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Multiplayer Games


Disciplines > Game Design > Types of Game > Multiplayer Games

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Multiplayer games are those in which a number of players are engaged as autonomous agents, each playing to their own purpose.

The game may be played in the real world, on a board or in a virtual world in a computer.

Each player may be choose how they act within the rules of the game. A key decision is whether to play independently or to join with others and work as a team. Even when working in a team, people may work to their own purpose, including betraying others or forming rival other groups.

The game is typically managed by a games master who has god-like powers, revealing events and refereeing interactions. The games-master may be a human or a computer. If there is no executive management, then the game may be managed by the players themselves.

There may also be characters who are not run by players, but who also act autonomously to some set of rules. These may be run by the games master or by other people whose role is simply to add realism to the game.


The original Dungeons and Dragons game is a multi-player, role-playing game.

There are games where people run around woods and streets, playing  out stories such as zombie apocalypse.


These games differ from simple competitions as the teams are not defined -- the players can hence decide which team they are on or whether they will go their own way.

Early computer 'multi-player dungeon' games (derived from Dungeons and Dragons) were called 'MUDs'. MMRPGs now are 'massive, multi-player role playing games' and can involve thousands of players exploring huge virtual worlds.

Everyday life is in many ways a multi-player game. We work independently and together within social rules towards various goals. Games we play mirror much of these dynamics and can help us learn better survival and success skills.

Managing a multi-player game can be something of a juggling act where the main goal is that everyone enjoys themselves enough to keep playing. A key way of doing this is in sustaining hope that, even in the most dire situation, that things may get better.

An important design aspect of multiplayer games is to give everyone enough power and differentiation so they can make a unique contribution to groups and hence feel significant and valuable. It can also mean allowing introverted people to 'go it alone', giving them the scope to find their own way forward.

See also

Gaming as Escape, Games as Social Facilitation, Games as Storying, Role-playing Games


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