Most effective method to pause a game in Unity

No matter what type of game you are making, pausing it will be needed at some point. Now you can pause the game with or without a pause menu depending on your game type. In Unity, there are a few options when it comes to pausing a game. In this post we will see all the possible options to pause a game in Unity and also cover the advantages and drawbacks of each techniques. So, lets get started.

In Unity the most common way to pause a game is using the timescale function. The other option is to use a Singleton to enable or disable the scene functions. The best option is to use both together but before that lets understand each one separately.

pause a game in Unity

Using Time.timescale

This is the most basic and easy way to pause a game in Unity. All you have to do is to set “Time.timescale” to zero and the game is paused. You can set it back to one and the game is unpaused. Now let’s see what this does inside.

“Time.timescale” affects all physics systems in the game and all the movements related to time. What it means is if you have a character movement multiplied with time.deltatime, then the character will freeze and if you move your character by changing it’s transform inside an update function then the character will not freeze.

Time.timescale doesn’t freeze the following

  • Any action inside update not involving time.
  • Animation calls.
  • Update function.
  • UI interaction.
  • Other functions like collision detection.

Using Singleton to pause a game

This method is very simple to explain but hard to implement. If you want better control on what is paused and what is not then, this is the best way to pause a game. All you need to do is to set the variable to true when you want to pause the game and check its status when implementing other movements.

What is a Singleton?

Singleton is a variable that is common for all scripts in your game. You can access it from any script in your game. A Singleton if changed in one script gets changed in all scripts. Lets understand with an example.

First let me define the health of my player as a singleton in a script called “player_health”.

public static int health=100;

Now i have a zone in which the health of the player starts decreasing. I have added this script in another gameobject called zone. To reduce the health of the player from the zone script I can use the following code.

if(player in zone)

This is the advantage of a singleton. You need not process everything inside a single script. Now lets get back to how to pause a game in Unity. You can also check out more Unity tutorials here.

Pausing a game with Singleton

Its much similar to how we reduced the player health. You need to define a static variable which will be used to pause the game. I will declare the variable “game_paused” as static in the script pause_example and set it to false in the beginning.

public static bool game_paused=false;

In all the scripts where I am executing character movement or calculations, which I want to be stopped when the game is paused I will include this variable in a if statement.


Then I can simply set this variable to true to pause the game.

Best way to pause a game in Unity

The best way to pause a game is to use both timescale function and a static variable wherever the timescale is not applicable. Lets see what pauses and what doesn’t pause when Time.timescale is set to zero.

Things that get paused

  1. FixedUpdate function is paused.
  2. All time related things are paused.

Things That don’t pause

  1. Update function is still called every frame.
  2. UI elements can use interacted with.
  3. Animation does not stop.
  4. Character movement called in Update without “time.deltatime” multiplied will continue to move.

So to efficiently pause a game do the following steps.

  1. Initialize a singleton and use it in Update function of scripts which you think should not run when the game is paused and set it to true when you need to pause the game.
  2. Set Time.timescale to zero.

Revert the above steps to unpause the game. Hope you liked and understood the concept. If you have any query leave it in the comment below. You can also read the Unity manual for more details on timescale.

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