Game Element Insertion

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The insertion of game elements into game instances.

Some games introduce new things into the game environment as gameplay progresses. This Game Element Insertion can be used to gradually introduce challenges, let players build constructions, or provide surprised to players.


The ancient board game Go starts with an empty board which players gradually fill with their stones until placing more stone no longer lets players claim parts of the game area. While all the stones belong to specific sets of the game and are inserted into them, in Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Magic: The Gathering players have to bring their own miniatures and cards respectively that they want to use and thereby create game instance by inserting elements (besides possibly then inserting them into the actual battle. Roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons often have some initial locations with enemies and treasures placed and which can thus be said to be part of the game instances, but to these are added player characters and random encounters, and for campaigns game masters need to add new locations and monsters as well.

The game worlds found in MUDs such as Kingdoms and DragonMud are constructed by designers and trusted players. While this is done in modes outside the normal gameplay, in games such as Minecraft and the Sims series this is part of the main gameplay (although for the Sims series this is a separate gameplay mode).

Neuroshima Hex! lets players choose from one out of three hex tiles to use each turn, and most of these are units that are to be placed upon the battlefield the constitutes the game's world.

Computer games quite often make use of Game Element Insertion since the computer easily can handle these. Some are preplanned by designers, e.g. players of Quake 4 several times experience enemies materializes in front of them only to seconds later also have the same thing happen behind them. In other cases, the time and place of elements appearing are random (even if following certain rules) - an example of this can be found in the power-ups of the Mario Kart series. The power of computers to handle great amount of units does not only make it possible for players to encounter these numbers of enemies; games such as the Age of Empires series and the Starcraft series show how players can be put in control of large armies.

Using the pattern

The design of Game Element Insertion consists of considering what game elements should be allowed to be inserted and what mechanism govern when they can be inserted. A special case of the latter is when players construct the actual game instances by the game elements they insert. This is a form of Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership, where players either put together sets of game elements as strategies (as for example in Magic: The Gathering or Warhammer 40K) or encode them in Algorithmic Agents such as AI Players (e.g. Crobots). Another special case is when the Game Element Insertion is permanent in the sense that it changes future game instances; this is a typical way in which Legacy Games are constructed.

All types of game elements can be used for Game Element Insertion but not too surprising those that are found in greater number in games are also used together with the pattern more often. This makes Pick-Ups, Power-Ups, and Units common objects of Game Element Insertion. In this they are Resources and the insertion of them may through the use of Converters, Resource Generators or various means of making the Resources into Regenerating Resources. Some of these can quite naturally be Enemies under other players' control, while others again can be under the control of Dedicated Game Facilitators and then Spawning is a common mechanic to introduce new elements. A weak example of Game Element Insertion is how Deck Building introduced Cards into actual gameplay, this is not a strong example due to the Cards typically being Limited Resources and therefore affecting gameplay even before they can be used. Pre-Customized Decks is a stronger example since the Cards not introduced into a game instance will in most cases not be part of it.

The presences of goals such as Alignment, Enclosure, and Connection all heavily affect how player will use Game Element Insertion, so the presence of these needs to be considered when designing for this pattern.

Less common as Game Element Insertion is the introduction of Non-Player Characters or Boss Monsters but these may more important in relation to Quests and Predetermined Story Structures (but they can also be improvised to be part of other Narration Structures). The use of Levels can work as ways of packaging all game elements to be inserted at specific points during gameplay, or to modulate which game elements can appear.

The introduction of Avatars and Player Characters are less common but more important to players given their roles as Focus Loci, and while the second of these may make use of Game Element Insertion and Game Element Removal to match player present the original definition of the first requires its use. While this may only occur once in some games and rarely in those with Late Arriving Players, for games with Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay it needs to be possible to do at all times.

