Split-Screen Views

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Divisions of a screen space which are used to display continuously updated views of game environments.

Film-making introduce the concept of dividing the area available on screens to show several different views simultaneously by dividing the screen into several different areas. This idea of Split-Screen Views have been used to give each player in a multiplayer game his or her own part, and thereby making real-time games possible on one screen where players can move around independently of each other. Although this use is more static that they use in film-making, some games that have changing numbers of players introduce views in a way similar to their use in movies and some games have made use of the cinematic techniques in single-player games.


Borderlands and the Call of Duty, Halo, and Left 4 Dead series are examples of games allowing Split-Screen Views, at least on console versions of the games. Other examples - which are not First-Person Shooters - include the Mario Kart, Guitar Hero, and Super Monkey Ball series. Later installments in the Lego Star Wars series, which supports players joining and dropping out of the game without stopping game sessions, introduces split-screens dynamically as they are needed.

Rear view mirrors in Racing Games such the Gran Turismo series or the Need for Speed series can be seen as Split-Screen Views for individual players. The computer-version of Space Hulk uses Split-Screen Views to show the views of each member in a squad while the Deus Ex series contained probes that provided additional views. OpenTTD allows players to create separate windows, each which can overview a different part of the game world.

XIII and Heavy Rain are single-player games that make use of various forms of Split-Screen Views for narration purposes. Arcadia is a single-player game that uses a Split-Screen View to make players play four mini-games simultaneously.

The Giant Bomb web site has a page for the concept of split-screen multiplayer which includes several more examples[1], and another one for dynamic split-screen[2].

Using the pattern

Split-Screen Views requires Mediated Gameplay to provide a screen to split, but other than that the concerns for designing Split-Screen Views consist mainly of how to use screen space. For two views this is a basically a question of split the screen horizontally or vertically. Four views are easily achieved by splitting both ways. This is typically also done for three views, but then the "spare" view is often used to provide some form of Game State Overview. More views that four are rarely used (see the Wikipedia page for split screen for examples[3]. Games with Drop-In/Drop-Out game require designers either to sacrifice some screen real estate when not all players are present or to introduce dynamically additional views as players join.

The above has assumed that the Split-Screen Views have been to support Real-Time Games to be Multiplayer Games. This is because other types of Multiplayer Games can make use of Hotseating and Single-Player Games] rarely seem to need to show multiple perspectives at once. This is however something that is used in movies and the game XIII and Heavy Rain shows how can be used in a Single-Player Game to insert additional perspective into players' displays (a form of Game State Overviews). These are cases when Picture-in-Picture Views are used to create Split-Screen Views. One special but weak case of this is Mini-maps. A stronger case is the use of mirrors in Racing Games as is showing squad members views in Space Hulk and the views provided by probes in the Deus Ex series. All these can both be considered Split-Screen Views since they do show alternative views of Game Worlds and these views are updated continuously, and like the cinematic uses provide Game State Overviews.

Diegetic Aspects

Although Split-Screen Views does not per se break Diegetic Consistency, it does make it difficult to maintain Detective Structures in the revealing of information in games.

Interface Aspects

Dealing with how to present information to several players on one screen, Split-Screen Views is an Information and Interface Pattern. An alternative to this pattern when one full screen is not available per player is to make use of Auxiliary Game Screens.


Split-Screen Views allow for computer-based Real-Time Games to be Multiplayer Games where players can be in different parts of a Game World and look in different directions, even if they are only using one screen. When Multiplayer Games support several screens, the pattern provides players with an alternative where they can have better overview of each other's actions. That player can see what the others are doing even if their Focus Loci are not co-present in a Game World make Cooperation easier in both cases. However, this pattern can make it difficult to have Asymmetric Information in a games since all players co-located and viewing the same Split-Screen View can see what the others sees.

Since the design issues that Split-Screen Views and Hotseating try to solve overlap each other, there is little reason to use both and they can be seen as incompatible.


Can Instantiate

Game State Overviews, Multiplayer Games

Can Modulate

Cooperation, Multiplayer Games, Real-Time Games

Can Be Instantiated By

Mediated Gameplay, Mini-maps, Picture-in-Picture Views

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Asymmetric Information, Detective Structures, Hotseating


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Giant bomb's page for Split-Screen Multiplayer.
  2. Giant bomb's page for Dynamic Split-Screen.
  3. Wikipedia's page for Split Screen.


Kelvin Autenrieth, Jason Begy, Daniel Bernhoff, Jonathan Osbourne