Health (gaming)

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A health bar, a possible representation of the health of a character. Video game health bar.svg
A health bar, a possible representation of the health of a character.

Health or vitality is an attribute assigned to entities such as characters or objects within role-playing games and video games, that indicates their continued ability to function. [1] Health is usually measured in hit points or health points, shortened to HP which lowers by set amounts when the entity is attacked or injured. When the HP of a player character or non-player character reaches zero, that character is incapacitated and barred from taking further action. In some games, such as those with cooperative multiplayer and party based role playing games, it may be possible for an ally to revive a character who has reached 0 hit points. In single player games, running out of health usually equates to "dying" and (in the case of a player character) losing a life or receiving a Game Over.

An attribute is a piece of data that describes to what extent a fictional character in a role-playing game possesses a specific natural, in-born characteristic common to all characters in the game. That piece of data is usually an abstract number or, in some cases, a set of dice. Some games use different terms to refer to an attribute, such as statistic, (primary) characteristic or ability. A number of role-playing games like Fate do not use attributes at all.

Role-playing game Game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting

A role-playing game is a game in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within a narrative, either through literal acting, or through a process of structured decision-making regarding character development. Actions taken within many games succeed or fail according to a formal system of rules and guidelines.

Player character fictional character in a role-playing or video game that can be played or controlled by a real-world person

A player character is a fictional character in a role-playing game or video game whose actions are directly controlled by a player of the game rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character.


Any entity within a game could have a health value, including the player character, non-player characters and objects. Indestructible entities have no diminishable health value. Health might be displayed as a numeric value, such as "50/100". Here, the first number indicates the current amount of HP an entity has, and the second number indicates the entity's maximum HP. In video games, health can also be displayed graphically, such as with a bar that empties itself when an entity loses health (a health bar, typically red), icons that are "chipped away", or in more novel ways. [2] [3]

A non-player character (NPC) is any character in a game which is not controlled by a player. The term originated in traditional tabletop role-playing games, where it applies to characters controlled by the gamemaster or referee, rather than another player. In video games, this usually means a character controlled by the computer via algorithmic, predetermined or responsive behavior, but not necessarily true artificial intelligence.


Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson described the origin of hit points in a 2002 interview. When Arneson was adapting the medieval wargame Chainmail (1971) to a fantasy setting – a process that, with Gary Gygax, would lead to Dungeons & Dragons – he saw that the emphasis of the gameplay was moving from large armies to small groups of heroes and eventually to the identification of one player and one character that is essential to role-playing as it was originally conceived. Players became attached to their heroes and did not want them to die every time they lost a die roll. Players were thus given multiple hit points which were incrementally decreased as they took damage. Arneson took the concept, along with armor class, from a set of a naval American Civil War game's rules. [4]

<i>Dungeons & Dragons</i> Fantasy role-playing game

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames, with a variation of the 1971 game Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

Dave Arneson 20th and 21st-century American game designer

David Lance "Dave" Arneson was an American game designer best known for co-developing the first published role-playing game (RPG), Dungeons & Dragons, with Gary Gygax, in the early 1970s. Arneson's early work was fundamental to the development of the genre, developing the concept of the RPG using devices now considered to be archetypical, such as adventuring in "dungeons" and using a neutral judge who doubles as the voice and consciousness of all other characters to develop the storyline.

Miniature wargaming Wargame genre

Miniature wargaming is a form of wargaming in which players enact battles between opposing military forces that are represented by miniature physical models. The use of physical models to represent military units is in contrast to other tabletop wargames that use abstract pieces such as counters or blocks, or computer wargames which use virtual models. The primary benefit of using models is aesthetics, though in certain wargames the size and shape of the models can have practical consequences on how the match plays out.

