Player Agency

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The ability of players to be able and influence gameplay through gameplay actions or ways of affecting game instances themselves.

Basically all games try to give players possibilities to influence the game state and the outcome of game instances. Players that do have this possibility do have Player Agency.


All games which allow players to develop clear gameplay mastery can provide Player Agency. Examples include Chess, Counter-Strike, Defense of the Ancients, and Quake 3 Arena.

The game masters of Tabletop Roleplaying Games have great Player Agency since they can create whole game worlds, can change or make rules, and determine how events should unfold during gameplay.


4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness and Progress Quest are examples of games made to not let players have any agency while gameplay progresses. Luck-based gambling games such as Baccarat, Craps, and Roulette can also be seen as anti-examples of Player Agency.

Using the pattern

While each case of providing players with actions can be seen as a way of giving player their Player Agency, some more abstract patterns can support it well. Facilitating Rewards in general make players better at actions or move them further through the intended gameplay, and while this may provide Player Agency they can actually also work against it at the same time on a different level if players have no say in what to get better at or where to move within the possible gameplay. Freedom of Choice between several different actions is a natural continuation of the idea of giving players actions as is providing Framed Freedom, and Access Rewards can provide players agency in how to develop this over time. However, Player Agency can be more creative in nature in games by allowing players to develop Gameplay Mastery or by letting them have Creative Control. It can also be given to players through giving them Exaggerated Perception of Influence, or, rather, they can at least be given the impression of Player Agency. Player Agency can also be given about how gameplay should take place, from allowing Negotiable Play Sessions or Negotiable Game Sessions to more generally allowing games to have Social Adaptability. Self-Facilitated Rules also provide Player Agency outside gameplay proper by letting players modify or break rules. Game Masters takes this to an extreme since these can also control the rules of the game.

Some patterns works directly against Player Agency and should therefore be avoided or considered extra times before used together with it. Examples of these patterns include Automated Responses, No Direct Player Influence, and Zero-Player Games. Repetitive Gameplay also does this when there is no real choices to make, either because they don't exist or because one does not have time to consider them. Other, e.g. Downtime, Helplessness, and forced No-Ops, can be used as Penalties that temporarily remove Player Agency. Unwinnable Game States works against Player Agency if players are trying to win a game which makes it non-problematic if players are either not trying to win or if they are playing Unwinnable Games which provides them with other goals.

Player Agency is a Subjective Pattern and can therefore result in fickle designs. For example, the use of Luck, Lucky Guess Solutions, Player/System Action Composites, or Player Augmentations can support Player Agency but just as well work against it if players do not perceive the abilities they have as being under their control.


Since Player Agency can make players feel that they can affect and at least partially control gameplay, it can provide Emotional Engrossment to them and provide a sense of Value of Effort if they use this agency to affect the game state intentionally.


Can Instantiate

Emotional Engrossment, Value of Effort

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Access Rewards, Creative Control, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Facilitating Rewards, Framed Freedom, Freedom of Choice, Game Masters, Gameplay Mastery, Negotiable Game Sessions, Negotiable Play Sessions, Luck, Lucky Guess Solutions, Player/System Action Composites, Player Augmentations, Self-Facilitated Rules, Social Adaptability

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Automated Responses, Downtime, Facilitating Rewards, Helplessness, Luck, Lucky Guess Solutions, No-Ops, No Direct Player Influence, Player/System Action Composites, Player Augmentations, Repetitive Gameplay, Unwinnable Game States, Zero-Player Games


New pattern created in this wiki.