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The goal of trying to avoid having game elements being eliminated, killed, or otherwise removed from gameplay.

Many games have effects that capture, destroy, kill, or eliminate game elements depending on the theme of the game. As these events are usually negative for the players who control the game elements, they have the expected goal of trying to make these game elements Survive.


Survive goals typically manifest in two different ways in games. One is a hostile environment, primarily through enemies or monsters, threaten to kill players' characters. Example of this can be found in Asteroids, Chess, Go, Space Alert, Space Invaders, and the Left 4 Dead series. Another is that players must handle continuously depleting resources, as for example in Oxygen Not Included. Roguelikes, e.g., Unexplored, and more generally Survival Games typically provide both types of challenges with varying ratios. Examples of Survival Games include Dead of Winter, Minecraft, No Man's Sky, Project Zomboid, Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress, Terraria, and Valheim.

Using the pattern

The two primary aspects of consider when designing for Survive goals in a game is what is to Survive and what threatens it.

Survive goals tied to game elements directly tied to players' agency, e.g., Avatars, Characters, and Units are typically most natural to consider in games. The use of Lives allows Survive goals to not remove game elements permanently or end gameplay when a Survive goal is failed the first time. However, Survive goals do not need to be focus on players' Focus Loci. Guard, Guide and Protect, and Herd can be modulated with the Survive goal by making it possible for the targets of those goals to "die" and thereby failing the goals. Survive goals can also be introduced to the rivals in games with Internal Rivalry to removing elimination of those rivals as a solution to the rivalry.

Survival threats can either be passive or active. Passive threats are typically based on Maintenance Costs of thematically suitable Resources (e.g., Health) and many different Resources can be used simultaneously or more complex or difficult gameplay (e.g., food, water, air, heat, etc.). Steadily Decreasing Resources can be used to make passive threats to Survive goals be guaranteed to at some point succeed in making players fail with the goal and thereby create Unwinnable Games. Active threats can broadly be divided into Enemies and Environmental Effects. An alterative to game-controlled Enemies are players with Eliminate goals focused on the owner of the Survive goal (Enemies can also be given Eliminate goals to nuance whom they are Enemies to). A special case of this is Last Man Standing; where players all have Survive goals and Symmetric Goals of Eliminating each other. Introducing Eliminate goals is one way to modify the Survive goal with a Preventing Goal. However, Preventing Goals to Survive goals can also be possible for passive threats if for example players can deny each other access to needed Resources.

Survive goals in themselves are Preventing Goals. However, players can be offered more active ways of succeeding with Survive goals by allowing them to Conceal the targets of the goals or by Eliminating the threats that exist.

Games aiming at FUBAR Enjoyment by having a player need to deal with many simultaneous challenges can increase the likelihood of that experience by adding the need of fulfilling Survive goals.

Diegetic Aspects

While Survive goals with active threats are typically presented as violence in some form, Rhythm-Based Actions show how Survive goals can be tied more abstractly to player performance in music-themed games such as the Guitar Hero series.

Narration Aspects

Survive goals tied to other entities than those controlled by players, i.e., NPCs, offer the possibility of Quests that can readily be tied to a game's narration.


Survive is an example of a Continuous Goal in that succeeding with it requires maintaining a state (i.e., being alive) over time. It often functions as a Preventing Goal also whenever there is some player of Agent that has a relevant Eliminate goal. That is, Survive and Eliminate often function as Preventing Goals to each other.


Can Instantiate

Continuous Goals, Preventing Goals, Quests

Can Modulate

Eliminate, Guard, Guide and Protect, FUBAR Enjoyment, Herd, Internal Rivalry

Can Be Instantiated By

Avatars, Characters, Enemies, Environmental Effects, Lives, Last Man Standing, Maintenance Costs, Rhythm-Based Actions, Units

Can Be Modulated By

Conceal, Eliminate, Steadily Decreasing Resources, Preventing Goals

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



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


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