Game State Overviews

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Information provided to players that extends beyond the observational abilities provided by simply observing game elements.

This pattern is a still a stub.


Many Board Games, e.g. , include Score Tracks that help players have a good overview of the positions of all players. Snakes and Ladders show how this overview can be the game board.

Computer-based Strategy Games such as the Age of Empires or Civilization series make use of Mini-Maps that allows players to have an overview of a larger part of the game world that would otherwise be possible. Similarly, most [:Category:Racing Games|Racing Games]], e. g., the Mario Kart series and the Monkey Race party games in the Super Monkey Ball series, provide a small overhead map that shows the location of other players on the track.

Using the pattern

Game State Overviews are used in games to provide players with information about the game state, e.g. Area Control, Negotiation contexts, Perceivable Margins, Preventing Goals, Player Defined Goals, or Scores, sometimes to help players know when Attention Swapping is required. This information may be to help players with Movement, either directly with Game World Exploration, Game World Navigation, Reconnaissance, or Traverse goals or indirectly with positions in Races. For Combat situation, it can provide players with help on Tactical Planning where Camping or Sniper Locations are located while for Puzzle Solving it can modify Memorizing. On a more general navigation level, this can be how Levels are perceived or how Fog of War functions. For games with Units it can help players keep track of all the Units under one's control while in those with Player Characters it can instead help support Identification. The presence of Game State Overviews are likely to affect how players interact with each other in Multiplayer Games, e.g. regarding Collaborative Actions, and well as how Perfect or Public Information is perceived. Of course, Game State Overviews can also provide information about Extra-Game Actions since this is part of the game interface which already is outside the diegesis in some way.

The basic elements for providing Game State Overviews are various Game State Indicators, e.g. Bookkeeping Tokens (with Public Information), Geospatial Game Widgets, Goal Indicators, HUD Interfaces, Near Miss Indicators, and Score Tracks (but publicly observable Scores can work equally well). Auxiliary Game Screens, Mini-maps, Picture-in-Picture Views, and Split-Screen Views, are more complex solutions which in themselves can provide Game State Overviews (Cutscenes and Narration Structures can also do this but often doesn't present game state information beyond acknowledging that a certain game state has been met since they have been initiated). Cameras, God Views, and Third-Person Views let players have a form of Game State Overview in that they are given some agency over what view they should have of the game state (this solution assumes that there is Game Worlds that a player's point of observation can be manipulated within). Privileged Movement which allows flying work similarly. Dedicated Game Facilitators (especially Game Masters) can of course create Game State Overviews since they can completely control players access to what parts of the game state they perceive.

Alarms can modify Game State Overviews by showing that certain closures are near occurring while [Outcome Indicators]] can provide detailed information about closures that have occurred. Game Pauses and Turn Taking let players that have possibility of observing Game State Overviews without stress and can thereby make better use of the information they provide.

Game State Overviews can work against several other design solutions since it can reveal too much information. Examples of patterns which can be negatively affected by Game State Overviews include Game World Navigation, Leaps of Faith, Limited Foresight, Memorizing, Reconnaissance, and Surprises.

Diegetic Aspects

Since Game State Overviews often introduce non-diegetic game elements, e.g. through Geospatial Game Widgets or HUD Interfaces, the pattern often works against Diegetic Consistency.

Interface Aspects

Game State Overviews is an Interface Pattern.


Game State Overviews typically work as Progress Indicators. Since they can provide players with information about their own situation and that of other players, it can help provide Strategic Knowledge and create Stimulated Planning and Cognitive Engrossment. This can in Turn-Based Multiplayer Games cause Analysis Paralysis but can also in Multiplayer Games have Balancing Effects if either Player Decided Results or Player-Decided Distributions exist. However since it can provide information about other aspects of the game state than what a player is currently engage with it can also cause Disruption of Focused Attention.

Providing players with information about their own and other players' positions can cause them to perceive the gameplay as Races, and make players try Speedending the games if it is to their advantage. When the Game State Overviews are available to others than the players, it supports games to have Spectators.


Can Instantiate

Cognitive Engrossment, Disruption of Focused Attention, Progress Indicators, Spectators, Speedending, Stimulated Planning, Strategic Knowledge, Races

with Multiplayer Games and either Player Decided Results or Player-Decided Distributions

Balancing Effects

with Multiplayer Games and Turn-Based Games

Analysis Paralysis

with Player Characters


Can Modulate

Area Control, Attention Swapping, Camping, Collaborative Actions, Extra-Game Actions, Fog of War, Game World Exploration, Game World Navigation, HUD Interfaces, Memorizing, Movement, Multiplayer Games, Negotiation, Levels, Perceivable Margins, Perfect Information, Player Defined Goals, Preventing Goals, Public Information, Puzzle Solving, Races, Reconnaissance, Sniper Locations, Tactical Planning, Traverse, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

Auxiliary Game Screens, Cameras, Cutscenes, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Game State Indicators, Goal Indicators, God Views, Mini-maps, Narration Structures, Near Miss Indicators, Picture-in-Picture Views, Privileged Movement, Score Tracks, Scores, Split-Screen Views, Third-Person Views

Bookkeeping Tokens together with Public Information

Game Worlds with God Views or Third-Person Views

Can Be Modulated By

Alarms, Game Pauses, Outcome Indicators, Turn Taking

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Diegetic Consistency, Game World Navigation, Leaps of Faith, Limited Foresight, Memorizing, Reconnaissance, Surprises


An updated version of the pattern Game State Overview 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.