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Game Design Psychology: The Full Hirokazu Yasuhara Interview
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Game Design Psychology: The Full Hirokazu Yasuhara Interview

August 25, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

Another important thing is to consider the basic desires of people, even if all you're thinking about is a simple game. For example, you have active desires -- "Freedom from Fear", as they say, the way people actively want to avoid fear in their lives. And one way they deal with that is by engaging in a sorting process.

Let's say that you have a flat surface with some bumps sticking up out of it. Most people would want to see those bumps removed, as a sort of equalizing or "beautification" process. Also -- you know the game Othello, right? A lot of the fun in that game is the exhilaration you get when you flip a lot of pieces and make more of the board your color. Tidying up things, in a way.

It's the same thing even in business -- it's nicer when you have a well-organized Excel spreadsheet then a cluttered one. It's a continual process of actively sorting and bringing things under control, and the reason why people do this is because it helps make life simpler for them -- the process itself is fun, too.

As for how this goes back into video games, one thing you see a lot of in games is the act of "erasing," or "destruction." For example, in Pac-Man, you're eating dots -- wocka-wocka-wocka-wocka. That is erasing, and it's also a form of destruction. You're destroying everything in your path, and you're leveling out the entire playfield.

This is something that I think is vital for any interactive experience -- that sort of proactive desire in motion. This manifests itself in a lot of ways; the player can satisfy this desire a lot of ways in a lot of different games.

But there's something else involved here: creation. Some people get what they want via destruction, but others do it via creation instead. For example, if I am feeling vulnerable, then I get more friends or party members, if you will, and make myself more protected -- or I go to town and interact with people to get that same feeling.

By the same token, some people think in the opposite way -- if I kill every enemy in the area, then that logically means I'll be more secure. "Fear" at play. It's different ways of arriving at the same emotion.

That kind of mindset is more interested in "deleting" their enemies. So, like, Pikmin versus Gears of War. In Pikmin, you gather allies to complete objectives or defeat enemies; in Gears you just kill everyone in an area, and then that area is clear of monsters.

HY: Yeah, exactly. And this process keeps repeating itself. You see some cultural differences come to the surface with this, too. For example, a lot of Japanese people attain a feeling of security via creation, or making themselves look nice, or saving money. Not that Americans or Europeans aren't like that, but Americans may be more likely to take a more "destructive" process toward feeling safe.

I think a lot of that is because the things that you "fear" can be very different between nations -- not real, palpable fear, but more the lack of feeling at ease with yourself.

Something you don't like very much; something that stresses you out -- another word for "stress", really. And since sources of stress can be different between Americans and Japanese, it follows that the methods both populations take to relax would be different, too.

One more important thing I want to bring up is that when people achieve freedom from fear, that in itself makes them feel happy. You aren't stressed out anymore, and that cheers you up. I use that a lot in my game design, because it's a very basic and important.

Another thing is that, putting it simply here, I usually come up with three goals when I'm making a level: a short-distance, middle-distance, and long-distance goal.

For example, going to see Cinderella Castle in Disneyland would, for us, be a long-distance goal; if it was a game, we'd need to keep reminding the player where he's going if we actually want him to remember it.

A more short-distance goal, meanwhile, would be if you're in a baseball game; your goal is to get on base, and there are any number of simple, linear ways to achieve that goal. An example of a middle-distance goal would be if you run into a bridge in the forest that you can't gain access to -- something I do a lot in games. Maybe you have to do a sequence of jumps to reach it, but it's visible, at least.

It's a constant cycle of "fear" and "relief". If you're in an enclosed area, then completing a middle-distance goal to escape it makes you relieved; it makes you think "Oh, that's how I get out of there!" I'm always thinking about that kind of thing.

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