The US Navy used a similar concept in their tactical war games already in 1920s and 1930s. In their simulation, each ship had a "life" parameter. The unit of Life of the ship was a number of "equivalent penetrative 14-inch shell hits". The Navy considered, e.g., that a Kongō-class battlecruiser had 12 Life points and a Nagato-class battleship had 18.8. [5]

<i>Kongō</i>-class battlecruiser

The Kongō-class battlecruiser was a class of four battlecruisers built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) immediately before World War I. Designed by British naval architect George Thurston, the lead ship of the class, Kongō, was the last Japanese capital ship constructed outside Japan, by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness. Her sister ships Haruna, Kirishima and Hiei were all completed in Japan.

<i>Nagato</i>-class battleship class of Japanese battleships

The Nagato-class battleships were a pair of dreadnought battleships built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War I, although they were not completed until after the end of the war. Nagato, the lead ship of the class, frequently served as a flagship. Both ships carried supplies for the survivors of the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923. They were modernized in 1933–1936 with improvements to their armor and machinery and a rebuilt superstructure in the pagoda mast style. Nagato and her sister ship Mutsu briefly participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and Nagato was the flagship of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 that began the Pacific War.

A visual power meter representing stamina was used in Nintendo's 1983 arcade game Punch-Out!! . [6]

Nintendo Japanese video game company

Nintendo Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto. Nintendo is one of the world's largest video game companies by market capitalization, creating some of the best-known and top-selling video game franchises, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokémon.

<i>Punch-Out!!</i> (arcade game) 1984 boxing arcade video game

Punch-Out!! is a boxing arcade game by Nintendo, originally released in December 1983. It was the first in a series of successful Punch-Out!! games, producing an arcade sequel known as Super Punch-Out!!, a spin-off of the series titled Arm Wrestling, a highly popular version for the NES originally known as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and Super Punch-Out!! for the SNES.


In action video games as well as in role-playing games, health points can usually be depleted by attacking the entity. A defense attribute might reduce the amount of HP that is lost when a character is damaged. It is common in role-playing games for a character's maximum health and defense attributes to be gradually raised as the character levels up. [7] [ unreliable source? ] In game design, it is deemed important that a player is aware of it when they are losing health, each hit playing a clear sound effect. Author Scott Rogers states that "health should deplete in an obvious manner, because with every hit, a player is closer to losing their life." [3] The display of health also helps to dramatize the near-loss of a life. [8]

Game design game development process of designing the content and rules of a game

Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purposes. Increasingly, elements and principles of game design are also applied to other interactions, in the form of gamification.


Player characters can often restore their health points by consuming certain items, such as health potions, food or first-aid kits. [1] Staying a night at an inn fully restores a character's health in many role-playing video games. [9] In general, the different methods of regenerating health has its uses in a particular genre. In action games, this method is very quick, whereas role-playing games feature slower paced methods to match the gameplay and realism. [8]

Some video games feature automatically regenerating health, where lost health points are regained over time. This can be useful to not "cripple" the player, allowing them to continue even after losing a lot of health. However, automatically regenerating health may also cause a player to "power through" sections they might otherwise have had to approach cautiously simply because there are no lasting consequences to losing a large amount of health. To strike a balance between these extremes, many games have implemented a hybrid system, whereby the player only automatically regenerates health to a certain point; they must seek other means (such as traditional pick-ups) to restore the rest. [10]

This mechanic initially appeared in action role-playing games, with early examples including the Hydlide series, the Ys series, [11] [12] and Woody Poco . [13] In Woody Poco, the rate at which health recharges is based on food level. [13] In Hydlide and Ys, the player character has to stand still for their health to automatically regenerate. [14] This system was popularized in first-person shooters by Halo: Combat Evolved (2001), [3] though regenerating health in The Getaway (2002) has been cited to be more comparable to later use of the mechanic in first-person shooters. [11]


Heart-shaped icons can indicate the amount of health a player has left. Lifebar-hearts.png
Heart-shaped icons can indicate the amount of health a player has left.

