One particular way of teaching creative writing is to ask students to explore the essence of emotion and thus, I attended a Meditation and Writing Retreat last December to reach back into my memory and recall the sensations associated with the emotion at the time. How did this emotion manifest in the body? Did it cause dry mouth, sniffling, a tightness in the chest, or blank eyes? Writing about emotion was an instant connection to my creative fury.
While emotions are an accepted starting point for creative writing, I realize emotions aren't the genesis for most games. A tech demo is an accepted starting point. In fact, most genres of games are defined by gameplay rather than the feelings elicited by the game. The only exception might be horror games, which follow traditional genre fiction categorization. It's for this very reason that I organized a panel to explore the nature of horror games. (Stay tuned for more info!)
But what if emotions played a more important role in game creation? After all, according to American author James Gunn, people look to fiction to engage in an emotional experience. Why shouldn't it be the same for games? And I'm not strictly talking about "making the player cry," but simply about connecting on an emotional level. As game designer Reid Kimball says in Breaking the Vicious Cycle, let's inspire players and go beyond grinding.
For many people, Jenova Chen's games are inspirational. In preparation for my article, Towards More Meaningful Games: A Multidisciplinary Approach, I talked to Jenova Chen about preproduction. He showed me this Emotional Intensity Graph he made during the conception phase. What's interesting is that this isn't a map of a character's emotions, but of the player's intended emotions.
Filmmakers and authors need to carefully craft an audience's emotional expectations. I assume that game designers should do the same. Should we expect anything less?
Sande Chen is a writer and game designer whose work has spanned 10 years in the industry. Her credits include 1999 IGF winner Terminus, 2007 PC RPG of the Year The Witcher, and Wizard 101. She is one of the founding members of the IGDA Game Design SIG.