Difference between revisions of "Strategic Knowledge"

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=== Can Modulate ===
=== Can Modulate ===
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[[Area Control]],  

Revision as of 11:57, 9 April 2018

Knowledge based on game elements, rules, possible actions, or evaluation functions of games without regards to specific game states.

Knowing how to play a game basically means to know what aspects remain constant between different game instances and being able to use this Strategic Knowledge. Although this is in fact not necessary to play games, e.g. in the case were one has not yet observed reoccurring aspects or the game rules are handled by computers or other players, having such Strategic Knowledge is usually an advantage since it lets one reflect on possible future outcomes and consider strategies independent on any exact game state. The downside to having this Strategic Knowledge is that if one has too much of this there may be no interesting choice to make or one may notice that one is not improving between game sessions.


The opening moves and strategically important areas are Strategic Knowledge for the ancient Board Games Chess and Go. For more modern games, e.g. Agricola or Puerto Rico it may instead knowing which different strategies exist to collect points through making use of synergies. Related, being aware of how various card work together in Magic: The Gathering, Dominion, Pokémon Trading Card Game, and Race for the Galaxy are all important to create decks that have a chance of winning the these games. For Poker, knowing the probabilities of specific hands in similarly is vital to making the statistically right decisions while playing this game.

Knowing the locations of power-ups and pick-ups in First-Person Shooters such as the Quake series and the Unreal Tournament series are essential knowledge for players in "deathmatch" games if they wish to be able to compete against skilled players. Similarly, to be able to compete against skilled opponents (including AI-based ones) in Fighting Games such as the Tekken or Dead or Alive series requires Strategic Knowledge of the many attack "combos" that exist.

Using the pattern

Basically any information about how a game is designed can be seen as Strategic Knowledge but a distinction can be made between the knowledge which can be learned in terms directly based upon the diegetic presentation and that which depends on the underlying structures of the game design. At the most general level, games that have distinct phases such as Startgame, Middlegame, and Endgame are easier to develop Strategic Knowledge since this knowledge can be for individual phases.

Knowledge about Game Worlds can relate to their composition or what one can do within them. Knowing about Strategic Locations such as Arenas, Choke Points, Flanking Routes, Galleries, Inaccessible Areas, Safe Havens, Secret Areas, Sniper Locations, Strongholds, and Vehicle Sections are potential Strategic Knowledge in games. This is also the case for places that contain Environmental Effects, Chargers, Check Points, Controllers, Installations, Resource Locations, Self-Service Kiosks, or Spawn Points since their presence makes the areas into Strategic Locations. Related to this is knowledge about events that the game system can enforce, e.g. predetermined Ultra-Powerful Events such as Moveable Tiles or Shrinking Game Worlds.

Examples of Strategic Knowledge related to actions within Game Worlds include the Achilles' Heels and Vulnerabilities of Enemies towards specific Powers or Weapons, how to efficiently make use of the Asymmetric Abilities of Units, Combos that are initially unknown due to being Hidden Rules, the requirements and possibilities of Crafting, and how Combos, Emergent Gameplay, or Gameplay Engines can arise from Construction. Knowing the usefulness of actions is easier if they have Predictable Consequences and in this sense that pattern supports Strategic Knowledge, but knowing the distributions of outcomes based upon Randomness, e.g. for Dice combinations or specific card Decks, is also a type of Strategic Knowledge as is knowing how the specifics of Fixed Distributions in games that make use of these (e.g. an official variant of the Settlers of Catan). Looking at Extra-Game Actions, for games with Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership (e.g. Magic: The Gathering) it is often a form of important Strategic Knowledge to know how Combos can be created from the various game elements. Working from another perspective, Zero-Player Games where players are intended to make use of a Creative Control to build Agents requires that players develop Strategic Knowledge in order for them to intentionally make viable solutions, although this can be supported by letting them be Spectators to game sessions where other players' Agents reveal their behaviors.

Some aspects of Strategic Knowledge may relate both to what actions players can do and, through what Enemies or other players can do to them, the game environment. Examples of this include the exact effects of Damage or Delayed Effects. Related to the knowledge of actions is the knowledge of the correct values of goals. This consists mainly of knowing the Risk/Reward structures and Trade-Offs values between various Resources, Rewards, and Penalties, and constructing the possibility for players to have Strategic Knowledge, especially in case regarding Auctions or Betting, can lie in making these transparent or deducible. This can be used to influence choices regarding Goal Hierarchies, Optional Goals, and Selectable Set of Goals, and knowing when to strive for Transfer of Control or what areas to try and achieve Area Control over. In cases of Unknown Goals, knowing what Predefined Goals exist is Strategic Knowledge in itself even if it may be random exactly which goal turns out to be the one which one must strive towards.

The Strategic Knowledge possible to have about a game can be modulated in some ways. First, game design that have Stimulated Planning encourage players to make use of the Strategic Knowledge available. Second, in Multiplayer Games players may exchange Strategic Knowledge to help members of their Teams or to try to maintain some level of Player Balance. Third, allowing or supporting Experimenting makes it easier for players to develop and test their Strategic Knowledge. Finally, games which have Evolving Rule Sets require players to update their Strategic Knowledge each time the rule set is updated. Strategic Knowledge that has been identified by game designers can be given to players through Loading Hints and Tooltips.

Finally, games that encourage players to engage in retelling Game Instance Stories about how they played the game are likely to give other players Strategic Knowledge while retelling about their gameplay.

