Playing to Lose

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Gameplay directed at making one's own character lose to provide enjoyable for oneself.

Playing to Lose may not be considered gaming since one is not trying to have a better game state position than other players. However, there are many other ways of viewing this stance towards a game. First, Playing to Lose can be seen as an individual goal that players are try to reach. Second, it can be seen as focusing on storytelling or playing rather than gaming. Lastly, players may actually be competing against other players of who is best at Playing to Lose, something which may not be measured by the game state but even so can be judged by the players.

Note: This pattern does not examine intentionally losing a game instances for extra-game reasons such as winning bets, having better positions in tournaments, etc. The eight disqualified players in Badminton at the 2012 Summer Olympics are example of the losing in order to manipulate which team they would meet in the next round[1]. For a further example of other ways of playing to lose, see the documentary "Playing to Lose" which examines if the Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey team intentionally lost games during the 1983-84 season to get the first pick of players for the next season.

Note: The design feature described by this pattern is alternatively called 'Playing to Lift' to LARP communities that wish to stress that it can be done to provide others with more interesting experiences.


Playing to Lose is mostly encouraged in Nordic-style Live Action Roleplaying Games such as Monitor Celestra and College of Wizardry. However, Paranoia is arguably an early example of a Tabletop Roleplaying Game that implicitly encourages Playing to Lose since one is likely to lose anyway and the gameplay is intended to be humorous. Fiasco is a later example that is explicitly designed for Playing to Lose.

Using the pattern

As explained above, the Playing to Lose does not actually focus on players' success or failure. Instead, it focuses on how Characters lose and can by this be seen as a way players can decide to take Character Development. This requires that players have some level of Creative Control and that their Characters have an Open Destiny. Besides this, designing for Playing to Lose consists of motivating players to Roleplay so their Characters may diegetically sensible actions but which from a gameplay perspective may lead to bad consequences.

A risk in not wanting to engage in Playing to Lose is that ones' Characters risks dying or otherwise being incapable of affecting gameplay. A way of avoid this problem is to make Early Elimination impossible; Monitor Celestra for example did this by having Invulnerabilities to dying until the last Scene.

Narrative Aspects

Playing to Lose is a Narration Pattern.


Playing to Lose is typically undertaken by players that wish to engage in a specific type of Storytelling through Roleplaying their Characters so they have a negative Character Development. Very often the goal is to have Spectacular Failure Enjoyment. While trying to make ones' Characters fail with their goals might be seen as the antithesis of Roleplaying, it does in fact not need to be and Playing to Lose in a good way works together with Roleplaying. This by players making choices and actions for their Characters that seem reasonable based on what the Characters know but at the same time is likely to be bad from what the players' know.

In the Nordic LARP tradition, Playing to Lose is seen as Cooperation in Storytelling[2]. This since players may besides letting their Characters have a bad fate sacrifice their comfort during play and may miss some of the gameplay to provide a better drama for other players. The act of Playing to Lose can also give players Social Rewards in both that their performances are appreciated and that they are working for the enjoyment of all players rather than to only improve their own gameplay position.


Can Instantiate

Cooperation, Social Rewards, Spectacular Failure Enjoyment

Can Modulate

Characters, Character Development, Roleplaying, Storytelling

Can Be Instantiated By

Creative Control together with Open Destiny

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Early Elimination


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Entry in Wikipedia for Badminton at the 2012 Summer Olympics – Women's doubles.
  2. Entry for Playing to Lose in the Nordic LARP wiki.