Life Penalties

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The penalty in a game of losing a life.

Lives are used in some games to allow players to fail a couple of times before the game session or game instance terminates, i.e. they can fail as long as they have lives left. Life Penalties are penalties given to players that remove one of these lives and thereby move players closer to having their gameplay end.


Getting caught by ghosts in Pac-Man makes players lose lives. Likewise, getting hit in Asteroids or having all ones cities destroyed in Missile Command removes lives from the players.

Using the pattern

Life Penalties is a specific type of Death Consequences that is typically used in games with Lives. Fudged Results can be used to allow players or others (such as Game Masters) to remove individual cases of Life Penalties; if this can be done too often the pattern however in practice removes the possibility of Life Penalties.

The main design issue with Life Penalties is if they should be handed out directly as effects of Damage or if they are the cumulative effects of Energy Penalties.


Life Penalties are Penalties. As long as players still have Lives left, they need to be followed by Spawning to replace players' Focus Loci into Game Worlds (unless the Focus Loci are non-diegetic of course). Whenever they trigger and players have no more Lives to lose, they also instantiate Game Termination Penalties (or else the Lives pattern do not have its traditional meaning). This also means that Life Penalties indirectly can cause Player Elimination. Risking to lose Lives makes players feel Tension and even more so when one only has one Life left.


Can Instantiate

Game Termination Penalties, Penalties, Spawning, Tension

Can Modulate

Death Consequences, Lives

Can Be Instantiated By

Energy Penalties

Damage together with Lives

Can Be Modulated By

Fudged Results

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Fudged Results


New pattern created in this wiki. However it is based on the concept "Life punishment" introduced by Juul[1].


  1. Juul, J. (2009). Fear of Failing? The Many Meanings of Difficulty in Video Games. In Perron, B. & Wolf, M.J.P. (eds.): The Video Game Theory Reader 2, 2009.