The way health is displayed on the screen has an effect on the player. Many games only show the health of the player character, while keeping the health of enemies hidden. This is done in the Legend of Zelda series, Minecraft and Monster Hunter series to keep the player's progress in defeating their enemy unclear and therefore exciting. In these games, the fact that the enemies are being damaged is indicated by their behavior. [15] On the other hand, many fighting games, such as the Street Fighter series, use easy-to-read health bars to clearly indicate the progress the player is making with each hit. [16]

It is common in first-person shooters to indicate low health of the player character by blood spatters or by a distorted red hue on the screen, attempting to mimic the effects of wounding and trauma. These visual effects fade as health regenerates. [17]

Related Research Articles

In video games, a power-up is an object that adds temporarily benefits or extra abilities to the player character as a game mechanic. This is in contrast to an item, which may or may not have a permanent benefit that can be used at any time chosen by the player. Although often collected directly through touch, power-ups can sometimes only be gained by collecting several related items, such as the floating letters of the word 'EXTEND' in Bubble Bobble. Well known examples of power-ups that have entered popular culture include the power pellets from Pac-Man and the Super Mushroom from Super Mario Bros., which ranked first in UGO Networks' Top 11 Video Game Powerups.

Ys is a series of role-playing video games developed by Nihon Falcom. The first game in the series, Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished, was released on the NEC PC-8801 in 1987. Ys games have also appeared on the Sharp X1, MSX2, FM-7, NEC PC-9801, Sharp X68000, Master System, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Famicom, NES, Nintendo DS, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, TurboGrafx-CD, Apple IIGS, mobile phones, Super NES, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. As of 2017, the series had sold over 4.8 million copies worldwide.

<i>Dragon Slayer</i> (series) video game series

Dragon Slayer is a series of video games developed and published by Nihon Falcom. The first Dragon Slayer title is an early action role-playing game, released in 1984 for the NEC PC-88 computer system and ported by Square for the MSX. Designed by Yoshio Kiya, the game gave rise to a series of sequels, most of them created by Falcom, with the exception of Faxanadu by Hudson Soft. The Dragon Slayer series was historically significant, both as a founder of the Japanese role-playing game industry, and as the progenitor of the action role-playing game genre.

Nihon Falcom Corporation is a Japanese video game company who primarily develop role-playing video games, most notably in the Ys and The Legend of Heroes series. The company was founded in 1981, making them one of the oldest role-playing game developers still in existence today. They are credited with pioneering the action role-playing game genre, the Japanese role-playing game industry, and the development of the personal computer software industry in Japan as a whole.

Magic (gaming) attribute assigned to characters within a game

Magic or mana is an attribute assigned to characters within a role-playing or video game that indicates their power to use special abilities or "spells". Magic is usually measured in magic points or mana points, shortened as MP. Different abilities will use up different amounts of MP. When the MP of a character reaches zero, the character won't be able to use special abilities until some of their MP is recovered.

<i>The Tower of Druaga</i> 1984 video game

The Tower of Druaga is a maze-based action role-playing arcade game released by Namco in 1984. It is the first game in the Babylonian Castle Saga series, inspired by Sumerian and Babylonian mythology, including the Epic of Gilgamesh and Tower of Babel.

Action role-playing video games are a subgenre of role-playing video games. The games emphasize real-time combat where the player has direct control over the characters as opposed to turn or menu-based combat. These games often use action game combat systems similar to hack and slash or shooter games. Action role-playing games may also incorporate action-adventure games, which include a mission system and RPG mechanics, or massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) with real-time combat systems.

<i>Super Hydlide</i> 1989 video game

Super Hydlide is an action role-playing game for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. It was originally released in 1987 in Japan only under the title Hydlide 3: The Space Memories for the MSX, MSX2, and NEC PC-88. Ports were also released for the Nintendo Famicom and the Sharp X68000. The game was developed by Hydlide series veterans T&E Soft and released worldwide on the Sega Genesis / Mega Drive on October 6, 1989, in Japan, early 1990 in the United States, and 1991 in Europe. This remake evidences substantial graphical upgrades to the original Hydlide 3, though the gameplay remains largely identical. Before its release, it was called Hollo Fighter in some Sega advertising material and was one of the first third party published titles to be released in the U.S, the other being Air Diver.