Diegetic Aspects

Having Thematic Consistency in a game can provide Strategic Knowledge to players since they can make use of their knowledge of the theme to understand how gameplay can progress. This is especially true if the game is based upon a particular setting, e.g. a book series, a movie, or being a sequel to another game.

Interface Aspects

Game designs can help players have Strategic Knowledge by how the games present information to them. Having Diegetically Outstanding Features can draw players attention to what is important and using the same visual cues lets this be a form of Strategic Knowledge. Other ways is to provide players with Game State Overviews or supporting Spectators so they can learn the persistent characteristics of a game by seeing other play. This becomes easier when the information presented is Perfect Information and, in the case of Spectators, requires that the information is Public Information.

Narrative Aspects

A simple way to intentionally convey Strategic Knowledge in games is through the use of Cutscenes since players cannot risk be distracted by gameplay while the information expressing the knowledge is presented.


That at least one player understand and enact the rules of a game is a requirement for Self-Facilitated Games to be played, and due to this Strategic Knowledge is a prerequisite for these types of games. The possibility of developing Strategic Knowledge allows players to have gives Empowerment in relation to a game, and if it can successfully be applied to actions performed it can translate to having Gameplay Mastery. By doing this also, Performance Uncertainty can directly be affected by the amount of Strategic Knowledge a player has. As specific examples, Strategic Knowledge can help in Game World Navigation (e.g. for winning Races), in how to use Obstacles and other elements in Game Worlds to succeed with Stealth goals, in how one should use Environmental Effects to one's advantage can help in Combat, or in placing oneself best for Camping or Guard goals. It can also create Stimulated Planning in game design both during and before gameplay in the form of Strategic Planning, but also Internal Conflicts since players may be better away of the Risk/Reward structures that exist. Since having information about Hidden Rules is nearly always advantageous and they represent Strategic Knowledge, the presence of such rules give rise to Gain Information goals in games.

Strategic Knowledge about a game typically help players being able to have a Determinable Chance to Succeed. The possibility to have Strategic Knowledge about a game allows several types of Extra-Game Actions: extracting and Memorizing that knowledge, and communicating the knowledge between players either as Extra-Game Information within game sessions or Trans-Game Information outside game sessions. While this Social Interaction can take place within single game sessions for Multiplayer Games, it can occur before and after games in both these and Single-Player Games (players in two concurrent Single-Player Games can also exchange information also but this is not within the same game session). Games with Evolving Rule Sets, e.g. Magic: The Gathering or CityVille, provide a special case here since it may be Red Queen Dilemmas for players to keep up with the increasing knowledge available. Deck Building and the use of Pre-Customized Decks allow players to make use of their Strategic Knowledge to create decks which increase their chance of creating Combos or well-functioning Gameplay Engines.

The possibility of making use of Strategic Knowledge learned during a game session provides Replayability as long as Exaggerated Perception of Influence or Further Player Improvement Potential also exists - otherwise it is likely to work against Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Luck, and Replayability. Related to this is the fact that Strategic Knowledge is difficult to combine with Surprises since the information known through the pattern is consistent between all game instances. Likewise, Strategic Knowledge can allow players to better predict what other players should do and this works against Player Unpredictability (but this can result in the more experienced players overreacting emotionally, "tilting"[1], when less experienced players do sub-optimal actions).

Games that rely on a Solution Uncertainty and have only one specific solution become pointless when a player has gain Strategic Knowledge about this solution. However, Strategic Knowledge can also modify games with Solution Uncertainty but which has several solutions in that players can use their knowledge to better deduce which solutions are possible or most likely in a specific game instance.


Can Instantiate

Determinable Chance to Succeed, Empowerment, Extra-Game Actions, Gameplay Mastery, Internal Conflicts, Memorizing, Self-Facilitated Games, Social Interaction, Stimulated Planning, Strategic Planning, Trans-Game Information

with Evolving Rule Sets

Red Queen Dilemmas

with Exaggerated Perception of Influence or Further Player Improvement Potential


with Hidden Rules

Gain Information

Can Modulate

Area Control, Betting, Camping, Combat, Deck Building, Game World Navigation, Goal Hierarchies, Guard, Optional Goals, Performance Uncertainty, Pre-Customized Decks, Risk/Reward, Selectable Set of Goals, Solution Uncertainty, Stealth, Transfer of Control

with Strategic Locations


Can Be Instantiated By

Crafting, Cutscenes, Damage, Decks, Delayed Effects, Dice, Diegetically Outstanding Features, Endgame, Fixed Distributions, Game State Overviews, Gameplay Engines, Hidden Rules, Middlegame, Predictable Consequences, Randomness, Risk/Reward, Spectators, Startgame, Strategic Locations, Thematic Consistency, Trade-Offs, Ultra-Powerful Events, Vehicle Sections

Asymmetric Abilities together with Units

Combos together with Construction or Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership

Construction together with Emergent Gameplay

Powers together with Achilles' Heels or Vulnerabilities

Predefined Goals together with Unknown Goals

Weapons together with Achilles' Heels or Vulnerabilities

Zero-Player Games together with Creative Control or Spectators

Can Be Modulated By

Evolving Rule Sets, Experimenting, Game Instance Stories, Loading Hints, Multiplayer Games, Perfect Information, Public Information, Stimulated Planning, Tooltips

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Luck, Player Unpredictability, Replayability, Solution Uncertainty, Surprises


An updated version of the pattern Strategic Knowledge that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[2].


  1. Wikipedia entry for tilting.
  2. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.