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Nordic Game 2007: Communities of Nurturing
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Nordic Game 2007: Communities of Nurturing

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My presentation about designing games that foster empathy at the academic track of the Nordic game developer event, Nordic Game, in May 2007. …

My presentation about designing games that foster empathy at the academic track of the Nordic game developer event, Nordic Game, in May 2007.


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  • 1. Communities of Nurturing: How to Design Empathy?  (and other things most game developers are embarrassed to talk about) Aki Järvinen aki@gameswithoutfrontiers.net http://www.gameswithoutfrontiers.net
  • 2. Aki’s Background • Studying games academically since 1998, experience from casual and mobile game design projects since 2000 • Experience from both academia, the game industry, and game journalism • Ph.D. on player experience driven methods of game studies and design to be defended in 2007 • Drawing from psychology, study of arts, design research, game design literature, etc. Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 3. Set of Premises • Recent success stories indicate that games’ emotional spectrum need not be restricted to competition and conflict. • Communities of Nurturing are audiences ready and willing to experience other types of emotions when playing • Animal Crossing and Nintendogs, among others, indicate that emotions concerning fortunes of others, real or virtual, can matter. • How do games such as these create player engagement? What is particular to that engagement? • Keys to answer: Emotion theory adapted for purposes of game studies and design Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 4. Embodying feeling into game designs • In aesthetic theory, artistic practice is understood as a practice of embodying feeling into a work (painting, literature, film, music, etc. • with techniques both particular to a medium, and the modalities it addresses • ...and general techniques having to do with cognition, i.e. perception and understanding • Like other aesthetic phenomena, Game designs embody eliciting conditions for emotions and subsequent moods • Which we all ’know’, yet when we are asked about it, can we explain it? • Here we go… Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 5. Applying Emotion theory • Ortony, Collins & Clore: The Cognitive Structure of Emotions (1990) • Emotions are valenced (+/-) reactions towards agents, events, or objects in the world • Games create micro-worlds with agents, events, and objects • Emotion categories according to the OCC model: • Prospect-based emotions • Fortunes-of-others emotions • Attribution emotions • Attraction emotions • Well-being emotions Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 6. Player Experience • At present, emotions games privilege prospect-based and attribution • There is potential for new player experiences in fortunes-of-others and attraction emotions • How can this theoretical premise applied into practice? • How canthrough design? and attraction fortunes-of-others elicited • Design of goals as a key Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 7. Psychology of Goals • The importance of goals for player experience can not be overemphasized • The road to attaining goals is beset by emotions • Emotions function in the managing of goals. i.e. how players prioritize one goal or means over another • Goals are embodied into the design of game components, characters, environments, and their attributes & behaviour Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 8. Fortunes-of-others as the key for empathy • Game designs can embody eliciting conditions for empathy and Altruism: • With goals the completion of which benefit other players or game characters • With possibilities for players to act towards completing such goals • With persuasive goal rhetoric embodied, e.g., into characters and their needs Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 9. Nurturing as a set of game mechanics • Concrete actions for players that support emergence of a mood of altruism • Gift-giving; Remembering • Caring • Delivering • Sharing • …You name it! Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies & Design
  • 10. Rhetoric of Caring • Functionin terms of anotherunderstand one of metaphor is to concept • In game design, metaphors are created for rules • Sets of metaphors constitute the theme of the game • Theme is communicated with play a certain rhetoric that persuades the players to • Case example: Two designsThrust of delivery with dierent metaphors: Ico vs. Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 11. Theme is everything! Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 12. Animal Crossing • Designing recognition, alignment, and/or allegiance to characters is another key to empathy • Dialogue as a characterization technique that elicits emotions: Behaviour of NPCs need not be restricted to animation techniques! (cf. ‘Uncanny valley’) • Goal hierarchy as a key to achieve this: • Goals-of-animals contribute to Goals-of-self and Goals-of-village • Mood supported: Community spirit, i.e. caring about common concerns and the ‘feelings’ of the animal characters Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 13. Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 14. Nintendogs • Simulation of a living being and its behaviour as a set of eliciting conditions • Gestures and canine behavioural cues (wagging the tail, barking) as constituents of eliciting conditions • Dog as a faithful companion which, as a pet, still depends on the care of a human • ’Pet schema’ as a structure, i.e. event schema about caring, functions as a metaphor for understanding Nintendogs rules Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 15. Shadow of the Colossus • Sense of Loss Inevitability as key moods • The player is put to destroy that which provides the player experience of spectacle and struggle • The tone of game rhetoric supports this; completion of high-order goals are communicated with tragic overtones • Could be used as design solutions for an environmentalist game? Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 16. Dying in Darfur • Empathy through identification with Goals-of-Darfurian refugees • Empathy through persuasion • Three types of persuasion: • Response-Shaping, • Response-Reinforcing, or • Response-Changing • Identifying with Fortunes-of- Darfurians as intellectual and altruistic ’Ideo-Pleasure’ Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 17. Summary • Game designs embody eliciting conditions for emotions • The constituents of eliciting conditions include goals, player possessions, player performances, etc. • Emotion theory gives us concepts vocabulary with which to talk about goal and player relationships • At present, fortunes-of-self type of emotions are overprivileged in games. • Designing constituents for Fortunes-of-others through goal hierarchies and game mechanics as a method • ... in order to create community ties and broader audiences Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design
  • 18. Further Resources • http://www.gameswithoutfrontiers.net • Aki’s Thesis chapters online analysis tools (TBA) • http://gamegame.blogs.com • Card game / brainstorming tool for game design • aki@gameswithoutfrontiers.net Games without Frontiers A Resource for Game Studies Design

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