Individual Penalties

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Penalties given in games that only directly apply to one of the players.

Specific penalties in games can affect either one or several players. Those that affect single players are Individual Penalties.


Penalties in Sports such as Ice Hockey or Soccer are directed towards individual players. However, if this disqualifies them from participating in the game this of course affects the team as a whole also.

While players play together in the Left 4 Dead series, damage and being incapacitated affect individual players and some players may not complete a level while others do.

Using the pattern

Designing Individual Penalties largely resembles designing Penalties in general but avoiding directly affecting other players (i.e. avoiding making them into Shared Penalties). This can however become a somewhat blurred when affected players belong to Alliances or Teams. In Single-Player Games they are the only type of Penalties.

The specific effects of Individual Penalties can be the same as for Penalties in general. However, Downtime and Player Elimination directly affect specific players and thereby are individual in their nature. While the effects of Individual Penalties apply only to one players, other players can become involved in it by using Player-Decided Distributions, either to decide which player should receive the Individual Penalties or to decide the specific effects of the Individual Penalties.


While Individual Penalties can be seen as the basic form of Penalties, it instead becomes a modification if one instead starts with the type of effect as a basis for Penalties.

Individual Penalties can be used to form Social Dilemmas when used together with Individual or Shared Rewards (although the Individual Rewards do not necessarily need to be directed towards the same player as the Individual Penalties).

The presence of Individual Penalties affect players willingness to commit to Mutual Goals (compared to Shared Penalties). It also affects players' perceptions of Risk/Reward situations.


Can Instantiate

Penalties, Social Dilemmas

Can Modulate

Alliances, Mutual Goals, Risk/Reward, Single-Player Games, Teams

Can Be Instantiated By

Downtime, Player Elimination

Can Be Modulated By

Player-Decided Distributions

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Shared Penalties


An updated version of the pattern Individual Penalties that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.