Creative Control if very often combined with the pattern to given players either control over which game elements are to be inserted or where they should be inserted. Ways of controlling how players can insert game elements can be through requiring Investments through paying with some Resource - something common in real-time strategy games such as the Starcraft series. Even when players do not have an option of not introducing new game elements, in effect making them a Renewable Resources that needs to be used, this can still be an Investment with associated Risk/Reward considerations if there is a Freedom of Choice of what to insert. Free Game Element Manipulation lets players to have Game Element Insertion at their leisure but with the risk of changing a gaming activity into one of free play. Another, more powerful, way to combine Creative Control with Game Element Insertion is to allow Player Created Game Elements, i.e. not only let players insert game elements but also create these.

Besides players, Dedicated Game Facilitators can time when Game Element Insertion should occur. When the facilitators are humans, they can also create the game elements and the rules regarding them. Alien Space Bats is a diegetic tool for motivating these insertion.

Diegetic Aspects

Spawning and Loot are common forms of Game Element Insertion into Game Worlds. However, in games with Scenes the introduction of new game elements can simply be equal to describing the Game World in more detail.

Narrative Aspects

Storytelling is often used to explain Game Element Insertion, and when this is improvised is the actual cause of the insertion of new game elements rather than a way to modify it. Pre-determined Game Element Insertion, for example of Non-Player Characters, are a way of providing progress and Surprises in predetermined and improvised Narration Structures. While they may not be necessary for all Narration Structures, Never Ending Stories most likely need it to not become repetitious.


Game Element Insertion typically make the game elements into Renewable Resources and can easily provide Surprises during gameplay as they insert new elements into Game Worlds and Levels, and when done in conjunction with Narration Structures this can support Never Ending Stories. When allowing players to add game elements are part of gameplay, the pattern easily support Construction since players can introduce the new game elements to interact or build upon the already present ones. When players can populate whole Game Worlds through Game Element Insertion this gives rise to Player Constructed Worlds. For Multiplayer Games, the Game Element Insertion of Player Characters due to Late Arriving Players can be problematic regarding Player Balance.

By pacing the introduction of game elements, Game Element Insertion can easily provide Smooth Learning Curves and Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses. For games with Dedicated Game Facilitators that can insert game elements embodying new rules, this can also give Evolving Rule Sets. When game elements inserted are not part of the original definitions of possible game elements, the insertion can be seen as a form of Extra-Game Input.

When players have some Creative Control of Game Element Insertion, this provides them Framed Freedom, which becomes greater when they also create the elements and the rules surrounding them. If there are several different game elements to select from, the Game Element Insertion is a way to give players a Freedom of Choice but since there is typically also a Risk/Reward to this (either if the wrong game element was chosen or if the use of Resources to allow the insertion was wise) they are then also Investments. This also gives rise to a need for Resource Management. However, handling Game Element Insertion can also create Excise for the players.


Can Instantiate

Construction, Excise, Extra-Game Input, Freedom of Choice, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses, Investments, Legacy Games, Never Ending Stories, Player Constructed Worlds, Renewable Resources, Resource Management, Risk/Reward, Smooth Learning Curves, Surprises

with Creative Control

Framed Freedom

with Dedicated Game Facilitators

Evolving Rule Sets

Can Modulate

Boss Monsters, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Game Worlds, Levels, Narration Structures, Non-Player Characters, Pick-Ups, Player Characters, Power-Ups, Predetermined Story Structures, Resources, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

AI Players, Algorithmic Agents, Alien Space Bats, Avatars, Converters, Deck Building, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Drop-In/Drop-Out, Free Game Element Manipulation, Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership, Late Arriving Players, Levels, Loot, Player Created Game Elements, Pre-Customized Decks, Regenerating Resources, Resource Generators, Scenes, Spawning, Storytelling

Can Be Modulated By

Alignment, Connection, Creative Control, Enclosure, Storytelling

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Player Balance when Player Characters are the game elements inserted due to arrival of Late Arriving Players


New pattern created in this wiki.