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Game items that exist in game worlds and can be collected, usually by moving avatars or units so that they are in contacts with the game items.

Many games contain various game items that players can make use of. When these exist as individually discernible objects in the game worlds that can be taken, they are Pick-Ups. Common examples of Pick-Ups include both "concrete" objects, e.g. weapons, ammunition, and health packs, and "abstract ones", e.g. units of money, energy, and experience.


The pills, power-pills, and various bonus items found in Pac-Man are all examples of Pick-Ups. The various power-ups found in the Super Mario and Mario Kart series are also examples of Pick-Ups. The loot dropped by vanquished enemies in role-playing games such as NetHack, Torchlight, and the Diablo and Dragon Age series are further examples of Pick-Ups.

In the Quake series the many weapons that can be found are Pick-Ups, as are the Quad Damage power-ups and ammunition packs that replenish the players' ammunition. The piles of different types of ammunition found in the Left 4 Dead series are actually not Pick-Ups since they remain for other players, but the weapons, pain pills, and medikits that one can find are. To help players find these in the often dark and stressful environment of the Left 4 Dead series, the Pick-Ups are giving a glowing outline that can be seen through walls.

Using the pattern

While Pick-Ups are typically created by modifying Game Items, they can be created specifically as Pick-Ups through being Power-Ups which gives players instantaneous advantages often consisting of Improved or Privileged Abilities. Other specific Pick-Ups are those whose only function is to increase players' Scores, as e.g. the ordinary pills in Pac-Man does, or to give extra Lives. For those that are Game Items however, it is even more motivated to consider the use of Inventories than for other types of Game Items since Pick-Ups inherently imply that they will be taken and collected.

An option for Pick-Ups is to only have them appear as Game Items until they are retrieved, after which they lose their identity as individual objects and increase some numerical representation in Abstract Player Constructs, Characters, or Inventories (for the last case, this means that Pick-Ups modulates Inventories rather than the other way around). When used as such, Pick-Ups are in essence localized sources for Non-Localized Resources and common examples of Resources available through this design solution include Ammunition, Armor, and Health (energy and Experience Points are less common but found in Zombie Lane and Ravenwood Fair). Similarly, even though any type of Game Items may have new instances introduced into games through Game Element Insertion, this is more often used for non-unique Pick-Ups.

Pick-Ups can modify Deliver goals in the sense that they can put a requirement on players to first need to get Game Items before delivering them.

While Pick-Ups are likely to give players intrinsic motivation of engaging in Collecting, this can be formalized into explicit Collections goals, e.g. having to get all the pills in Pac-Man to complete a Level.

Pick-Ups are usually designed so players acquire them through gameplay, but an additional option is to let them be acquired through Pay to Play.

Diegetic Aspects

As Game Items that nearly always have direct gameplay use, Pick-Ups are often distinguished from the rest of the game environment by having Diegetically Outstanding Features or by augmenting them through Geospatial Game Widgets.

Interface Aspects

Pick-Ups are quite often automatically taken when Avatars are moved into contact with them to avoid having to provide a specific interface action for this action. For cases where the Pick-Ups are supposed to be placed in Inventories but these are already filled, this may result in them then directly being dropped.


Pick-Ups are either Resources and then provide Resource Locations, or they are Resource Sources which provide opportunities to get the Resources without actually being them themselves. Pick-Ups are typically very limited in whatever sense they are used since they often only represent one or a few instances of something. Pick-Ups are a common way to provide Renewable Resources to players in the form of Game Items, e.g. to let them acquire Ammunition, Armor, or Health. When the Resources collected in this way are needed for completing goals, the Collecting of the Pick-Ups become Supporting Goals which encourages Game World Exploration and Movement, and possibly Maneuvering, in Game Boards, Game Worlds, and Levels. When Pick-Ups require extra time or resources - and especially if their content is not known in advantage - the decision to try and acquire one is one of Risk/Reward. Pick-Ups do often have high levels of Clickability if they need to be activated to be picked up.

As Pac-Man shows, Pick-Ups make clear goal objectives for Gain Ownership goals since they are usually easy to distinguish by having Diegetically Outstanding Features and successfully Collecting them have clear effects on Game Boards, Game Worlds, and Levels. For this reason also, the absence of Pick-Ups from a location can form Traces that players can use to infer previous activities in the game.


Can Instantiate

Clickability, Collecting, Collections, Game World Exploration, Gain Ownership, Resource Locations, Resource Sources, Resources, Renewable Resources, Risk/Reward, Supporting Goals, Traces

Can Modulate

Abstract Player Constructs, Ammunition, Armor, Characters, Deliver, Experience Points, Game Boards, Game Items, Game Worlds, Health, Inventories, Levels, Lives, Maneuvering, Movement, Non-Localized Resources, Resources, Scores

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Diegetically Outstanding Features, Game Element Insertion, Geospatial Game Widgets, Inventories, Pay to Play

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Pick-Ups 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.