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Game elements that exist in game worlds and can be collected, usually by moving avatars or units in contacts.

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. Defeating enemies in Ravenwood Fair and Zombie Lane similarly drops various resources that can be retrieved by players.

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. 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.

Pick-Ups are in essence Resources, and as such, the fundamental game design choice regarding a Pick-Up is to decide what the resource is to be used for: is it to gain advantages in possible actions against opponents, to fulfill goals such as Delivery, to directly increase winning possibilities or is the resource usable for several different purposes and thus requiring Trade-Offs? The nature of the Pick-Up may not be completely revealed to the player who collects it until it is collected, allowing the game to change the nature of the Pick-Up depending on players' positioning, thereby providing Balancing Effects. These kinds of Pick-Ups can also cause disadvantages to the players.

As Resources that exist in the game world, the design of Pick-Ups is linked to the design of Resource Locations, and the design choices available for the locations have to be considered in parallel with those of the Pick-Ups. The production of the Pick-Ups is another design choice that has to be considered. Is the Pick-Up only produced once (maybe at the beginning of the game) and thus providing Limited Resources on a global level, or is a type of Pick-Up a Renewable Resource that is produced during gameplay? In the latter case, is the location of the production a known place (and thereby a Strategic Location) or is it random? The production may be tied to a Resource Generator, which may be influenced or destroyed by player actions. The production of the Pick-Ups may also require actions by the players, for example, providing Resources to a Converter. In any case, the production of Pick-Ups also follows the methods outlined in the more abstract Producer pattern.

Most Pick-Ups affect numerical characteristics of the Avatar or Unit that collected the Pick-Up, e. g., by increasing the player's Score or an Avatar's hit points. The simplest way of implementing these is having a specific increase or decrease of one attribute of the game element each time a Pick-Up is taken. However, one can also have cut-off limits to promote Player Balance (e. g., not letting health packs or ammunition replenish past a certain level) or having Diminishing Returns.

Ammunition, Armor,


More formalized, Collection goals can be constructed by requiring players to get all Pick-Ups before being able to advance in the game, e. g., eating all the pills in Pac-Man before completing the level.

A less common type of Pick-Up, which may also affect numerical characteristics, is a Tool. Tools provide players with Privileged Abilities but may require resources when used.

Game Element Insertion,

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 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 Exploration and Movement, and possibly Maneuvering, in Game Worlds and Levels.

As Pac-Man shows, Pick-Ups make easy goal objectives for Gain Ownership goals since successfully Collecting them have clear effects on Game Worlds and Levels, and the Pick-Ups are usually easy to distinguish by having Diegetically Outstanding Features. 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

Collecting, Exploration, Gain Ownership, Renewable Resources, Supporting Goals, Traces

with ...

Can Modulate

Abstract Player Constructs, Ammunition, Armor, Characters, Game Items, Game Worlds, Health, Inventories, Levels, Maneuvering, Movement, Score

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Diegetically Outstanding Features, Game Element Insertion, Geospatial Game Widgets, Inventories

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.