Playing by Appointment

Being forced to play according to the game's schedule instead of yours.

"Playing by Appointment" means that instead of you deciding when to play, the game decides for you. If you don't play according to the game's schedule you are penalized. This dark pattern can be implemented in different ways.

1) Some games have a competitive leaderboard where you can climb the ranks by beating a player above you and taking their spot. At a certain time during the day, awards are given out based on your rank. Because of this, playing in the minutes leading right up to the "payout time" is necessary to ensure you get a good rank and aren't bumped down at the last minute. Often, the requirement to play at this specific time is not convenient and it can be stressful to a player to be unable to play during this time window.

2) Some games have special events that occur during specific times. If you want to participate in the special event, you must play during this time window. Players who work or travel may be unable to play during these time windows and will miss out and feel stress.

3) Some games use the time of day to change aspects of the game. Maybe certain items can only be collected at night. This forces people to play the game during times when they might not otherwise play.

4) Some games use a mechanic called "Harvesting" which can be implemented in many ways, but in general the player starts an action that will take some long time to complete. The player must return to the game at some specific time in the future to collect the reward. Sometimes, the reward is lost if not collected in time. In a worst case scenario, a player may set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night just to collect the reward and then go back to sleep. This is related to the Wait To Play dark pattern.

These are the main ways that games use this dark pattern, but there are certainly other ways that games can use appointment times to force people to play the game at times when they may not want to play the game, but do so because otherwise they will miss out or be penalized.


Examples

World of Tanks Blitz MMO World of Tanks Blitz MMO
"Events for new or old tanks are frequent. And they are at most a week long."

MARVEL Strike Force MARVEL Strike Force
"Three 2h blocks to get log in rewards on top of daily log in rewards."

Walking Dead: Road to Survival Walking Dead: Road to Survival
"Tourneys start and end at inconvenient hours. Their war mechanic makes you check frequently during those weekends."

SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI D×2 SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI D×2
"theres an area in the game you can only access at specific times"

Pokémon GO Pokémon GO
"Raids are random, timed, and require coordination. Some events only last for short time windows"

Mystic Messenger Mystic Messenger
"The game is built around timed chatrooms that are added every few hours each day."

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
"Seasonal events have a 3-hour cycle, meaning if you want to maximize your rewards you need to log in multiple times each day."

Brawl Stars Brawl Stars
"Battle Token caps at 200."

Hearthstone Hearthstone
"Daily Quests"

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
"If you plant something at a greenhouse, you must come back to the greenhouse during a very specific time in the future to harvest that plant, otherwise you lose it."