Flashlights in games are primarily used in three ways, none of which are mutually exclusive:
Flashlights are particularly useful in horror or survival games. Placing the character in a dark environment and giving them a flashlight which has a very specific area of effect helps add to the foreboding nature of the environment.
As a Gameplay Mechanic
The most common flashlight mechanics are:
- Having the light either run on a battery, or charge which runs out as the light is used. This again is mostly in horror or survival games where light can be a life saver.
- Having a flashlight be one of a very limited number of items that the player character can hold or use at any time. Doom 3 is one of the most well known examples of this type of mechanic.
- Having the enemy recognize and react to the protagonist's light. Almost any modern game that inculdes a flashlight will use this mechanic to discourage the player from running around with what would otherwise be a useful item active at all times.
As Part of a Puzzle
Flashlights are also used as puzzle elements. For example, they can be used as lock-key mechanics, where players cannot progress into a dark area unless they have a flashlight. As well as this, the actual mechanisms of flashlights can serve as a puzzle, such as placing a certain kinds of bulb into the flashlight or changing the batteries.