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The goal of freeing someone or something that is guarded or otherwise not free to move by its own will.

A common plot in games is that an opponent has captured or imprisoned a character that players' characters know or they care about. This gives players Rescue goals, which may consist of finding the location of the kidnapped character as well as overcoming or avoiding the obstacles and enemies on the way there. Games using Rescue as the main goal often have the opponent as the final enemy that has to be defeated before completing the goal.


Donkey Kong and the games in the Super Mario series have goals for Mario to Rescue a kidnapped girl, princess peach in the case of the Super Mario series.

Some missions in Counter-Strike are Rescue missions for the counter-terrorist teams (the terrorists need to guard them for a certain amount of time).

Characters killed in the Left 4 Dead series respawn, but can only actually re-enter the game if other players rescue them from the closets and other small areas in which they appear. Active characters can also need rescuing - those that have fallen of ledges or pounced on by "hunters" cannot get out of their trouble on their own.

Using the pattern

There are two main ways of creating Rescue goals. First, something in a game may be suffering from Helplessness. Second, they can be designed by creating explicit goals in which Guard goals are assigned to Agents (which may be players) and then giving others the goals and means of freeing that which is guarded. Typical, what needs rescuing is a Non-Player Character which may or may not be an Agent, but in some cases players' Characters or Avatars can work even though this may give these players Downtime; when the gameplay involving the Rescue is frantic in some aspect, this may lead to Multiplayer Games with the pattern having the Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment pattern.

The means of fulfilling Rescue goals are typically being able to engage successfully in Combat with the guards or being able to avoid this by succeeding with Stealth goals. Rescue goals can also be implicit, here the Guard goals (and the guards) only need to be diegetically hinted at, and the pattern itself takes on aspects of narration and theme rather than gameplay.

Several patterns can be used to make Rescue goals more challenging or complex. Alarms and Traps can make the process generally longer or more difficult, while Boss Monsters can be suitable if the Rescue goals should be finales of games or Levels. Gain Information goals can be required to localize those that need rescuing and be part of the rewards for completing the Rescue. Gain Information goals can also be coupled to Rescue goals as Supporting Goals related the locations of Alarms, Enemies, and Traps that could make the Rescue more difficult. Further challenges can be added by ensuring that Rescue attempts are noticed as some point, e.g. when they have succeeded by those involved have not yet reached safe areas; this since they can open up for Capture goals of those that had the original Guard goals and their allies.

Narrative Aspects

Rescue goals are often used as part of Predetermined Story Structures in a game, and they make easy starting points for creating Quests.


Rescue goals are Preventing Goals since they are defined by overcoming Guard goals, and these pairs are Excluding Goals. The exception to this is when the people guarding are only implied through narration and cannot actually try to hinder players during gameplay. Although the goal object of Rescue goals may be Characters or Units, possibly controlled by other players, the structure of Rescue goals can in many cases be seen as struggles over Ownership (e.g. the missions in Counter-Strike with hostages).

The use of Rescue goals on players so that they become the ones that need to be rescued requires applying the Helplessness pattern on them.


Can Instantiate

Downtime, Predetermined Story Structures, Preventing Goals, Quests

with FUBAR Enjoyment and Multiplayer Games

Mutual FUBAR Enjoyment

with Guard

Excluding Goals

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Gain Information, Helplessness

Guard together with Combat or Stealth

Can Be Modulated By

Alarms, Boss Monsters, Capture, Gain Information, Non-Player Characters, Traps

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Rescue 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.