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GDC London: Freeman Talks Emotion In Games

GDC London: Freeman Talks Emotion In Games

October 5, 2006 | By Jill Duffy

October 5, 2006 | By Jill Duffy
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David Freeman — a veteran the game industry, author, and teacher of screenwriting — has become one of the most active proponents emotion in video games. His 2005 book, Creating Emotion in Games, was released last year by New Riders.

Freeman, whose company has recently been working on PSP dating sim Brooktown for Konami and has previously contributed to games including Prey, Van Helsing, Shark Tale, Terminator: Redemption, and Enter the Matrix, spoke at the Game Developers Conference London Wednesday about enhancing games by adding emotional depth.

Primarily citing the master game works Ico and Half-Life 2, Freeman spent some time showing ways that game developers, particularly designers, can use subtle gestures, dialogue, and setups to deepen the emotional affect of a game. Freeman showed the clips while narrating over them, explaining how certain movements and actions affect the player or the player’s relationship with the non-player characters.

Deepening the relationship between the player and major NPCs, he says, can happen through portraying multiple feelings at one time. Much like other proponents of reformed next-generation games, Freeman wants to see players learn what they need to know by playing, not by consulting heads-up displays or following directions.

For example, tutorials may be incorporated into the game, as they are in Half-Life 2 when Gordon learns how to use the antigravity gun by playing fetch and catch with Dog.

Another cornerstone of Freeman’s theory about how designers can infuse emotion into games is by outlining a character’s four major personality traits — called the “diamond” — before writing one line of dialogue or creating the character’s style of physical movement.

Freeman’s detailed and methodical deconstruction of games is what he does best in his book, which is widely available in bookstores and online bookstores now. To learn more about his approach, also visit Freeman’s official website.


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