Difference between revisions of "Unwinnable Games"

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== References ==
== References ==
[http://www.newsgaming.com/games/index12.htm September 12th game]

Revision as of 10:03, 19 November 2009

Games that do not have any winning conditions.

Short paragraph giving the description of the pattern while not referring to any other patterns.


Early computer games such as Asteroids and Space Invaders were Unwinnable Games in that gamers were constantly given new obstacles as soon as they overcame their current ones. Pac-Man is designed in the same fashion but the original version has a software bug making it allegedly impossible to complete its 256th level[1], making it open for interpretation if reaching the highest possible level in a game equals winning over it. The casual games Staries and Icy Tower are later examples of games that have no winning conditions.

Roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons and GURPS do not have general winning conditions. Individual campaign might be winnable but the gameplay of improving one's character can continue and may likely be in the players interest. The 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons have structures of retiring characters when they reach level 30 (through gaining some form of immortality) but not even this needs to be seen as having completely beating the game since gameplay can continue with a new character. Massively multiplayer online games such as World of Warcraft and Eve Online have similar structures but add challenges of fighting other players, accessing the best available equipment and gaining achievements.

Using the pattern

There are two typical reasons for creating Unwinnable Games. The first reason is that one may wish to reinforce the Replayability by not making it possible to ever beat the game completely. In the case there exists enforced end conditions, e.g. by strict Time Limits or Steadily Decreasing Resources. However to make it possible to compare ones performance with earlier game session there typically also exists Trans-Game Information (e.g. Achievements or High Score Lists) so that Meta Games are possible.

The second reason is to create Never Ending Stories, that is, games without any end condition at all. Common in Roleplaying games, these games cannot have a winning condition for the whole game but instead needs to provide incentives to play in other ways. This is typically done through offering smaller local goals, either Ephemeral Goals or Player Defined Goals, or simple through the Social Interaction offered by the game or play activity. An issue with non-ending games is how to balance increased Game Mastery and Improved Abilities with challenges so that the Right Level of Difficulty is maintained. Red Queen Dilemmas is a possible solution to this by adding the difficulty as players gain more power to influence the game.


At first glance it can seem strange that one can have games which cannot win since it removes what is typically the reason for activities to become meaningful in them. Most games can however be the basis for Meta Games through Trans-Game Information (such as Achievements or High Score Lists) or Progress Indicators and can then still provide meaningful gameplay. When Unwinnable Games allow this kind of gameplay, they somewhat paradoxically promote Replayability. Sometimes realizing the unwinnable nature of a game is an intention in the design; the Serious Game September 12th uses the impossibility of winning it to argue the futility in the struggle thematized by the game and the (earlier) movie War Games appropriates Tic-Tac-Toe to make a similar argument.

Although Narrative Structures can support players the gameplay structure in Unwinnable Games the narrative aspects are likely to not attract interest unless they change in significant ways between game sessions.



Gameplay Design Pattern Template , Gameplay Design Pattern Template


Gameplay Design Pattern Template , Gameplay Design Pattern Template

Instantiated By

Gameplay Design Pattern Template, Gameplay Design Pattern Template

Modulated By

Achievements, High Score Lists, Trans-Game Information

Potentially Conflicting With

Gameplay Design Pattern Template, Gameplay Design Pattern Template


New pattern created in this wiki.


September 12th game