Player Elimination

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The forced endings of players' game sessions before game instances are finished.

Games often require players to fulfill certain goals to be allowed to continue playing, or provide dangerous environments which can kill their avatars, characters, or units. Failing these goals or having one's game elements killed can thereby lead to Player Elimination - that one is not allowed to interact with the game anymore. This is equal to the game ending in single-player games but gameplay can continue for the other players in multiplayer games.

Examples

Players who cannot pay rent in Monopoly even after selling their assets are no longer allowed to play the game.

Most arcade games, e.g. the first versions of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Asteroids, end players' game sessions when they have run out of lives.

Players whose health level drops below zero in Magic: The Gathering are removed completely from play, thus ending their game sessions.

Using the pattern

Player Elimination can be a Negative Pattern if game designers intend to make games where all players begin and end their individual play sessions together. The typical case for this is when games are supposed to support Social Interaction and Togetherness both in and outside the actual gameplay. However, since players can always prematurely end game instances through Surrendering it may be worth considering what to modulate this pattern even if one tries to minimize the risks of players Surrendering and thereby causing Player Elimination. This may not be the case in late phases of game instances, i.e. Endgame phases, and Player Elimination may be seen as an acceptable aspect of these phases.

Letting eliminated players continue as Spectators provides some compensation for not being able to play, but does also force them to experience Downtime. There are however several reasons why one might want to have Player Elimination in games.

Unwinnable Games nearly always built around have Player Elimination that is inevitable eventually; the alternatives, eternal Downtime or goals that cannot be completed, are likely to first frustrate and then bore players. The main exception to this is Roleplaying Games, primarily Tabletop Roleplaying Games, that are built upon Never Ending Stories and can be played as long as the players (and Game Masters find these stories compelling. Another reason for having Player Elimination is that the Last Man Standing goal can be based upon it - players win by being the last surviving player in the game instance. Other, weaker, reasons for Player Elimination are to support Limited Gameplay Time and Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses. These reasons are weaker because they are not guaranteed to be supported by the pattern and that they may not apply equally for all players.

One the most general level, Player Elimination is created through having Game Termination Penalties (but they are not the same since some other causes can create Player Elimination, see below). A more specific, and obvious, way to support Player Elimination is - as the name suggested - to let players or the game system have possibilities to Eliminate players' Focus Loci and link these eliminations with the eliminations of the player themselves. Either this consists of the explicit goal to Eliminate players or that players can fail in Survive goals, and gameplay can be structured so these goals come in focus mainly in Extermination phases of game instances. These Eliminate goals can be built on Overcome goals made possible through Combat, and can lead to Player Killing in Multiplayer Games (giving players Internal Rivalry further encourages the Player Killing). However, Player Killing or other types of killing game elements do not create Player Elimination unless some form of Lives are used as well (Permadeath being the approach that can most quickly lead to eliminations). Player Elimination can also happen indirectly, e.g. through suffering Ability Losses that effectively enforces permanent Downtime, through having lower Scores than other players in Tournaments, or through failing to complete goals within Time Limits (especially common in Racing Games). Losing all one's supply centers in Diplomacy can be seen as an indirect form of Player Elimination. An Extra-Game Action that can cause Player Elimination is Player Kicking - this is typically providing in Multiplayer Games to let players police their own behavior through Voting. This type of Player Kicking may also happen because a majority of players wants to make room for a Late Arriving Player on the expense of an active player. This is a case when Player Elimination is not a Game Termination Penalties.

The presence of Player Elimination may cause Early Elimination, especially if the pattern is instantiated through Permadeath. This breaks designs of Synchronous Gameplay but Player Elimination can be seen as modifying Synchronous Gameplay to only concern players that have not yet been eliminated. Ways of having Player Elimination but letting players have means to avoid it, include Extra Chances and Lives (including Parallel Lives). These however only temporarily avoid the elimination as long as the Extra Chances and Lives are not Renewable Resources. In contrast, the use of Game Masters can - on their sufferance - avoid the pattern temporarily or infinitely through Fudged Results but also make it happen whenever they feel like it.

Narrative Aspects

Gives that Characters controlled by players often have prominent parts in Predetermined Story Structures and these roles are rarely planned to die, at least not until the near end of the stories, killing players is likely to cause breakdowns in the Predetermined Story Structures.

Consequences

Player Elimination are Individual Penalties since they specifically address single players. They give rise to Game Over events for affected players. The risk for this raises Tension levels for players, as they essentially lose all their Value of Effort in a game if the game session is finished without their consent. The upside to this is that those that survive possible eliminations can have a strengthened Value of Effort experience (and a Value of Effort can be strengthened for a player responsible for a Player Elimination). However, Player Eliminations can in some circumstances also give eliminated players Spectacular Failure Enjoyment.

The presence of the Player Elimination pattern gives a fundamental presence of the Survive goal - even if this may not be linked to a diegetic presence (such as an Avatar or Character). Unsynchronized Game Sessions occurs when the time difference between the first player is eliminated and the rest are or the game ends becomes noticeable.

Multiplayer Games with Player Elimination cause problems with Player Balance, and are also likely to cause problems with Team Balance if Teams exist. The gameplay of Multiplayer Games with Player Elimination can also force extended Downtime on eliminated players, especially if there is a possibility of Early Elimination. This can make Player Elimination counteract the possibilities for players to engage in Social Interaction on the same terms and make it difficult for them to experience Togetherness. Game Lobbies can mitigate this issue to a certain extent, since eliminate players can interact which each others while waiting for the game to finish. It goes without saying that games that combining Player Elimination and Teams can lead to Team Elimination since Player Elimination are successful resolutions of Eliminate goals; that is, combinations of Eliminate and Teams can result in Team Elimination. However, elimination of every Character in a Team consisting of these can result in Player Elimination so the patterns can instantiate each other depending on the natures of the Teams involved.

The presences of Player Elimination works against players having an Exaggerated Perception of Influence since they know that game instances in no way guarantees that they will be allowed to play until the game is won or completed. In games with Closed Economies, the use of Player Elimination may be the only way to ensure that Resources are gathered in larger and larger groups as gameplay progresses; this can be seen as a case of supporting Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses.

Relations

Can Instantiate

Game Over, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses, Individual Penalties, Last Man Standing, Limited Gameplay Time, Spectacular Failure Enjoyment, Spectators, Tension, Unsynchronized Game Sessions, Unwinnable Games

with Multiplayer Games

Downtime

Can Modulate

Endgame, Closed Economies, Multiplayer Games, Synchronous Gameplay, Teams, Tournaments, Value of Effort

Can Be Instantiated By

Ability Losses, Combat, Eliminate, Extermination, Game Masters, Game Termination Penalties, Internal Rivalry, Late Arriving Players, Lives, Permadeath, Parallel Lives, Player Kicking, Scores, Surrendering, Time Limits

Characters together with Team Elimination

Can Be Modulated By

Early Elimination, Extra Chances, Fudged Results, Game Lobbies

Possible Closure Effects

-

Potentially Conflicting With

Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Extra Chances, Fudged Results, Game Masters, Player Balance, Predetermined Story Structures, Social Interaction, Team Balance, Togetherness, Value of Effort

History

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

References

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


Acknowledgements

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