FUBAR Enjoyment

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The enjoyment experienced when things are not going your way, but you are still in the fight; a specific type of tension.

Games typically challenge players in different ways. FUBAR[1] Enjoyment can occur when these challenges rely on players being overwhelmed with things they need to react to while also being under time pressure, either because the pure amount of things become ridiculous or that players notice that they are somehow handling the situation. This FUBAR Enjoyment can be seen as a flow experience[2] that presses against the competences of a player to the degree that failure seems imminent.


Shoot 'em up Games such as 1942 and Tempest forces players to fight many enemies at the same time, having to both try and hit them while avoiding to get hit by the multiple shots fired at them. The subgenre of "Bullet Hell"[3] games rely even more on FUBAR Enjoyment that the other Shoot 'em up Games.

Even if players only need to deal with one block at a time, the pure speed with which players need to react in Tetris can evoke FUBAR Enjoyment. As an example using a different design approach to promote FUBAR Enjoyment, zombie-based games such as the Left 4 Dead series and Dead Rising series rely on players meeting huge number of enemies which try to rush the players' characters and engage in close combat.

Using the pattern

The prime requirements for FUBAR Enjoyment to be possible is to have Challenging Gameplay in Real-Time Games. Many patterns can be used to ensure that players are under pressure while dealing with the challenges: Attention Demanding Gameplay and The Show Must Go On are probably the most important ones since they deny players the chance to have control over when they should act, but Ever Increasing Difficulty makes sure that players that have proven able to handle certain situations are put in more difficult ones. FUBAR Enjoyment typically also makes use of Simultaneous Challenges, which not only makes for Complex Gameplay but can require Attention Swapping (which even without Simultaneous Challenges can support FUBAR Enjoyment). Disruption of Focused Attention, Limited Foresight, and Limited Planning Ability all work for creating more chaotic situation for players and can thereby help make an unpredictable and overwhelming gameplay situation.

For Multiplayer Games, the combination of FUBAR Enjoyment with either Helplessness, Mutual Goals, Parties, PvE, Rescue, or Teams leads to the possibility of Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment.

Survive is a typical goal associated with FUBAR Enjoyment and Always Vulnerable focuses the possibility of failure on players' Focus Loci.


While FUBAR Enjoyment is the positive experience of Hovering Closures, it relies on players having Cognitive Engrossment and Tension. One reason why FUBAR Enjoyment is enjoyable is that it lets players feel that they have Gameplay Mastery and it can be argued that the pattern does make players have this since they need to play at their full abilities; another reason is that eventual failure can lead to Spectacular Failure Enjoyment since the situation was chaotic or very difficult to begin with. Regardless, games with FUBAR Enjoyment have Performance Uncertainty since players are forced to act in situations where not succeeding is a very possible outcome.

Players having FUBAR Enjoyment may have difficulties considering Risk/Reward situations since they are preoccupied with immediate problems.


Can Instantiate

Cognitive Engrossment, Gameplay Mastery, Hovering Closures, Performance Uncertainty, Spectacular Failure Enjoyment

with Helplessness, Mutual Goals, Parties, PvE, Rescue, or Teams in Multiplayer Games

Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Attention Demanding Gameplay, Attention Swapping, Challenging Gameplay, Complex Gameplay, Ever Increasing Difficulty, Disruption of Focused Attention, Limited Foresight, Limited Planning Ability, Real-Time Games, Simultaneous Challenges, Tension, The Show Must Go On

Can Be Modulated By

Always Vulnerable, Survive

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



Updated version of the pattern "Spectacular Failure Enjoyment" first described in the paper Exploring aesthetical gameplay design patterns: camaraderie in four games[4].


  1. US miliary slang: F***ed Up Beyond Recognition.
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.
  3. Wikipedia subentry entry for Bullet Hell.
  4. Bergström, K., Björk, S. & Lundgren, S. 2010. Exploring aesthetical gameplay design patterns: camaraderie in four games. In Proceedings of MindTrek 2010.