Value of Effort

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The gameplay experience of that one's efforts during gameplay have value.

Practically all games make players perform action during (and/or before) game instances. However, not all require or allow for actions where players can put meaningful effort into these actions. Those that do try to give players the sense that they provide players with a Value of Effort.


Chess and Stratego offers one player the possibility of have a Value of Effort through eliminating the other player and winning, while of course denying the other player of this sensation. Go is similar except that both players in nearly all instances have created groups that survive until the end. However, both players in all these games can also feel a Value of Effort in developing, testing, and succeeding with strategies and tactics which let them perceive their developing skills in the games.

Arcade games using high score lists, e.g. Pac-Man and Space Invaders, provide players with a Value of Effort for especially good gameplay in that other players can see the scores these results in. While also true for the previous games, games with distinctly different levels, e.g. the Super Mario Series or the earlier instances in the Quake series let players feel a Value of Effort for each level completed. Another common way to provide Value of Effort is to divide gameplay challenges into quests, like Roleplaying Games such as the Elder Scrolls series and the Baldur's Gate series for example do.

The prevalence of achievement systems in many computer and console games show another way in which players can be offered a Value of Effort experience based on what they do in games.

Using the pattern

Supporting players in being able to feel a Value of Effort is typically related to providing them with means of performing actions and ways of providing feedback that show that these actions had meaning. At the most general level, this typically means providing Player Agency or Creative Control. Providing an Endgame is also a general design solution for increasing the likelihood that players have a sense of Value of Effort since in this phase the efforts of players and the overall game state tend to become very clear.

Letting players set up goals allow them to feel a sense of satisfaction when they goals are met. On a general level this means that Closure Points or Pottering can support Value of Effort (since players set up their own goals in the latter case) but more narrow or controlled ways include Abstract Player Construct Development or Character Development. The former can take the form of allowing Construction which has a level of permanence through being Irreversible Events or taking place in Persistent Game Worlds, while the latter can take the form of letting players create Characters with Player-Planned Development. Persistent Game Worlds also work for making the consequences related to Character Development or Player-Planned Development more permanent, so this pattern is useful in many ways for supporting Value of Effort. In contrast, games with Further Player Improvement Potential allow players to experience a Value of Effort in getting better at playing the game, and one example of this (which ties into the section on making efforts visible to others below) occurs in games which allow or encourage Extra-Game Broadcasting of Speedruns. Quests quite typically display a part of the Value of Effort they provide through the Rewards offered by them, but can provide other parts through being Closure Points also.

Players can have a Value of Effort experience not only when they met goals but when they notice that they process in trying to reach those goals make sense or when they have improved them. This means that supporting Tactical and/or Strategic Planning in a game provides players with a venue for experiencing Value of Effort. Further, knowing that you have mastered the skills or knowledge required to play a game well also can give players a sensation of Value of Effort, and for this reason games that support the development of Gameplay Mastery also support Value of Effort. Kingmaker in contrast works against players feeling Value of Effort; it robs certain players from the Value of Effort that would have let them win while letting others win without feeling that a Value of Effort in that it was their effort that provide a win. Typically the player being the Kingmaker also doesn't feel a Value of Effort since the act of deciding who should win is typically trivial to perform.

While letting players met goals can support Value of Effort, strengthening the effects of those efforts can also support the pattern. Persistent Game World Changes is a general way of doing this by making the consequences of player actions at least not automatically disappear. Another way is to make efforts feed back on themselves through Geometric Progression of the consequences of Extended Actions or by letting players set up Positive Feedback Loops building on these progressions. In contrast, Arithmetic Progression does not so much in itself create Value of Effort but makes any such value created by other actions more predictable and less dependent on earlier actions. Exaggerated Perception of Influence can also work for strengthening the effects of player efforts, but in these case typically by tricking players. Providing extra effects of efforts, for example through Unlocking new content or new abilities, is another way of increasing Value of Effort in a game design.

One way to provide extra value to the effort players have shown is to make this visible to others. This can be more or less automatic in Massively Multiplayer Online Games but in general Public Player Statistics (such as High Score Lists) can be used for this purpose. Like Speedruns can give Value of Effort when presented to others through Extra-Game Broadcasting, so can Construction (for example through showing what one has built in Minecraft).

Achievements are something that typically can be added to a game design after the core and main gameplay is in place. Not all types of Achievements support Value of Effort — for example Testing Achievements is more related to making players explore the possibilities of the game — but Goal Achievements, Grind Achievements, and Handicap Achievements add value to completing certain goals, showing endurance, and taking on extra difficulties respectively.

