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<  Design concepts  ~  Creating Emotion in Games

edenb
Posted: Mon Oct 15, 2007 10:31 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Jul 2007 Posts: 42
As has been said before, games offer little in the way of emotions- they all have the same sort of feeling (generalizing here!).
We know that we can create emotion through music, graphics, etc- but do you create emotion through interaction? Mechanics? Or is interaction simply a tool to lead the player to emotion?

Personally, I think interaction can be used to create emotion, as can mechanics. I know so because my game does this Wink

But what techniques do you use to do this? Or do you at all. With endless forest, most of the emotion I get is from visuals and music. However, this changes when I interact with someone- the emotion you get from casting magic.
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axcho
Posted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:08 am Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Jun 2007 Posts: 66
Jonathon Blow, the creator of Braid, has made an interesting prototype attempting to use shifting game mechanics over time to imitate music's emotionally expressive qualities. You can find it on this page, under the name Raspberry. I haven't tried it yet, but I've watched a video of a presentation he did where he talked about it a little.

I find this possibility very interesting, and there are a few games I've been wanting to make that would lend themselves well to experimenting with time-based patterns of game mechanics. Until I actually do experiment with that though, I can't really say much about games and emotions.
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Michael
Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:59 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
I think the technology needs to get a lot faster and accessible to really get anywhere. As far as I know, artists don't sit there and think "how can I express this or that emotion?" or "what emotion do I want to express today?" They work in a much more intuitive way, often while experimenting. Computers are still too slow and clumsy to allow for such a creation process.

Which is not to say that we shouldn't try. It's just that, well, expressing emotions is the job of an artist, not an engineer. Engineers can "only" build things, solve problems, simulate things. That is very creative and admirable. But it is not the same. Expressing an emotion is not a problem to solve, it's art that the artist just needs to make, often seemingly irrational, spontaneous.

Most games are made by engineers. And most engineers stick to their trade, and steer clear of expressing emotions or doing anything artistic. I personally think that's a good choice. I just wish they would do some more efforts to create technology that allows artists access to the creative process. But first they would need to be convinced of the necessity to have an artist at the helm of game creation...
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Lyrak
Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 4:20 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 29 Jul 2007 Posts: 1139 Location: Some Ohio Cornfield
Michael wrote:

Most games are made by engineers. And most engineers stick to their trade, and steer clear of expressing emotions or doing anything artistic. I personally think that's a good choice.


I can't fully speak for him, but I think my boyfriend would disagree. To him, a true engineer should know how to be creative and have that same spark of ingenuity artists must have. But then, I suppose he's different from many people - with that whole right brain/;eft brain thing, neither is really dominant, he holds around 50/50, and the people who actually know his worth know he is good at finding solutions to unusual problems, because he can think in unusual ways.

So he may be a bit biased as to what an engineer should be, because he can look at things from a more creative standpoint and it works well for him.
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edenb
Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 8:12 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Jul 2007 Posts: 42
I kinda half agree with you Michael, but half of me doesn't. I agree that it'd be wonderful if technology became more intuitive blah blah blah. But it's not a condition in order to make interactive electronic art. It just means that there'll be less.
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Michael
Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 10:06 pm Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
It's not a condition, no. I just feel that there is an overweight of technically-oriented people working with this medium, and not enough artistically-oriented ones. And this, I feel, is why the medium seems largely stagnant as an expressive form. Too much in-breeding, I guess. Too much self-congratulatory back-patting in the select club of devoted geeks. I'm not surprised that people outside of the industry are completely weirded out by games. They are weird.

And of course, Lyrak, I'm generalizing based on my own limited experience. It stands to reason that some people are capable of being both technical and artistic. I guess I'm one of those people myself, even if I lean more towards artistic, it do make technically complex things.

In my own limited experience, however, I have found that many technically-creative people don't really understand how artistically-creative ones work. They don't understand why artists find it difficult to deal with code, e.g., while they have no problem admitting that they couldn't draw a decent shape or pick a nice colour for their curtains themselves. So engineeers will always tell artists that they should learn how to code. Much like they feel that they can learn how to make art, if they set their mind to it. Everything tends to be about problem-solving to them. "Art" is just another problem that they can solve if they acquire sufficient information. But, really, that's not how it works.

I think deep technical know-how is important for artistic creation. But the enormous complexity of realtime 3D technology does hamper creative evolution, even for people who can deal with the technology. We need faster hardware and reliable software (so we don't need to spend half of our time on simply making things work on a basic level) and we need more tools that allow us to tinker and experiment without much plan or structure.
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edenb
Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 7:54 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Jul 2007 Posts: 42
Mmm. Have you used "Game Maker"? It's a tool that's a step towards a more intuitive artistic process, at least for 2D games. But it still isn't enough.
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Michael
Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 10:10 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
We use Quest3D. It has a visual programming interface and realtime feedback. Despite its flaws, it's quite nice for a more artistic approach. But that's just the programming side of things. The whole pipeline of concept over modelling and animation to implementation and testing is also far too complex. And the hardware is way too slow. Even if Quest3D, or Game Maker perhaps, allow you to make games more intuitively, you're still continuously confronted with the performance limitations and and lack of reliability of our current computers and their operating systems.

