Collaborative Actions

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Compound actions that require several players to perform specific individual actions for them to occur. This pattern is a still a stub.


Example: one of the simplest cases of Collaborative Action is in the game of Tug-of-war where two teams compete against each other by pulling the other team over a certain point with a rope. The team has to combine and coordinate the efforts of pulling the rope.

Example: Tekken Tag Tournament allows special combination attacks performed by two avatars during the exchange of between different active avatars.

Example: guarding a majority of the flag points in Battlefield 1942 is necessary to affect the opposing teams `tick' counter and requires several different players in different locations.

Example: some multiplayer first-person shooters have areas which cannot be reached by individual avatar jumping but can be reached if several avatars build `human' pyramids.

Using the pattern

Altruistic Actions , Construction

Some effects in games require several players to do act together for the effects to take place. These actions are called Collaborative Actions since the players are either actively collaborating or can be seen to do so even if they are not aware of it.

Collaborative Actions require that the players are able to combine and coordinate their actions either by performing actions together at a certain time or by having actions by one or more players support other players' actions. The results of this type of coordinated actions are, usually, more effective and in some cases it is even impossible to succeed with precise coordination.

When designing Collaborative Actions in games the following things have to be taken into account: how much coordination is required between the players; how the outcome of the action is based on the precision and type of the coordination; how are the possible rewards shared and in which way; how different are the actions required; and how is the coordination is made possible as in, for example, Player Decided Results.

Collaborative Actions can be achieved by requiring two or more actions to be performed simultaneously or by requiring several specific game elements with Asymmetric Abilities to perform different actions. The first case can be instantiated by having several Incompatible Goals that have to be completed at the same time, for example holding several Goal Points at once. Transfer of Control which is not based on Conflict is often based on Collaborative Action of Negotiation.

Examples of Collaborative Actions include Negotiation, especially Bidding in the form of voting and Trading, and Combos that are performed by more than one Avatar or Unit. Ganging up is a form ofCollaborative Action that is typically used to gain tactical advantages in Combat but can be found in any Competition situation where players may decide to act together against perceived leaders, in the latter case creating Balancing Effects through Collaborative Actions.

While Shared Rewards can be used to encourage players to start Collaborative Actions, the use of Shared Penalties can make the completion of the actions, which are also Extended Actions, into Committed Goals and lessen the risk for Betrayal, or at least creating a cost for betraying.

Diegetic Aspects

Interface Aspects

Narrative Aspects


All Collaborative Actions can be seen as forms of Combos performed by several players, Avatars, or Units rather than one. Making Collaborative Actions possible often requires Negotiation as Extra-Game Actions which include Stimulated Planning and determining the Timing of when the actions are to be performed. This planning creates Social Interaction and is a basis for Cooperation and Constructive Play, although this can be modulated by Competition between the cooperating players or the possibility of Betrayal, especially when Delayed Reciprocity or Individual Rewards are used. As such, Collaborative Actions are common in Team Play are can show Perceivable Margins in players' intentions. Being able to coordinate Collaborative Actions is often a form of Game Mastery.

Collaborative Actions limit Freedom of Choice of individual players since they require other players to share the intentions or they require greater use of resource compared to actions that do not require collaboration. This is especially true when the Collaborative Actions are also Extended Actions, in which case the actions can be seen as a form of Committed Goals.

Collaborative Actions do not have to be made by means of formalized Team Play, but performing them at least creates Dynamic Alliances while the actions are being performed. They can be encouraged by Shared Rewards or Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties. Collaborative Actions where the possible Reward is not a Shared Reward between the players usually gives rise to Delayed Reciprocity. These kinds of Collaborative Actions also give rise to the possibility of Betrayal. Transfer of Control which is not based on Conflict is often based on the Collaborative Action of Negotiation.

When players control several Units, players may be able to do Collaborative Actions on their own but this requires Attention Swapping.

Cooperation, Delayed Reciprocity, Purchasable Game Advantages


Can Instantiate

with ...

Can Modulate

Can Be Instantiated By

Can Be Modulated By

Possible Closure Effects

Potentially Conflicting With


An updated version of the pattern Collaborative Actions 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.