Let's say the game we're talking about is some kind of platformer. With all the puzzles, mini-challenges and mechanics aspects it is very, very important to have good control over the character. A single mistake can lead to character death or some other unwanted result.

In some scenes complete control is the key to the victory. Quickly the player becomes involved in the process and every lag or mistake in input processing brings negative experience.

But what if loss of control is needed as a 'feature', it is intended? How can I prevent the players from raging about 'broken gamepad' or 'stupid buggy game'? I want the player to not only understand that it's intended, but also be somewhat happy with it, but can't find a way to show it the right way.

In other games I've seen two types of control loss so far:

  1. Character is unable to do anything, unless animation sequence ends
  2. Character executes some moves without player intervention (like cutscenes or end of stage, when character goes out the screen and you can't stop this).
  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a solution in itself, but may be useful food for thought. At GDC 2012, Kaitlyn Burnell presented a kind of game design jiu jitsu, where deliberately taking away one of the pillars of self-determination theory (autonomy/competence/relatedness) can pivot the player's frustration into deeper engagement with the fiction. gdcvault.com/play/1015398/Breaking-the-Rules-of-Game This was presented in the context of major story points, rather than core recurring mechanics, but it might still have ideas for getting the most emotional win out of these control restrictions. \$\endgroup\$
    – DMGregory
    Mar 30, 2014 at 22:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory, the link you provided is very interesting, it takes the problem to the next level, even further than just control-related aspects. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tomo
    Mar 31, 2014 at 21:58

1 Answer 1


Make sure that there is a visual cue that the player is currently not in control.

When it is a non-interactive cutscene, you could remove the GUI during the cutscene and bring it back as soon as the player is in control again.

When the users control is impaired (but not completely disabled) during normal gameplay, for example because their character is poisoned or hallucinating, you should also accompany this with a visual cue. In a game where you see the player-character you could, for example, have some stars circling around their characters head. In a first person game, you could blur or distort the users vision.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Adding to this, audio cues would work as well. In many video games an invalid move will result in a distinct audio cue playing, informing the player that the input was received, but not accepted. Or when an animation occurs that takes control away from the player, it is most often accompanied by a sound to reinforce that "something is happening" (e.g. Mario taking damage in Super Mario Bros.). \$\endgroup\$
    – Fault
    Mar 30, 2014 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ This solution is really good, I was so blind not seeing it in other games. Now, after reading your post I can say it's used quite often, especially as a generalized approach, sometimes not just visual. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tomo
    Mar 31, 2014 at 22:04

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