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The action of moving game elements in game worlds.

Movement of game elements is a common activity in games that have game worlds or game boards. It allows players to try and move game elements into favorable positions as well as control or explore game areas. In computer-based games it can give players feelings of speed and vertigo.


With the exception of the value of kings and the ability of pawns to become queens, different Movement abilities are what distinguish different types of pieces in Chess.

The early computer-based games Spacewar! and Asteroids both allow players to move spaceships by rotation and thrust in the spaceships' direction. However, they also allow players to escape dangerous situations by providing a limited number of hyperjumps that placed the spaceship in a random location. The Elite series does the same but in three-dimensional space.

Racing Games such as the Need for Speed series, the Gran Turismo series, the F-Zero series, and the Mario Kart series all have movement as the primary activity in the game. Formula D, Ricochet Robots, RoboRally, and Sokoban are also based around Movement but as Team-based Games the challenges in these cases are based upon problem solving and anticipating other players moves. Advanced Squad Leader and Memoir '44 are examples of Wargames where Movement in vital in winning but where the Movement is influence by various environmental effects. High Frontier requires careful consideration about interactions between engine thrust, fuel consumption, and rocket mass to explore and colonize the solar system. Cogs and Zoo Keeper are examples that require Movement to solve puzzles but players have to do so under time pressure.

Navigating game worlds in the Super Mario series is a large part of gameplay, and through executing combos additional types of movement can be done. Some of these, e.g. Double Jumping, have found their way into many other games, e.g. Robot Unicorn Attack and being able to be done by scouts in Team Fortress 2. Movement is also important in Another World but in some cases this take the shape of players having to do actions as a rhythmic sequences; the entire gameplay of the Dragon's Lair series is constructed in this fashion.

Massively Single-Player Online Games such as CityVille, FarmVille, and Zombie Lane have a particular form of Movement in that players can visit each other's gameplay areas to help them with various chores.

Using the pattern

Movement is introduced into games to allow goals such as Alignment, Capture, Connection, Enclosure, Stealth, Game World Exploration, and Traverse goals as well as activities such as Collecting, Races and making Aim & Shoot easier (through Traverse it also makes Deliver and Herd possible). However, deciding how game elements can perform Movement depends on how Game Worlds have been created and the intended differences between game elements. Choke Points, Clues, Diegetically Tangible Game Items, Environmental Effects, Flanking Routes, Galleries, Inaccessible Areas, Laning, Obstacles, Pick-Ups, Transport Routes, Traps, and Warp Zones in Game Worlds all modulate Movement and most of these can be used as the starting points for various designs of Privileged Movement and Movement Limitations and thereby create Orthogonal Differentiation. Vehicles are Game Items that also modulate Movement since players can make use of them to get a form of Privileged Movement; Vehicle Sections can be created to make the use of Vehicles preferable or even make it a requirement. Combos can also be used to access Privileged Movement by doing a more or less complex combination of basic actions. Even so, the easiest form of Privileged Movement for one game element compared to other game elements is the ability to move faster as a form of Improved Ability, and game designs can make use of this to provide Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment regarding Movement. Invulnerabilities and Vulnerabilities can indirectly modulate Movement by opening or closing possible routes depending on what space needs to be traveled through. Levels can be used to limit Movement to individual Levels until they are completed; Scenes can do likewise but can also be used to make actual gameplay actions related to Movement unnecessary.

The difficulty of Movement is connected to the complexity of the movement and the different ways one can move. The more degrees of freedom of movement a player has, up to the maximum of six (three absolute and three rotational), the more the complexity of the Movement is increased. Further complications to Movement occur through the introduction of acceleration, deceleration, momentum, turn radii, dislocated centers of gravity, articulated vehicles, fuel Resources, Line of Sight, and vehicles with complex forms of locomotion. Zone of Control can hinder och slow Movement in proximity to other game elements. Variable Accuracy can be influenced how players move by making quick Movement ruin their chances of succeeding with Aim & Shoot actions, but reversely aiming systems can require players to be stationary. These various options, and the way Game Worlds are constructed, can be used to create both Challenging and Complex Gameplay, but this can be further refined in computer-based games through Player/System Action Composites in which the computer helps calculating routes or providing Game State Overviews of the relevant factors.

In Turn-Based Games, typical ways of instantiating Movement is having a movement cost to enter an area and using Randomness (most often in the form of Dice), Budgeted Action Points, or a combination of both to determine how many points players have to spend. While simply having a cost of one for each area enter (as e.g. Monopoly does) having other costs can be motivated based on Environmental Effects in the areas. In Real-Time Games, Movement is often directly matches to physical buttons but can also be the diegetic effect of successfully performing Rhythm-Based Actions (examples of this can be found in Another World and the Dragon's Lair series).

