Save Files

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Files that contain information to recreate game states.

For various reasons, players may wish to take extended breaks from computer games and during this time turn off the computer. This causes a problem of how to recreate the game state at a later point in time which having Save Files containing a game state can solve. A consequence of this is that players may return to that game state after failing instead of restarting a game, and this can in itself become a reason for creating Save Files if the possibility exists. Likewise, if Save Files are possible, players may create ones to have a freedom of testing things they would otherwise not test.

Wikipedia has an entry Saved Game[1] that related to Save Files.


Most Computer Games provide support for Save Files, e.g. the Doom series, the Tomb Raider series, the Mass Effect series, and the Europa Universalis series.

Using the pattern

Supporting Save Files in games consist creating the technical infrastructure that stores the game states and allows the game to take previously created Save Files and load these game states into games. Handling them are typically support through Secondary Interface Screens.

From considering players' experiences, creating Save Files mainly consist of if they are created through Extra-Game Actions, Save Points, automatic saving, or all three. Care also needs to be taken supporting the Extra-Game Actions related to destroy and loading Save Files. Resource Caps can be put on Save Files to limit either the number of simultaneous files that can be used, making them into a form of Resource (and working against Save Scumming when the limit is one Save File).

While there is typically a need or wish to have Save Files store complete game states, these can sometimes be quite small due to gameplay being partitioned into Levels or other smaller units. A special case of this is when the only information that needs to be saved is how long players have progressed and in this case Password Save Files can be sufficient.

The presence of Unwinnable Game States can cause players to create Save Files from which they will always lose Lives, fail Quests, or lose entire game instances.


While can have built in support for Game Pauses, players can really only take extensive pauses lasting days or months if Save Files help them recreate the game states later.

When players know that they can return to stored game states, Save Files can encourage them to engage in Experimenting with gameplay actions they would otherwise not do. More negatively, the possibility of creating Save Files can lead to Save-Load Cycles and Save Scumming, which both lead to gameplay when intended Surprises no longer work. While creating and loading Save Files are Extra-Game Actions, the presence of Save Files can give rise to additional Extra-Game Actions in the form of Game Element Trading and Game State Editing.

When the number of Save Files are limited, i.e. when Resource Caps are applied on them, they become Resources that players need to consider for gameplay reasons.


Can Instantiate

Extra-Game Actions, Experimenting, Game Element Trading, Game State Editing, Save Scumming, Save-Load Cycles

with Resource Caps


Can Modulate

Game Pauses

Can Be Instantiated By

Password Save Files, Save Points

Can Be Modulated By

Resource Caps, Secondary Interface Screens, Unwinnable Game States

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With


Save Scumming when used together with Resource Caps


New pattern created in this wiki.




  1. Wikipedia entry for Saved Game.