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Respawn is a term mostly used in reference to first-person shooter video games. Respawn is when an item, character, or vehicle regenerates (spawns) after having previously been picked up, killed, or destroyed.
In single-player games, respawn generally refers to enemies regenerating after a certain amount of time in order to keep the level populated with opponents. This feature is most often found only on harder difficulty levels.
In multi-player games, respawn may refer to players, power-ups, or vehicles. In games with continuous gameplay (as opposed to rounds in which a player can only spawn once), players will respawn into the level a certain amount of time after dying. Depending on the type of gameplay (free-for-all or team-based), the player may respawn in a random spawn point throughout the level, or inside a team's base. Respawn time varies from game to game and depending on play options. Sometimes it is fixed, while other times it may scale depending on how many times the player has died. In some games, such as Battlefield 1942, team spawns occur a certain period of time after the first player dies. Once the spawn occurs, the counter is reset, and does not begin again until a new player dies. Players who die after the first player will not need to wait the full amount of time to respawn.
Many multiplayer games include re-spawning power-ups, which reappear a certain amount of time after being picked up. Vehicles may also respawn a certain amount of time after they are destroyed.
In some games, on the rare occasion where a player spawns at coordinates where another player is already standing (effectively "inside" the already living player), the spawner will instantly kill the player in which he spawns. This is a form of telefragging.
Respawn sometimes leads to gameplay issues, as players wait outside a spawn point with the intent of immediately killing anyone who spawns there. This practice is known as spawn camping and is generally frowned upon.