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Using easy interactions during emotional moments

Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« on: November 14, 2012, 05:11:11 am »

I know there's been a good deal of talk on this concept here already. But I just wanted to post a brief snippet posted by a commenter on Kill Screen regarding research on cognitive load and emotion:
http://beta.in-mind.org/node/379

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Because simple or over learned activities like walking and passive viewing can be performed relatively automatically, they do not rely on people’s limited mental resources. As a consequence, performing these activities hardly competes with emotional processing.

Maybe something we'll see happen over time as videogames mature is players gaining an ability to both perform cognitive actions and process emotions at the same time. Until then, this adds more evidence to the suggestion that designers should use simpler interactions when striving for emotional impact.
Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2012, 08:14:05 am »

Good stuff! Nice to see there is actual research supporting this.

Basically what we have is: Whenever the focus is on the actual controls (such as a someone trying a first-person game for the first time) or on the task at hand (puzzle solving or attention requiring task) any emotional undertones that is in the same scene is lost.

Another thing that makes sense in this sort of thinking is that cutscenes are just a sort of bad left over design choice in  modern games. They are required in order to get any sort of emotional content across. Games like Uncharted are otherwise so focused on constantly entertaining people that even if it was possible to tell the story while the game plays, it would just not work. Thus if you have a combat focused game, your only chance for other feelings is through cutscenes. This does not make me like cut scenes or anything, just thought it was a bit interesting Smiley
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2012, 07:50:03 pm »

Yes, it's very interesting! It's nice to see these ideas of ours becoming more concrete as we make more games and find research that supports them...
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2012, 08:27:30 pm »

Good points.

Going over this again, I think it's a relief to know that experiences can still be highly interactive. It's just that when going for emotion, they should not require a lot of mental energy.
Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2012, 12:45:10 pm »

This way, a focus on interactivity and a desire for escapist entertainment go hand in hand: Just occupy the brain sufficiently intensely with activities to prevent the player from feeling anything (else). This would explain the therapeutic quality of playing games.

Other media, however, do succeed in infusing a wide range of emotions in equally escapist entertainment, though. Action movies are very escapist, and produce similar effects as typical videogames. But romantic comedies are escapist as well. And they produce very different effects. Their effect relies entirely on the emotions they provoke in the viewer.

I agree that formal games can only provoke a very limited range of emotions. And that these are provoked disregarding the narrative context in which they happen: In a sad adventure game about losing a friend, you will still feel elated when solving a puzzle.

But formal game structure is only one way in which to design interactivity. I believe that it is possible to provoke other types of emotions through (other types of) interactivity. But it needs to be designed in a way that occupies the player as intensely as conventional gameplay does.

It is this intensity that provides for escapist qualities.

Of course, if one desires to make art, rather than simply provoke emotions, one might want to stay far away from any sort of escapism. Which ends up almost confirming Roger Ebert's claim that interactivity prevents videogames from becoming art. Almost, because only intense interactivity does this.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2012, 12:47:13 pm by Michaël Samyn »
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2012, 03:02:17 pm »

Related:
http://www.theastronauts.com/2012/11/the-truth-about-challenge-in-games/

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You don’t care that a team of two hundred people worked hard to make sure you get the final prize. The victory feels yours, and yours only.
Challenge in video games. It’s the comfort food.

(Another good post by the astronaut crew!)
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2012, 05:22:26 am »

Of course, if one desires to make art, rather than simply provoke emotions,

Thank you!
It always bothers me when people act like making you cry is the greatest thing the medium can achieve.
Provoking emotion should be easy for games. Let's do something more.
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2012, 01:19:11 pm »

It is an interesting discussion. Interaction can increase the sense of involvement but the wrong kind turns the interaction into the game theory type of play; about numbers and statistics and measurable best outcomes. I like strategy so I am not opposed to the later. But I think there needs to be a certain passivity (as Michaël often writes) for the taking of art. Not passivity in the sense of a cutscene but of doing actions that do not allow you to 'game' the game.

With Cheongsam now I only have interaction that is responded to in body language; the game as a whole is fixed in the Dinner Date sense. I am becoming quite pleased with the sense of liveliness subtle reactions get you.
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2012, 03:35:49 am »

Provoking emotion should be easy for games. Let's do something more.

I strive for something more as well, but even provoking emotion is very difficult for me as a designer.
Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2012, 08:05:48 am »

I strive for something more as well, but even provoking emotion is very difficult for me as a designer.
Maybe I should have said "comparatively easy", or just "not the holy grail that we make it out to be".


Back on the topic of interaction, a teacher once told me about his first time using a computer, and learning how to use a mouse. A friend was facilitating the process, and had him play solitaire. At first he was just focusing entirely on using the mouse, with his friend guiding him. Without even realizing it, he eventually started focusing entirely on the game. Once he stopped asking about how to use the mouse and was instead just talking about the game, his friend told him he had learned how to use a mouse.

Kind of rehashing what's already been said here, but:
I think that story translates to the inner level of interaction within the game space. When you first start playing a game, you focus on learning how to move around and interact with the space, and how the space reacts to you. Eventually, you focus entirely on simply experiencing.
This is not uncommon in games, but the problem is that the supposed Laws of "good game design" revolve entirely around extending that initial learning, turning it into an addictive process which is extremely detrimental to anything outside of itself.

Learning how to use a mouse may be engaging, but that's not the goal.
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2012, 01:16:04 pm »

Of course, if one desires to make art, rather than simply provoke emotions,

Thank you!
It always bothers me when people act like making you cry is the greatest thing the medium can achieve.
Provoking emotion should be easy for games. Let's do something more.

I think both are valid, though. I adore art. I could not imagine living without it. But I must admit that I would not be able to handle art all the time. Art is just too intense an experience for me. It's nice to be carried away in an escapist adventure that stops when the credits roll too, once in a while. And there's plenty of potential to explore on that terrain too.
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2012, 01:20:12 pm »

I think that story translates to the inner level of interaction within the game space. When you first start playing a game, you focus on learning how to move around and interact with the space, and how the space reacts to you. Eventually, you focus entirely on simply experiencing.

This is indeed how I imagine hardcore players can claim that some, otherwise banal and violent games, provide for artistic experiences. Their skill is such that they just breeze through the interaction.

Many developers are hardcore players. And as such they often forget that for most people, interacting with games is very difficult and they never get good enough to appreciate the supposed artistic quality of the work.
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2012, 01:26:10 pm »

Not passivity in the sense of a cutscene but of doing actions that do not allow you to 'game' the game.

I think the point is that we need to create room for the player to be active, even playful. And to encourage that, the game needs to slow down a bit, reduce stimuli, and allow the player to think.

A bit as in Chris Crawford's conversation analogy: each party (game and player) needs to listen, think and respond. It seems that most games these days skip of the thinking part (in both the game and the player). And we end up with "reactivity" rather than inter-activity.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2012, 01:27:54 pm by Michaël Samyn »
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2012, 08:15:10 am »

Latest blog post by The Astronauts talks about this: Why we can’t feel and play at the same time
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Re: Using easy interactions during emotional moments
« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2012, 04:12:22 am »

Yeah...huh. That's happened a couple times now Tongue
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