The Six Types of Conflicts, Choices, and Consequences in Game Design


When two parties arrive in the same location, we typically call that a meeting.  In a meeting, space can be limited, therefore if one party wants to occupy the exact same spot as another, that’s going to cause a conflict.  In gaming terms, we would call that conflict a collision, and account for what happens when a collision occurs with a physical reaction in the form of visual feedback on the screen.  


Sometimes our interaction isn’t taking place in the physical realm, but is rather an interaction involving information or data.  Passing information from one party to another is called communication, and in games, we do this via Dialogue, Menus, and a few other methods.  When you talk to an NPC and make story choices, or go into the Equip Menu to switch your Loadout, you are communicating with the Game itself, in addition to whatever character you might currently be speaking to or for.


When two parties share a common location, they will also share common resources.  Resources are finite and usually spread out in different places throughout the location, thus different parties will have a different set of resources. If one party has an abundance of one resource, but desires a different resource they do not possess, they may wish to offer a trade with the other party and exchange a certain number of one resource for the other.  This is the basis for an economy, and most open world games are going to feature some form of commerce, like Item Shops or Base Building Upgrades.


If in the previous example, one of the parties declined the offer of trade, this could result in a conflict.  One party desires something the other party possesses, and if they aren’t willing to trade, the first party may resort to force.  Games are pretty naturally inclined to feature a lot of this type of gameplay, as warfare lends itself to rigid rules of interaction and results.  Almost every AAA blockbuster game features some form of combat, whether it is a First Person Shooter or a Fantasy RPG.


Conflict doesn’t always have to result in violence, nor is it limited to resource management.  There are times when two parties wish to determine the superiority of ability with a specific skill, and those times call for competition.  Competitions involve a strict set of rules and regulations that both parties must agree on, often regulated by an additional objective Third Party, as well as categorized contestants as chosen representatives for each party.  In games, these are typically Sports Games, but competition of some sort takes place in pretty much every instance of a game known to mankind.


In our example on communication, we discussed a simple exchange of information, basic data or dialogue.  Information can also be used to improve and refine the culture of a given party, helping them to learn and grow and evolve. When two parties exchange information with the intention of mutual growth and evolution, we call that cultivation.  In games, you see this concept represented as Skill or Talent trees, the progression systems that the Player uses to level up and grow their skills and abilities.