Spectacular Failure Enjoyment

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The enjoyment to be had when failing in a spectacular way in a game.

Things do not always do the way players wants in games. However, sometimes things go horribly bad that it becomes a perverse form of entertainment, especially if players cannot do anything to correct or avoid problems. Such Spectacular Failure Enjoyment can be as interesting as winning the games, are typically more interesting to retell to others since they are more unique.


RoboRally and Space Alert are two Board Games where players need to commit to several actions that will then be executed in sequence. Since mistakes can have been made, especially concerning what other players are doing at the same time, it is quite likely that players will realize they have a faulty plan but cannot do anything to correct this. Since even the smallest mistakes can cause large problems, this is likely to force players to have Spectacular Failure Enjoyment.

Some Tabletop Roleplaying Games like Paranoia and Fiasco embrace Spectacular Failure Enjoyment, most often in a dark humorous way. This is sometimes done in Live Action Roleplaying Games, most often in the Nordic LARP style where players may be "playing to lose" to create good stories. Examples of LARPs where this has happened include the Monitor Celestra.

Both the X-COM and the Left 4 Dead series often require that all characters work in conjunction, and failing to do this can so quickly cause total failures that this can become Spectacular Failure Enjoyment.

Players that have contributed to the wiki of Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress consider fun equal to losing, having a redirect link from "Fun"[1] to "Losing"[2] and on the "Losing" page discuss the reasoning behind this[2]. For those that fail to lose, and thereby have fun, they offer suggestion on how to sabotage your own chances by taking on additional challenges[3].

Using the pattern

This pattern reflects that a failure which distinguishes itself in some way, e.g. as the result of exceptional bad luck, gross ineptness, or overwhelming opposition, can be enjoyable.

The basis for Spectacular Failure Enjoyment can be created by not only having Anticipation and Tension regarding possible failure during gameplay, but also from the failure unfolding slow enough so Anticipation and Tension still can be continued to be felt while it is happening. Perceivable Consequences is one general requirement for this, but Action Programming (as used in for example RoboRally and Space Alert) can specifically create the requirements for this type of Spectacular Failure Enjoyment. Player Elimination and Team Elimination can also cause Spectacular Failure Enjoyment but this is very context dependent and ends the gameplay for those involved.

Challenging Gameplay is one way to increase the chances of Spectacular Failure Enjoyment but this requires that players are willing to accept the challenge level provided. It does so be letting players have the risk of either misjudging their opposition or by making small mistakes be able to escalate into complete failures; games that can provide FUBAR Enjoyment have these prerequisites, so aiming at supporting this pattern is one way of creating the basis for Spectacular Failure Enjoyment. Coordination, Simultaneous Challenges, and requiring Team Combos can have similar effects without players necessarily feeling that they are challenging. Ever Increasing Difficulty relies on other patterns to provide the actual challenge but scales up the difficulty until it is at a level which is beyond players' skills and thereby can cause Spectacular Failure Enjoyment.

Even if a failure can lead to Spectacular Failure Enjoyment in a game, this does not mean that the same failure is enjoyable many times. For this reason, Randomness can help other patterns create different and unique-feeling Spectacular Failure Enjoyment moments. Critical Misses is a particular pattern typically associated with Randomness that can ruin otherwise well-working game plans. Friendly Fire can do the same but has a higher risk of not being enjoyable and may cause players to become Scapegoats.

Players may themselves strive for Spectacular Failure Enjoyment by doing high-risk activities or planning for failure. This can be encouraged in designs by supporting the Playing to Lose pattern. Ragequitting and Spectacular Failure Enjoyment are mutually exclusive to each other, so designing for one is designing against the other.


Spectacular Failure Enjoyment typically create a comical or remarkable sequences of Exceptional Events. This makes it more likely that the players experiencing them are going to engage in telling Game Instance Stories to let others know about them than for other gameplay sequences. The rememberability of Spectacular Failure Enjoyment make it likely to help create Togetherness between players that experience the spectacular failure together.


Can Instantiate

Exceptional Events, Game Instance Stories

with Multiplayer Games


Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Action Programming, Anticipation, Coordination, Critical Misses, Challenging Gameplay, Ever Increasing Difficulty, Friendly Fire, FUBAR Enjoyment, Perceivable Consequences, Playing to Lose, Player Elimination, Randomness, Simultaneous Challenges, Team Combos, Team Elimination, Tension

Can Be Modulated By


Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



Updated version of the pattern "Spectacular Failure Enjoyment" first described in the paper Exploring aesthetical gameplay design patterns: camaraderie in four games[4].


  1. Entry for "Fun" on the Dwarf Fortress wiki.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Entry for "Losing" on the Dwarf Fortress wiki.
  3. Entry for "Challenges" on the Dwarf Fortress wiki.
  4. Bergström, K., Björk, S. & Lundgren, S. 2010. Exploring aesthetical gameplay design patterns: camaraderie in four games. In Proceedings of MindTrek 2010.