Designing for Value of Effort in a game is not only about making players effort feel meaningful for them, it is considering how player actions and game events can diminish or destroy those efforts. Therefore, giving players the possibility of feeling a Value of Effort can often require much thought about what other patterns to avoid or at least use carefully. A prime example is Setback Penalties which quite clearly can remove player effort. Others, for example Luck and Randomness can put in question if making an effort is worthwhile. Balancing Effects, Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment, and Fudged Results can do this also to a lesser degree and may not disturb Value of Effort if done skillfully. Non-Player Help, Player Augmentations, and Player/Character Skill Composites all remove so of the skill needed by players to complete goals or overcome challenges which can reduce the Value of Effort of doing so; Grinding and Purchasable Game Advantages can likewise do so by replacing a need for skill with endurance or money. Backtracking Levels lessens the value of having reached the turnaround point of the Level but otherwise does not have to critically affect the Value of Effort in a game. In contrast, reaching Unwinnable Game States can make players realize or feel that all their previous efforts have been in vain.

Multiplayer Games can both remove Value of Effort for individual players by having other players do the necessary work (typically in games with Cooperation) or by allowing players to perform actions that goes counter to other players efforts; in the latter case this is especially likely if actions are Interruptible Actions. Multiplayer Games that are designed to support Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay or Late Arriving Players typically also have issues with Value of Effort since the design goal described by those patterns typically require solutions that affect how stable or necessary players' efforts are. Finally regarding Multiplayer Games, those that allow Predictable Winner can completely remove the Value of Effort for other players (except maybe through encouraging Kingmaker actions).

Value of Effort is a Subjective Pattern and this can most clearly be seen in it's relation to Repetitive Gameplay. For people that find the Repetitive Gameplay challenging, interesting, or rewarding this gameplay has a Value of Effort. However, for those that find it a waste of time, a slowing down, or Grinding, Repetitive Gameplay works against players experiencing any Value of Effort for their actions. Besides being a Subjective Pattern, Value of Effort is fickle since players may feel that a game rewards their efforts at one moment but the next feel they don't due to some event or action by another player sabotaging those efforts. Irreversible Events can avoid this by making players action cause such events, but this often needs to be balanced with letting players influence each other's gameplay and providing Tension. Discontinuous Progression can be used as an alternative. By having efforts that can be interrupted or sabotaged be translated into safe effort at certain points, a game design can provide Tension and possibilities of players influencing each other until enough effort has been put into some action or goal and then translate that to something which players can safely feel a Value of Effort about. Related to the fickleness of Value of Effort, Player Elimination can ruin the Value of Effort of eliminate players but the threat of it can also strengthen that Value of Effort which has been obtained. An even stronger case of this is found in games using Winning by Elimination.

For games that have other purposes than entertainment, e.g., Edugames, a too strong feeling of Value of Effort make cause players not ignore the other purposes by entering a Gamer Mode.


Players can feel Tension when they perceive that Value of Effort can be achieved in a game since this makes their actions more valuable and therefore more important to succeed with.


Can Instantiate

Gamer Mode, Tension

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Abstract Player Construct Development, Achievements, Character Development, Closure Points, Creative Control, Discontinuous Progression, Endgame, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Further Player Improvement Potential, Gameplay Mastery, Goal Achievements, Grind Achievements, Handicap Achievements, Irreversible Events, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Persistent Game World Changes, Player Agency, Pottering, Public Player Statistics, Quests, Repetitive Gameplay, Strategic Planning, Tactical Planning, Unlocking, Winning by Elimination

Characters together with Player-Planned Development

Construction together with Extra-Game Broadcasting, Irreversible Events, or Persistent Game Worlds

Geometric Progression together with Extended Actions or Positive Feedback Loops

Persistent Game Worlds together with Character Development or Player-Planned Development

Speedruns together with Extra-Game Broadcasting

Can Be Modulated By

Arithmetic Progression, Player Elimination

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Backtracking Levels, Balancing Effects, Drop-In/Drop-Out, Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment, Fudged Results, Grinding, Interruptible Actions, Kingmaker, Late Arriving Players, Luck, Multiplayer Games, Non-Player Help, Player Augmentations, Player Elimination, Player/Character Skill Composites, Predictable Winner, Purchasable Game Advantages, Randomness, Repetitive Gameplay, Setback Penalties, Unwinnable Game States, Winning by Elimination


New pattern created in this wiki.