Game structures that allow players to interrupt their gameplay without disrupting the gameplay for the players.
Since it is often difficult to know exactly how long play sessions will take, players often have to interrupt their gameplay at unexpected points. Another reason for such interruptions is that the external situation has changed and no longer permits continued gameplay. Games that can gracefully handle this so gameplay can continue with a minimum of negative effects have Interruptibility.
All Turn-Based Games can easily be interrupted simply by not making one's turn. While this may irritate other players in some games, it is unproblematic in single-player games.
Games based upon players' proximity to locations or other players, e.g. Geocaching and Insectopia, are built upon short bursts of player action injected into other activities. From the perspective of playing the game, the games support Interruptibility since players are not required to do actions at any given point of time.
While players may suffer limited setback by not playing social media games such as FarmVille and Zombie Lane, these are not due to interrupting ongoing play sessions but rather for not playing the games for a significant amount of time. This means that cutting play sessions short in these games are unproblematic and they support Interruptibility well.
In Momentum, players roleplay themselves being intermittently possessed by a ghost. They can easily interrupt their gameplay by deciding that the ghost has stopped possessing them.
Using the pattern
There are two aspects regarding the use of Interruptibility in games. One relates to making it possible to interrupt one's gameplay without ruining the game instances, the other relates to making it possible to interrupt gameplay without suffering negative consequences. Game Pauses and support for Save-Load Cycles help pausing game instances so they can be resumed later, while Asynchronous Gameplay is based upon not requiring all players to be active at the same time and thereby make it easy (or necessary) for individual players to take breaks in the gameplay.
Since nothing happens in Turn-Based Games until player actions are done, these support Interruptibility. However, this points to the possibility that Interruptibility exists but causes negative consequences since the game state should continues to update. This most obviously can occur in Multiplayer Games since other players may not want to experience Downtime, and this becomes especially problematic in games with Mediated Gameplay since the causes for the interruption may not be apparent to other players. However, games with Persistent Game Worlds can have this regardless if any other players have ongoing play sessions. No-Ops let players take breaks even if they can be affected by game events and the gameplay can become unbalance for other players, and Tick-Based Games can enforce No-Ops for players who have not provided new gameplay actions before the tick occurs. Drop-In/Drop-Out designs avoid that the pausing player has negative consequences but other players can still experience imbalances - Algorithmic Agents and AI Players can avoid this by filling in for the players that have left. Games that provide Interruptibility for some players while gameplay continues for others need to consider how (and if) players can rejoin the game instances: Spawning is a typical solution.
Games supporting Interruptibility may need to provide Secondary Interface Screens or Game Lobbies to help players know if other players have interrupted their gameplay, and to let returning players be aware of the current game state.
Interruptibility gives players a Freedom of Choice when to play, which in many cases can become Trade-Offs between playing now or at a later point. By making it possible for players to choose when to play without negative consequences for not playing, the pattern helps provide Social Adaptability and give a game Minimalized Social Weight. This in turn helps make both Pervasive and Ubiquitous Gameplay possible and lowers the occurence of Early Leaving Players since they can choose to interrupt their game rather than leave it.
Can Be Instantiated By
Can Be Modulated By
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
Updated version of the pattern Interruptibility first described in the report Game Design Patterns for Mobile Games.
- Davidsson, O., Peitz, J. & Björk, S. (2004). Game Design Patterns for Mobile Games. Project report to Nokia Research Center, Finland.