<i>Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished</i> Action roie-playing video game produced by Nihon Falcom

Ys: The Vanished Omens is the first installment of Ys, an action role-playing video game series developed by Nihon Falcom in 1987. The name is commonly misspelled Y's due to an error on the packaging of an English-language release.

<i>Hydlide</i> 1986 video game

Hydlide is a 1984 open world action role-playing video game developed and published by T&E Soft. It was originally released for the NEC PC-6001 and PC-8801 computers in 1984, in Japan only; ports for the MSX, MSX2, FM-7 and NEC PC-9801 were released the following year. A Nintendo Famicom version was first released under the name Hydlide Special on March 18, 1986 in Japan; three years later, in June 1989, that version saw a North American release for the Nintendo Entertainment System by FCI, its title having been returned to simply Hydlide. The game sold 2 million copies in Japan, across all platforms.

<i>Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter</i> 1988 video game

Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter is an action role-playing video game developed by Nihon Falcom, and first released on June 24, 1988 for the PC-8801 and PC-9801. It is the sequel to Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished, and takes place immediately following the end of the first game. The game has received a very large number of ports and remakes over the years.

<i>Dragon Slayer</i> (video game) 1985 video game

Dragon Slayer is an action role-playing game, developed by Nihon Falcom and designed by Yoshio Kiya. It was originally released in 1984 for the PC-8801, PC-9801, X1 and FM-7, and became a major success in Japan. It was followed by an MSX port published by Square in 1985, a Super Cassette Vision by Epoch in 1986 and a Game Boy port by the same company in 1990 under the name Dragon Slayer I. A remake of Dragon Slayer was also included in the Falcom Classics collection for the Sega Saturn.

<i>Virtual Hydlide</i> 1995 video game

Virtual Hydlide is an action-adventure video game for the Sega Saturn console, developed by T&E Soft, published by Sega in Europe and Japan, and Atlus Software in the US. It is a remake of the original Hydlide, the first game in the series, but incorporated full 3D graphics and a player character digitized from a live actor.

<i>Ys I & II</i> 1989 video game

Ys I & II is an action role-playing video game compilation for the TurboGrafx-CD released in 1989 by Hudson Soft/NEC. It consist of enhanced remakes of the first two Ys games developed and published by Nihon Falcom for the PC-8801 home computer in Japan. It was released as Ys Book I & II for the TurboGrafx-CD in North America in 1990, and was a pack-in title for the TurboDuo in 1992. Ys I & II was released on the Virtual Console in Japan on October 2007, and worldwide the following year.

<i>Xanadu</i> (video game) 1985 video game

Xanadu, also known as Xanadu: Dragon Slayer II, is an action role-playing game developed by Nihon Falcom and released in 1985 for the PC-8801, X1, PC-8001, PC-9801, FM-7 and MSX computers. Enhanced remakes were later released for the Sega Saturn, PC-9801 and Windows platforms. It is the second in the Dragon Slayer series, preceded by Dragon Slayer and followed by Dragon Slayer Jr: Romancia, which, as most games in the Dragon Slayer series, have very little relation with each other.

<i>Blackmoor</i> (supplement) book by Dave Arneson

Blackmoor is a supplementary rulebook of the original edition of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game written by Dave Arneson.

<i>Ys Seven</i> 2009 video game

Ys Seven (イース7) is an action role-playing video game developed by Nihon Falcom and the seventh installment in the Ys video game series. It was released in Japan during 2009 for the Sony PlayStation Portable and was released by XSEED Games in North America on August 17, 2010, in Europe on November 3, 2010 and in Australia on February 20, 2013. The game was released for Microsoft Windows in China on June 20, 2012, and worldwide on Steam in August 2017.

Eastern role-playing video games (RPGs) are RPGs developed in East Asia. Most Eastern RPGs are Japanese role-playing video games (JRPGs), developed in Japan. RPGs are also developed in South Korea and in China.


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