Private Game Spaces

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Parts of the game space that only a single player can manipulate directly.

Games can provide parts of their environment so that one player controls what happens there. This can make players feel that they have some security and have the possibility to themselves be in full control of what happens there, even if other players may be allow to visit or help with specific limited activities. Such areas of a game environment are called Private Game Spaces since they belong to individual players and the effects of other players' actions are either non-existent or restricted.


Probably one of the oldest examples of Private Game Spaces is Roulette. Here each player has his or her stash of chips that other players cannot affect - the only way it is changed is by the player placing bets or receiving winning from the facilitators of the game. The more modern card game No Thanks! can be viewed in the same way.

Although players can affect each other indirectly through which actions they choose to perform in the board game Puerto Rico, the specific resources in the colonies developed by each player can be affected by other players (the nearest to this is that resources sometimes must be discarded because other players have fill the capacity of the ships transporting those resources). The card game Race for the Galaxy works on similar principles (unless using the optional military conquest rules from the expansion Rebel vs. Imperium).

Ultima Online allows players to purchase houses which are Private Game Spaces as long as their owners retain control of the keys to them.

FarmVille and Mafia Wars are examples of games with Private Game Spaces on social media platforms. However, as part of supporting the social interaction on these platforms, they provide ways of offering presents to each other and helping each other out with chores including involving non-players. This does not void the Private Game Spaces since each player still has complete, or near complete, control of his or her space.

Using the pattern

Naturally, all Single-Player Games have Private Game Spaces even if they allow input from other game instances, as Massively Single-Player Online Games do. In fact, Private Game Spaces with Asynchronous Gameplay is a good starting point for creating Massively Single-Player Online Games. In many cases, e.g. FarmVille and CityVille, players can affect each other if they are agreed to this through becoming Neighbors. Tutorial Neighbors are a special case of Neighbors that are Non-Player Characters with Private Game Spaces as players. By providing these, players can have access to one or a few other Private Game Spaces without player Neighbors.

For Multiplayer Games, Private Game Spaces can either be temporary or permanent. The temporary ones can be created as permanent ones with Time Limits or simply be the result of players not being able to affect each other due to distances in the Game Worlds (as is the case in most game instances in the Civilization series). These reason for temporary Private Game Spaces is typically to provide a clear Startgame phase. The permanent type of Private Game Spaces is essentially designed by providing Limited Set of Actions for players depending on what part of the game space they are interacting with. Phasing is one way of achieving this in games with Mediated Gameplay. However, the game space may or may not be an actual part of a Game World since it may also simply be a part of the game state. In its most extreme instantiation, as for example in Roulette or Puerto Rico, players have no ability to directly interact with other players game spaces and the card game No Thanks! shows how this can be combined with Imperfect Information about that game space. Less restrictive implementations allow Visits during which other players can perform Altruistic Actions, or even allow Non-Player Help. Private Game Spaces affect games with Persistent Game Worlds more than those with other types of Game Worlds since developments can accumulate, but can be partly countered by Visits.

Even if all types of actions and activities are possible in Private Game Spaces in Multiplayer Games (which is quite evident from looking at the diversity of Single-Player Games, all which have the pattern), they modulate Construction well since the safety provided lets players have a Creative Control.

Diegetic Aspects

The combination of Private Game Spaces and Thematic Consistency can be problematic - in Puerto Rico each player is building the colony with the same name as the game and in Race for the Galaxy one must assume an universal moral code stops military powers from taking over other players' defenseless planets.

Interface Aspects

For games with Private Game Spaces, the interfaces typically focus on these spaces. Secondary Interface Screens may support Visits to other players' Private Game Spaces or provide Game State Overviews.


Private Game Spaces are a form of Territories since players have Ownership of them. They are Safe Havens that allow Stimulated Planning easily since they are initially Inaccessible Areas to all other players that have not been acknowledged as Neighbors. This typically support Construction and Creative Control well, and players do not need to worry about having to react to other players' actions. By the same reasons, Private Game Spaces make it difficult to design Combat and Conflicts between players (but see the Rebels vs Imperium expansion of Race for the Galaxy for a limited example). Although Competition can still exist, games with Private Game Spaces are less likely to have Tension than those that don't. Further, when Competition does exist, it is less likely to cause Analysis Paralysis simply since Private Game Spaces lessens the possible casual relations between players and thereby makes parallel planning between players more possible, something of particular interest to Turn-Based Games. Since Private Game Spaces in this sense make it easier to spend time considering future actions, the pattern supports Stimulated Planning in this fashion as well.

Although Private Game Spaces are typically not seen as Instances, they share characteristics in that Private Game Spaces can be seen as Instances for individual players. Other players may be allowed to enter these spaces but only have limited interaction with game elements there. Since players do not need to worry about other players, having Private Game Spaces makes it easier to support Casual Gameplay, Pottering, Late Arriving Players, Drop-In/Drop-Out. The last of these features also makes it easier feel a Freedom of Choice of when to engage in the games, making them more into Asynchronous Gameplay. The same goes for Tick-Based Games using Private Game Spaces.

Conflicts may be difficult for games using Private Game Spaces since players cannot affect each other directly. Even so, Private Game Spaces can easily be used together with Competition: either by having winning conditions based around Construction or Races or by Meta Game aspects such as Game-Based Social Statuses from comparing Achievements and High-Score Lists.


Can Instantiate

Casual Gameplay, Creative Control, Inaccessible Areas, Instances, Limited Set of Actions, Ownership, Pottering, Safe Havens, Startgame, Stimulated Planning, Territories

with Asynchronous Gameplay

Massively Single-Player Online Games

with Drop-In/Drop-Out or Tick-Based Games

Asynchronous Gameplay, Freedom of Choice

Can Modulate

Construction, Drop-In/Drop-Out, Early Leaving Players, Game Worlds, Late Arriving Players, Multiplayer Games, Persistent Game Worlds, Real-Time Games, Turn-Based Games

Can Be Instantiated By

Single-Player Games

Phasing in Multiplayer Games with Mediated Gameplay

Can Be Modulated By

Altruistic Actions, Imperfect Information, Limited Set of Actions, Neighbors, Non-Player Help, Secondary Interface Screens, Time Limits, Tutorial Neighbors, Visits

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Analysis Paralysis, Combat, Conflicts, Thematic Consistency, Tension


New pattern created in this wiki.