Quick Returns and Quick Travel are ways to avoid having to do Movement though parts of Game Worlds one has already traversed and can thereby remove Movement which could be perceived as Excise. In contrast, Setback Penalties force players to traverse the same parts again as the consequence of failing some challenge. One-Way Travel and other types of Conditional Passageways can be used to guarantee that gameplay progresses in a certain order but not necessarily influence the speed of that progression; they can also be used to to make Movement from one part of the game to the other easy but returning difficult. While Warp Zones may change Game Worlds by making parts topological neighbors and thereby modulate Movement, when players can create the Warp Zones themselves (as for example when reading a portal scroll in Torchlight) this can instead be viewed as making Movement possible. Visits are similar but used in Massively Single-Player Online Games such as CityVille and Zombie Lane to let players go to each other's areas to help with tasks. An non-diegetic form of Movement, but possibly the origins of Movement in games[1], is the use of Score Tracks.

Movement can be made to leave Traces to help Capture or Reconnaissance goals through providing Clues. Check Points can help in goals related to Movement both by aiding Game World Navigation and by being able to double as Save Points.

One variation of the Movement pattern is to require actual player Movement rather than that of Avatars, Units, or Tokens; one way of doing this is through requiring Physical Navigation.


Movement is one of the most common Abilities found in games, and is a basic way of creating Freedom of Choice in games and both affects the Avatars, Tokens, Units, or Enemies given the ability to move and the Game Worlds they can move within. It is a prerequisite for many actions and goals, e.g. Capture, Collecting, Game World Exploration, Races, and Traverse as well as modulating how Aim & Shoot can be done. It created Evade goals when it can be used to move Avatars, Characters, or Units to avoid Penalties.

Construction can also be an effect of Movement when this supports other game elements being pushed around. While all intentional Movement in Game Worlds requires Game World Navigation when this is supported through Check Points showing intermediate target locations, the Movement done to reach these makes them act as Progress Indicators. As soon as players need to consider their own acceleration or speed, or the movement of other game elements, Movement requires Tactical Planning.

Movement does not always offer Spatial Engrossment but is more likely to do so in Real-Time Games since this makes the Movement into Maneuvering. In contrast, Movement in Turn-Based Games can give rise to Puzzle Solving, e.g. games that require players to move between many interconnected places give rise to Traveling Salesman's problems (see Ricochet Robots and Sokoban for two Turn-Based Games that can create Spatial Engrossment due to focusing completely on Movement). Puzzle Solving (and through that also Tactical Planning) regarding Movement can also occur in any game where Movement is used to succeed with goals to Capture something. Movement that needs to be done and doesn't offer challenges or choices can be perceived as Excise, especially if done over already familiar spaces (the use of Vehicles can mitigate this to some degree while Quick Travel can remove it completely).

Movement of game elements, e.g. Moveable Tiles and Obstacles, that are not under the control of any players are can be examples of Ultra-Powerful Events that require Movement or Maneuvering from the players in response, for example to avoid Damage or to be able to complete Aim & Shoot actions. The same can be the case when the players' own Focus Loci have forced Movement (see for example Zaxxon). Moveable Tiles can, as in many of the Super Mario series and the Portal series, be used to offer players specific ways of moving which they may have more or less control over.

When players' Movement depend on Randomness (as for example in Snakes and Ladders and Monopoly), questions of Luck affecting gameplay can easily occur and even more so when Location-Fixed Abilities are present.


Can Instantiate

Abilities, Capture, Challenging Gameplay, Collecting, Complex Gameplay, Construction, Deliver, Excise, Freedom of Choice, Game World Exploration, Game World Navigation, Herd, Races, Traverse, Ultra-Powerful Events

with Capture

Puzzle Solving, Tactical Planning

with Penalties together with Avatars, Characters, or Units


with Randomness


with Real-Time Games

Maneuvering, Spatial Engrossment

with Turn-Based Games

Puzzle Solving

Can Modulate

Aim & Shoot, Avatars, Capture, Enemies, Game Worlds, Tokens, Units, Variable Accuracy

Can Be Instantiated By

Moveable Tiles, Quick Returns, Rhythm-Based Actions, Score Tracks, Warp Zones

Can Be Modulated By

Alignment, Budgeted Action Points, Check Points, Choke Points, Combos, Conditional Passageways, Connection, Clues, Diegetically Tangible Game Items, Dice, Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment, Enclosure, Environmental Effects, Flanking Routes, Galleries, Game State Overviews, Game Worlds, Inaccessible Areas, Invulnerabilities, Laning, Levels, Line of Sight, Movement Limitations, Obstacles, One-Way Travel, Pick-Ups, Physical Navigation, Player/System Action Composites, Privileged Movement, Quick Travel, Randomness, Resources, Scenes, Setback Penalties, Stealth, Traces, Transport Routes, Traps, Variable Accuracy, Vehicle Sections, Vehicles, Visits, Vulnerabilities, Warp Zones, Zone of Control

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



A rewrite of the pattern Movement that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[2].


  1. Parlett, D. Oxford History of Board Games, p. 35. ISBN-10: 0192129988.
  2. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.