Interleaved Games

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Taking turns over two or more independent game sessions taking turns over two or more independent game sessions.

This form of alternating gameplay was introduced in vintage arcade games, which we call interleaved games. Informally called “hotseat multiplayer”, it consists of taking turns over two or more independent game sessions (Zagal, Nussbaum and Rosas; Bjork and Holopainen). For example, this occurs in games where the first player plays until he loses a life, at which point it is the second player’s turn. Both players alternate until they both run out of lives. Everyone is playing on the same hardware, and there is usually some visual representation acknowledging the other players’ game and its status. For example, the top left corner of the screen may show the current score of player 1 while the top right corner displays player 2’s score. Notably, this new form of coordination is due to the affordances of technology; in this case, the computer is well-suited to manage and maintain multiple game states simultaneously.

Some questions that can help establish the degree that interleaved games are present, if answered affirmatively:

  • Is there a two-player option?
  • When two players play, is the asynchronous play enforced?
  • Does the second player’s turn start after the other player loses a life?


Strong Example


The two player mode of Centipede only allows one player at a time, so each player plays alternatively for the length of a life. This was initially enforced by the hardware of the cabinet, which only had a single trackball and a fire button as the controllers of the game.


Gradius has the option for a two-player mode in which both players take turns playing the single-player game, and each player's turn ends when they lose a life. This continues until both players have consumed all 9 of their lives (distributed along 3 continues (or in the Japanese version, 3 lives and no continues)). This has a similar effect to 2 players playing the single player mode and switching off lives, with the exception that in the 2 player mode, there are two different positions in the game maintained.


In the two-player mode of Megamania, each player will play independently – the console had two different joysticks for each. The turn will last until she either loses a life or she finishes a level.

Weak Examples


This classic arcade game, the temporal coordination depends on which level(s) are completed by each player. Player two will only start playing after player one has completed a mission, or has run out of lives. Thus alternation in the gameplay does not depend on lives, but on the performance of the players, so that there may not be alternation at all if one of the player loses all her lives before completing a mission.

Relations with other elements of the Ontology


Temporal Coordination

See Also


Bjork, Staffan, and Jussi Holopainen. Patterns in Game Design. Game Development Series. Hingham, Massachusetts: Charles River Media Inc., 2005.

Zagal, Jose, Miguel Nussbaum, and Ricardo Rosas. "A Model to Support the Design of Multiplayer Games." Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments 9.5 (2000): 448-62.

Centipede. Atari (1980) Lucasarts: Arcade Megamania. Activision (1982) Atari: Atari 2600. Gorf. Midway (1981) Midway: Arcade.