Vision Modes

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Different ways of presenting the same views in a game world.

Many games with game worlds let players view these in different ways. While the most common way is to let players move their viewpoint, allowing them to change Vision Modes lets the see different type of information from exactly the same perspective. Diegetically this can be exampled as night vision, infrared vision, and other types of vision that are either inherent abilities or ones acquired through using specialized tools.


The Alien vs Predator series of first-person shooters provided those that played members of the predator race with the possibility of viewing the game worlds in several different ways, e.g. through thermal or electro-magnetic field detection. Proper use of these can give distinct advantages while misuse can effectively render the players blind. Players of Batman: Arkham Asylum can activate a detective mode to have certain game elements highlighted. Players of Assassin's Creed 2 can similarly use an eagle vision to point out dangers, hidden treasures, and secret markings on buildings.

Some games supply Vision Modes through equipment characters can carry. The Battlefield and Call of Duty series does this through weapons with scopes and thermal sights, while the Elder Scrolls series has night vision spells. Fantasy Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons & Dragons provide certain races with infravision or ultravision. GURPS does this in most of its fantasy setting while the modern or futuristic ones have equipment to provide Vision Modes.

Fallout 4 lets players that choose the Scrapper perk see outlines around containers that contain items they have indicated that they want to collect.

Using the pattern

Introducing Vision Modes to a game design consist of deciding how Game World presentations should differ due to them and how they should be made available to players. For added complexity, several different Vision Modes can be available. The presentations themselves are typically achieved through having Mediated Gameplay since this makes it easy to control how information is presented to players.

While the actual presentation typically depends on maintaining a Diegetic Consistency, the actual gameplay difference is either to make game entities in Diegetically Outstanding Features or to reveal Clues or ways to Secret Areas. Vision Modes are typically given as Powers or through Tools, and for games with multiple Vision Modes all or just some can be included in for each particular enabler.

While Vision Modes can modulate Line of Sight by simply making some game entities visible, it can also be used to let Line of Sight penetrate through game entities that normally is not transparent.

Vision Modes are most commonly used with First or Third-Person Views since there is not strong diegetic reason to avoid giving all possible information in God Views. In games with huge amounts of information available to players, e.g. the Victoria or Hearts of Iron series, it may however reduce information overload to have several different God Views players can move between. The pattern can also be applied locally in Picture-in-Picture Views without changing the overall representation.

Interface Aspects

Vision Modes is both an Information and Interface Pattern. While Vision Modes deal with what information is shown and Cameras deal with what perspective is used, how the two are used in a game is worth considering simultaneously.


Vision Modes are often Privileged Abilities and give Varied Gameplay as players need to shift between different ways of viewing Game Worlds. They are likely to cause Attention Swapping since players may miss events or information unless everything has been viewed in all possible Vision Modes. While the use of Vision Modes give players an Exaggerated Perception of Influence since they may be Privileged Abilities, they can work against the level of Gameplay Mastery possible in a game (see Linderoth (2010)[1] for a discussion on how the presence of Vision Modes affect players possibilities of learning to play those games) by not requiring players to Experimenting with the game environment to learn which game entities are important for what activities.

Since Vision Modes imply perception abilities of a diegetic character in games with First-Person Views, they do also imply the presence of Characters. This can also lead Vision Modes to create Player/Character Skill Composites in games with First-Person Views.


Can Instantiate

Attention Swapping, Clues, Diegetically Outstanding Features, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Secret Areas, Varied Gameplay

with First-Person Views

Characters, Player/Character Skill Composites

Can Modulate

First-Person Views, Game Worlds, God Views, Line of Sight, Picture-in-Picture Views, Third-Person Views

Can Be Instantiated By

Mediated Gameplay, Powers, Tools

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Experimenting, Gameplay Mastery


New pattern created in this wiki. However, it was first reported as a design feature in games by Linderoth (2010)[1].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Linderoth, J. (2010). Why gamers donʼt learn more - An ecological approach to games as learning environment, in Nordic DiGRA 2010.