Checkpoints - An Important Element in Games

Checkpoints are something developers find redundant in some cases. They are often underused, because developers don’t know where to put them, or how to use them properly. In other cases, developers want their game to be difficult, so they excluded checkpoints in their game. This is why I am making this post. To show how to use checkpoints, and more importantly, why.

What are Checkpoints?

A checkpoint is a certain point in a game where a player can resume their progression if they fail anywhere in the game. This is how I would define it in my own words.

“Checkpoints are locations in a video game where a player character respawns after death.” This is how Wikipedia defines a checkpoint.

In short, it’s a spot that players can come back to if they mess up. Rocket science, I know.

Deciding to put Checkpoints in Your Game

To decide whether or not to add checkpoints in your game is a question that cannot be truly answered without answering another question. That other question is “What do checkpoints really do?”

Knowing how checkpoints change a player’s experience is something necessary to know when creating your game. A lot of people often confuse as to how they influence the player’s experience. On the top of your head, you might say “They change the difficulty of the game.” This would be wrong, as checkpoints do not alter the content of a stage, or anything like that. You could have a really hard stage in your game. Adding a checkpoint before it doesn’t make it easier for the player. They will still fail a lot (probably), but they can quickly get back on their feet.

So yeah, checkpoints don’t make the game any easier or harder than it is. What it really determines is frustration. I’ll explain what I mean with an example. Let’s say you’re playing an obby with 100 stages, and there are no checkpoints. You’re at stage 97, without any fails, and guess what? You fail, and have to start all the way back at stage 1. Stage whopping 1. This would make you frustrated and you’d probably rage. That’s how checkpoints influence a player’s experience.

This is exactly how tower games are rage-inducing. They have no checkpoints. If you miss a jump, you fall all the way down, and have to restart your progress all over again. What fun! Tower games have a tradition for having no checkpoints, so they became frustrating to complete. This doesn’t change the platforms or any doohickeys in the tower at all, there’s just no point in the game where the player can pick up after failing.

Now, to decide if checkpoints should be added in your game or not depends on whether you want your game to be frustrating or not. Not whether you want it to be hard or not. If it’s frustrating, don’t have checkpoints. If you want the player to have a nice play through, use checkpoints.

Where to Place Checkpoints

If you decided to add checkpoints into your game, you might be confused as to where to put them specifically. As a short answer…

Put them stage after stage.

Regardless of the difficulty of the stage, checkpoints should be immediately placed after a stage ends. To further explain what benefit this will do, I will show examples of stage layout.

Yes, I quickly made this with Google Drawings.

Suppose you have a layout like this in your game. A back-to-back hard stage. Let’s say that in the yellow platform between the two stages, there was no checkpoint. What would this do? It would make the player rage, as I explained, but the player would also not feel very accomplished when they beat the first stage, because they know that they will have to do it again if they fail, so beating two hard stages back-to-back is a task that frustrates the player, and doesn’t give them a fun experience. If there was a checkpoint however, the player would feel accomplished because they beat a very hard stage, and they will never have to do it again. Yay!

Hold up! What if there was a layout like this?

Ok, so now can you exclude a checkpoint? Yes, you can. Just kidding. No. The player wouldn’t feel that accomplished after beating the easy stage, so why should there be a checkpoint? There should be a checkpoint because not adding one will only makes the game repetitive for the player. The player will fail quite a lot when trying to complete the hard stage, so they’ll have to go right back to the easy stage again. And again. And again. The player already beat it before, so why do they have to do it again, even if it’s easy? The reason developers might not add checkpoints here is because they think it will make the game too easy, but as said, it won’t. If a checkpoint was here, the player could pick up right where they left off from, giving the player a smooth and enjoyable experience, which is probably what you want the player to have.

To conclude this topic, checkpoints do not determine difficulty, but rather frustration. To maintain a player’s experience in a game, the game must have checkpoints for every stage, otherwise it would make the player rage, not have the player feel accomplished, and would make the game repetitive in gameplay. Checkpoints are a game element that many developers think is unnecessary to influence a player’s experience, which is wrong, as they play an important role in many, many games.


Great tutorial, the graphics make it easy to understand and you explain everything clearly.

Am I hearing a bit of Tower of Hell in here? Sure is hell…

Anyway nice tutorial! Covered the topic nicely.