Framed Freedom

From gdp3
Jump to: navigation, search

Having a perceived richness in possible choices without feeling tension from having too many of them, or having to prioritize between them.

Games often try to present players with a freedom regarding the actions possible in order for them to feel that they have meaningful choices. At the same time the games want to direct the activities gamers are having by interacting with them. Framed Freedom emerges when game design balanced these two aspects so players have a clear sense of what they can do but still feel unrestricted.


The Sims series and "tycoon" games such as Zoo Tycoon series gives Framed Freedom to players by providing a simulation of a certain environment (a household in a city and a zoo respectively) and letting players choose their own goals within that context. This also goes for simulation games such as SimAnt, the SimCity series, and SimEarth: The Living Planet. Although some grand strategy games, e.g. the Civilization series, do have clear winning conditions and some do not, e.g. the Europa Universalis series, both types also have Framed Freedom in that there are relatively few choices in each moment of gameplay and players need to set their own long-term goals.

The possibility of building one's own complexes in Minecraft and Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress is a form of Framed Freedom since they are restricted by the resources and tools players have gotten accesses to. The same applies to social network games such as CityVille and FarmVille.

Using the pattern

Framed Freedom is a Subjective Pattern and as such can be difficult to design for broad groups of gamers. A general requirement is that players should have a Freedom of Choice but without feelings that the games are enforcing goals or actions on them. For this reason, use of Enforced Goals or Timing is difficult to combine with the Framed Freedom.

Creative Control is often a core component of creative Framed Freedom. One common pattern used in combination with Creative Control is Construction or patterns closely related to it, e.g. Crafting, Game Element Insertion, or Landscaping. Agent Needs is another solution, e.g. present in the Sims series, since the needs expressed through this pattern provide explicit goals but does not enforce them. However, for Framed Freedom to exist the Creative Control cannot allow too many different types of actions, and typically this also requires that the actions are explicitly presented to the players in some way. Limited Resources and Limited Set of Actions are natural way of supporting this and leads Framed Freedom to often have Resource Management.

The freedom aspect of Framed Freedom is often provided by offering Sandbox Gameplay or Player Defined Goals. Cheat Codes is a way of letting players choose to have more freedom if they do not feel there is enough in a game, or lets players have Framed Freedom when they wish in games that otherwise do not support the pattern clearly. Other patterns that do not in themselves create Framed Freedom but can let players modulate the challenges of gameplay include Difficulty Levels and Game Pauses.


Framed Freedom saves players from being overwhelmed with choices while at the same time giving them Player Agency. By doing so it enables players to set up reasonable goals without associating too much Tension with it. This makes games having the pattern an likely source for supporting Pottering activities and having experiences of Value of Effort.

Given that Framed Freedom often consists of handling Limited Resources, the pattern is often accompanied by Resource Management.


Can Instantiate

Resource Management, Player Agency, Pottering

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Cheat Codes, Freedom of Choice, Player Defined Goals, Sandbox Gameplay

Creative Control together with Construction, Crafting, Game Element Insertion, or Landscaping

Can Be Modulated By

Difficulty Levels, Game Pauses, Limited Resources, Limited Set of Actions

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Enforced Goals, Tension, Timing


New pattern created in this wiki.