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Page on the GiantBomb site describing Crosshairs.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Page on the GiantBomb site describing Iron Sights.
  3. Page on the GiantBomb site describing No-Reticle Aiming.