For 2D, we use Flash. Wink
(though Director is very nice as well, but Adobe seems to have stopped supporting it Crying or Very sad )

No, really, 3D is where the work needs to be done. It's BioShock we need to dethrone, not Pac Man.
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edenb
Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 11:03 am Reply with quote
Joined: 10 Jul 2007 Posts: 42
I'm working in 2D at the moment.
I think there's a lot of unexplored territory in that area, and plus it's easier Wink

In theory, I prefer consoles over computers, because computers are too complex. All those possible inputs, installers, and so on. Plus there's the emotional baggage for some people of computers being for "work".

Bioshock kind of saddens me. I'm sure it's a pretty good FPS but it's been getting 100% scores and I'm like...is this the best you can come up with?
Is this the pinacle of mainstream gaming?
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Lyrak
Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 9:54 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 29 Jul 2007 Posts: 1139 Location: Some Ohio Cornfield
Michael wrote:
Too much self-congratulatory back-patting in the select club of devoted geeks.


You just described like 90% of Slashdot users right there. XD James goes there for the news... and often links me to the comments to share the trainwrecks that often occur. We're determined half the people are either that 50-something living in mom's basement type, or kids who haven't seen the real world yet but think they know everything about it. There are "hardcore" geeks of all sorts there, who will tell more well-rounded (red: sensible) geeks they are not really geeks and don't deserve to call themselves programmers. O.o

And apparently this attitude has seeped into the profession a great deal, from what my boyfriend has told me. It's driving him crazy. These bozos are getting hired out the wazoo while he's still stuck. I swear he'll have to pretend to be a flipping moron to get a job, because even non-coders are starting to think that the single-minded nerds are the best fro the job. It's a scary thought...

Of course, there are times I feel like creativity is frowned upon in the workplace almost everywhere anymore. :\

Though back on emotion, I wonder.... in TEF we have an atmosphere of joy, many games hold anger and/or fear as their main emotion (though in most cases it's not a deeper type that evokes something REAL inside you, just some shallow semblance of real emotion)... but do any of them work with sorrow?
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Michael
Posted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:17 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
Lyrak wrote:
many games hold anger and/or fear as their main emotion (though in most cases it's not a deeper type that evokes something REAL inside you, just some shallow semblance of real emotion)...

It's an easy emotion because you can trigger it by simply making a very bad game. Wink

Lyrak wrote:
but do any of them work with sorrow?

The Path is starting to look like that... It only has bad endings. And the music is very melancholic. I personally see it as a game about accepting loss as part of life. But even that is kind of sad when you think about it.
(and we have another as yet undisclosed project coming up that will probably strike many as extremely sorrowful)

I'd like to see more sad games. Or more sorrow in games.
The emotion doesn't seem compatible with the challenge/reward structure of most games though. (which is why, I guess, we had to pervert it in The Path)
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axcho
Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 6:24 pm Reply with quote
Joined: 11 Jun 2007 Posts: 66
I agree with what you're saying, Michael, about artists and engineers in games, and in general. I'm both an artistic and technical person, but in school I am majoring in Computer Science and most of my peers are highly technical. I have found that I enjoy art much more than I do engineering (as I mentioned in a rant on my blog)

And recently, like in the past year or less, I have found myself becoming less and less interested in typical "game" stuff - the games, the culture, the industry. My mind automatically ignores titles that include such words as "war" or "battle" or "machine" or "robot" or "zombie" or any of those other tired themes. Even people on forums and blogs, going around on petty game design issues, or people talking shallowly about the future of games, hold little interest from me. I don't want to care about the rest of the industry at this point.

And I'm also not surprised anymore, as you say, "that people outside of the industry are completely weirded out by games." I wrote a bit about that on a recent blog post. Of course games are interesting and people should care about them, but I see little reason for people to care about them yet. I care about them for their future and their potential.

There are a few exceptions - people whose work and ideas I find interesting, most notably Ian Bogost's book Persuasive Games, Chaim Gingold's Miniature Gardens & Magic Crayons, and danc of Lost Garden who has recently come out with an extremely thought-provoking article on emotion in games: Constructing Artificial Emotions. And of course Tale of Tales, which is why I'm posting here.

I guess I should end on a positive note. My latest thoughts on how to approach artistic game design (and generally games that speak to people) have been inspired by dance as an artistic medium, combined with the miniature garden approach to games - anthropomorphic miniature gardens. If you'd like I can elaborate.
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Michael
Posted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 12:17 am Reply with quote
Site Administrator Joined: 07 Jun 2002 Posts: 8065 Location: Gent, Belgium
axcho wrote:
anthropomorphic miniature gardens

Sounds intriguing.
Reminds me of our own great inspiration: the catholic cathedrals. Smile
But perhaps you mean something entirely different. I haven't read the books you mention. But I'll start by reading your blog posts. Wink
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