Challenge Segmentation

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Dividing gameplay in discrete, self-contained challenging situations, which are perceived by the player as a test or trial.

One of the least clear-cut forms of gameplay segmentation is segmentation by challenge. It is particularly difficult to define because most games, regardless of how their gameplay is segmented, try to increase the difficulty and challenge as the game develops. Thus, it is harder to recognize segmentation based on providing different challenges. The essence of this form of segmentation is to have the player resolve a series of discrete self-contained challenging situations, their most salient feature being that they are perceived by the player as a test or trial. Specific forms of challenge segmentation include puzzles, boss levels, and waves.

Sometimes the increase in challenge is accomplished by making enemy characters more dangerous, making the player character more vulnerable, or enforcing shorter time limits. Other ways include slight modifications of the rules, or introducing new ones, such as allowing the player to perform new actions. For example, Pac-Man limits the duration of the effect of the power pills while Robotron: 2084 introduces new enemies that require different strategies to defeat.


Strong Examples

Bust a Move 4

There are distinct levels that provide more and more challenge for each one. The puzzles are seperated and there is a path that can be followed but ultimately everything is seperated in to segmented levels that are supposed to increase in difficulty throughout the game until the player can not do them and loses or does worse.

WarioWare Inc: Mega MicroGame$

The gameplay of this innovative game is broken down in “microgames”. The player has to face a series of continuous challenges, different from one another and usually no more than five seconds long, where the player usually only has to press a button or two at the right time.

Street Fighter II

In the Street Fighter series, the player has to face one opponent at a time, which can be another player or a computer-controlled opponent. The player has to beat his opponent two out of three or three out of five rounds; after that, a new opponent appears. The life gauge replenishes with every new round for both fighters. Fighting games are a significant example of challenge segmentation, since they have their origins in the late-80s beat ’em ups (e.g. Double Dragon, Golden Axe), where the player had to beat waves of enemies as he advances from a segment to the next. The waves of enemies became one single opponent, as the fighting mechanics became more complex to provide different attacks.

Super Smash Brothers

In Super Smash Brothers, the one-player mode allows the player to face different challenges throughout the progression of the game. Fighting various characters one at a time, the player must knock the opponent outside of the playing field. In some cases, new waves of opponents and new fighters come onto the screen with full health. The player must manage their own health bar in order to survive the waves of opponents like the Yoshi or Kirby wave stages. This game also has mini-games with a variety of challenges like destroying targets or racing against time.

Seiken Densetsu 3

Many RPGs are built around systems of narrative segmentation, but in this case describing the progression as challenge-segmented is more accurate because the story doesn't progress until the player fights their way through a dungeon to a boss. After defeating the boss, the story progresses via mostly dialogue with little to no combat until the next dungeon.

Madden NFL 2007

In Madden, you can play a "season" mode where you play a series of matches. Each match could be consireded a challenge, and thus this game would have challenge segmentation from that perspective.

Rayman Raving Rabbids

There are 4 mini games per level until you reach the level boss. Each of these mini games is like a challenge segmentation. They get more and more challenging as you get farther into the game.

Weak Examples


Tetris is a weak example of challenge segmentation. There is no animation or narrative card that alerts the player that the game is about to get challenging. The only indication the player gets is a numerical level change on the side. But players are usually concentrating on the falling blocks and are unaware of the increase in the challenge of play.

The Sims

The sims is broken up into challenges of all kinds. The challenge of getting a promotion, challenge of getting your person in a good "mood" before going to work. The challenge of creating your dream home. It has many challenges but none are clear defined goals and can get rather unclear on how to proceed, the player has to decide what he/she wants in order to be challenged and that is why its a weak example.

Fallout 2

Fallout 2 is a weak example of challange segmentation. Enemy encounters are often random, and can typically be avoided or escaped. When battle is unavoidable, it occurs largely on the player's terms in that it can be put off until the player reaches a level of skill that makes the battle easy. While other challanges in that game, such as quests or errands, sometimes act as gatekeepers or preconditions for entering certain areas, the game at large can be traversed relatively unimpeded.

Game Ontology Relations




Pac-Man. Namco (1980) Midway: Arcade.

Robotron 2084. Williams Entertainment Inc. (1982) Midway: Arcade

WarioWare Inc: Mega MicroGame$. Nintendo (2003) Ninendo: GBA

Street Fighter II. Capcom (1992) Capcom: Arcade