At the SelectStartPlay conference in Viborg last week I gave a talk titled: Engineering Emotional Response. The room was packed! Thank you to all of you who showed up and sorry to all of you who couldn’t get through the door. I’m hoping for a bigger room next time. :)
Download the slides from my SelectStartPlay talk
My notes from the slides
Below I’ve jotted down a few notes for it all to make sense. This will probably make most sense if you download the slides from the above link first.
- This is all about engaging your players emotionally.
- Todays agenda. Looks rather depressing I’m afraid.
- Emotions in games are hard since we’re busy beating the game – not feeling! Games are active media, not passive like movies.
- Our mission as storytellers – no matter what media we work on:
- Move your audience. Move means that you’re feeling something. Not just sadness. Anything!
- Your primary goal is to change the player’s life. Small changes are okay. :)
- In order for players to be engaged emotionally they must recognize themselves in your story. Your characters must react truthfully in context to their own world.
- If not, the players will withdraw their emotions. They won’t trust you as a storyteller.
- A logline describes the action in your story in 25-35 words. “A rich business heir dresses up as a bat to fight crime and avenge the death of his parents.”
- A controlling idea on the other hand depicts what the story is really about – that thing that makes us connect with it as human beings. “A rich business heir learns that no revenge will help him cope with the loss of his parents – only facing his demons will do that.”
- Repac of what I just said.
- Turn your levels to engange players emotions. If a level (or scene) begins negative it should end positive and the other way around. If it starts positive end ends positive nothing has changed.
- How to engineer emotions – the rules so to speak.
- Fear, tension, and anxiery are created by hinting a threat and telling around it. The player can’t separate truths from rumours.
- Not knowing is what scares us. Why else do you think the classic ghost is wearing a sheet? Whats under it?
- Compassion, admiration, and pride is not created by having characters cry. Players don’t mimic characters feelings.
- Have characters with backstories cope with an unwanted situation. Lock them in a prison (not literally) and make them cope in their own way.
- Give characters relationships with other characters. We can admire our friends as well as our enemies.
- Anger, hate, and aggravation mostly springs from injustice. Witnessing something unfair happening to innocents gets us going! And it also generates compassion for the victim.
- Selfish deeds! We hate that! Lay out the main character’s backstory and have the villain poke where it really hurts for his/hers own win.
- Sorrow and sadness – before I talked about that I made a point about the games industry needing to kill off more characters. Forget about sequels! Jump in. Kill! It works!
- I chose to talk about death here. Death is not sad! It’s the time after death we want to show. Not the death moment itself.
- Videoclip from Gears of War where the protagonist finds his wife and she dies in his arms.
- In the clip the writers showed us the actual death moment. The protagonist broke down crying. He accepted the death of his wife and he expressed regrets about not saving her.
- Videoclip from The Last of Us.
- In the clip the characters didn’t experience the death moment. They didn’t break down crying. They dealt with the loss in their own way. They experience the time after death – not death itself.
- How death scenes can be moving: Life is about connecting with people! I think that’s what we’ll do in our last seconds. We’ll reach out for one final connection. And we won’t talk about death!
- What did we talk about these last 40 minutes?
- Remember these are more guidelines! There’s no such thing as engineering emotions – we’re all different with different pasts. But thinking about these guidelines will better your chances of engaging your players emotionally.
- Thanks – don’t hesitate to contact me about whatever’s on your mind.
Again, thanks to everyone showing up and for your great questions after!
If you want to hire me for a talk or teaching session about writing for games, dramatic structure – or if you’re interested in me working on a project for you – just contact me. I’m really a very friendly guy, eager to teach and involve myself in new projects.
Thanks for reading.