Goal-Driven Personal Development

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The ability of agents to update their goals after the closure of existing goals.

Players have goals in games. However, diegetic character can have goals regarding the game world or may actually need them to be believable as characters. When these characters can develop over time through choosing new goals as they reach closure points regarding their old goals, they can be said to have Goal-Driven Personal Development.

Note: Goal-Driven Personal Development looks at goals defined through making a game state fulfill certain criteria and therefore excludes many other types of goals agents playing games can have, e.g. social or experiential ones.


Computer-based Roleplaying Games such as the Fallout series, the Elder Scrolls series, the Dragon Age series, and the Witcher series provide quests for players to choose from. The outcome of many of these not only affect which rewards players get but also which future quests they can take, and through how they reflect on the characters' experiences and changes in worldviews can display a personal development of them. While non-computerized Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons or the various games using the Storytelling System also allows for this type of Goal-Driven Personal Development, the goals in these games are much more fluidly define in both when they are finished and what types of rewards they provide.

Using the pattern

Goal-Driven Personal Development is created by providing Agents with goals whose success, failure, and progress can be measured through the game state of a game and that build upon each other in some form. For Agents controlled by humans, this is typically done through letting them select Quests and making sure that some of these build upon the previous ones to create chains which makes the development over time noticeable. For Algorithmic Agents, Quests can be used also but typically these need to be more granular in detail and have much more encoding of benefits and requirements available – this to a level which would make them very unlike the Quests presented to human players.

Narration Aspects

One part of making Agents believable is that they have intentionality, i.e. have goals and take actions to make these goals be fulfilled. Goal-Driven Personal Development not only relies on that Agents have goals but update the goals based on how the previous goals succeeded or not, and through this can help create Thematic Consistency by making these Agents believable regarding this issue.


The possibility of Goal-Driven Personal Development in a game allows Agents to have their Own Agenda that develop over time. When applied to non-human agents, i.e. Algorithmic Agents, Goal-Driven Personal Development allows these to have Open Destinies and can provide Replayability in making it interesting for players to perceive the differences in outcomes for them in various game instances.


Can Instantiate

Own Agenda, Thematic Consistency

with Algorithmic Agents

Open Destiny, Replayability

Can Modulate

Agents, Algorithmic Agents

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By


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