Emotional Attachments for Story Construction in Virtual Game Wolds
Emotional Attachments for Story
Construction in Virtual Game
Mirjam Palosaari Eladhari
Gotland University, Sweden
• mind module
• game prototype
• play test
• use of results
• current and future work
Background of experiment -
What if: Avatars had emotions about other entities in a
• Emotions as results of experiences in a VGW: agency,
emotionally loaded memories = sentiments.
• Different emotional attachments - sentiments - for individual
• Emotions to affect game play so that they can affect of game play
players’ choice of action - achievements
become part of the deep structure of the world usage in play
• Research Question
• How can sentiments - emotional
attachments - be used in a VGW?
• Experimental setup
• The Mind Module: a semiautonomous
agent architecture for avatars
• A Virtual Game World Prototype: World
of Minds, as a paper prototype.
The Mind Module
• Spreading Activation Network of Affect nodes
• Semiautonomous agent architecture.
• Semiautonomous agents are partly controlled
by their players, and partly controlled by
context-sensitive action potential and
expression possibilities, as well as by varying
degrees of autonomous reactions to in-game
situations speciﬁc to the VGW the agents
An emotional disposition towards a speciﬁc object
or class of objects.
Deﬁne how avatar
Player might realise it is
a good idea to RUN!
World of Minds
• Prototype virtual game world where the
personalities of the inhabitants are the base
for the game mechanics.
• When interacting with other characters, the
action potential depend upon the player
character's current mood and personality
Basic Game Play of WoM
• Players need to defeat physical manifestations of
negative mental states by using
• Affective actions
• The spells available to the character depends on
• The affective actions available to the character
depends on the current mood.
Play test research
• How can sentiments be used in VGWs?
• I started with looking at differences experienced by players
depending on the origin of a sentiment.
• Three approaches for instantiating sentiments for avatars were
tried in the test:
• An emotion was attached to a random object.
• In a ﬁctive scenario players chose an object for the emotion
• When players interacted with a puppeteered NPC
sentiments were instantiated as effects of the nature of the
• Evaluation of the game design via a paper prototype
• During the play tests, the test leader walks individual
players through a paper simulation of several scenarios.
• Players are asked to think aloud while playing the game;
additionally, the test leader stops the game at several
points and conducts interviews.
(User-Centred Design, where the user's experience is a main
driver for design, Rapid prototyping, iterative design)
• Filled in a short (less than ten questions) survey on demographic data and
previous gaming experience.
• Took the IPIP-NEO Personality test and emailed the results to the test
• Filled in a short survey about their experience taking the personality test
and their opinions about the use of personality traits for avatar creation.
• Participated in the play-test, which took between 1 and 1.5 hours. Each
play-test session consisted of playing ﬁve scenarios, and answering
questions in two interviews, one in the middle, and one at the end of the
play-test. Each session was videotaped.
• Filled in two more short surveys, one focused on sentiment objects, and
the other on general impressions of the experience.
Data analysis using Transana, transcription and coding of videotaped material (15
• Random sentiment (sc 1)
• Sentiment by choice (sc 1)
• Sentiment by interaction (sc 2)
Player guides avatar through an environment with sentiment objects to reach
a goal. Proximity affect emotion (sc 3)
Player ﬁnds the NPC
Teresa in a state of
distress: attacked by a
Confusion. The avatar’s
and Teresa ‘remember’
each other, and in
proximity get a slight
increase of the emotion of
the sentiments they have
towards each other.
(helpful when dealing
with the foe) (sc 4)
Players preferred (8 of 10) the sentiments
instantiated as results of interaction above those
randomly assigned and the chosen ones.
“This one made the most sense [pointing at the sentiment towards Teresa],
the satisfaction. Because with Teresa I had a history with her, whereas I
did not have much of a history with these other things. I have a history
with the garden gnome, but it seems just as likely it could have been any of
these other objects”.
Inclination among participants to, when asked, prefer
options with highest possible agency.
• Teresa and the sentiment towards her:
accepted at face value. She was explored
rather than questioned.
• The chosen and the randomly assigned
sentiments: discussed and interpreted.
• Players tried to explain “Why does my
avatar feel like this about that?”
• “I'm angry at socks, because you always lose
that one in the dryer, then you end up with
• Several players requested more information of the
back-story during the play test.
• Explanations of story-related events and elements
gave the players better understanding of the systemic
• The players’ understanding of the mechanics seemed
to be intertwined with the meaning they could
attribute to the events in terms of the back story of the
• In the play-test participants accepted several game-play
mechanics at face value.
• That geographical proximity of their PC to a sentiment object
would affect their PC’s state of mind was one such mechanic.
This was observed when players:
• navigated a board of objects to reach a goal;
• were affected by their sentiment to Teresa in her proximity
when they met the second time in the test.
• Each object need to be anchored in the deep structure,
even in a small play test. Insufﬁcient perceived
relevance of objects hinders understanding of game
• sentiments ‘by choice’ - can be interesting used akin to ‘life
path’ systems in table top RPGs
• some participants displayed great enthusiasm coming up with
back-stories for the randomly assigned sentiments
• However, sentiments instantiated by interaction were the most
promising and will be developed and tested further
• The use of sentiments in the next VGW prototype
iteration use the results from the WoM test:
• Usage of sentiment proximity effect as planned
• Addition of formalised relationship-sentiments
• Ex. proximity to friends give ‘belonging’
• Will test (with game mastering) usage of sets of
sentiments rather than singular use.
• Ex. Infatuation is a combination of Interest/
Excitement/Amusement and Joy towards another
General Conclusions 1(2)
• Goals/drives/motivations expressed as emotional
attachments: Interaction in play-test indicated that players
found this ‘natural’
• Proximity effect of sentiments on mental state was accepted
at face value.
• Players’ understanding of objects relevance to back-story
and deep story structure can have an effect on how well the
general game mechanics of a VGW is understood.
General Conclusions 2(2)
• Instantiation of ‘drives/emotions’ make more sense to
players if they are results of interactions. This may open up
for plots emerging from previous interactions among
• Game mastering of authored sets of sentiment may open up
for plot-modelling among player groups. This remain to be
conﬁrmed in play tests.
• Explore how/if emotional attachments can be an
approach to emergent story construction in multi-player
games (both avatar-driven and game mastered):
• Formulate different types of sets of sentiments. Emotionally
valenced relationships among characters and objects. “Object of
Desire” “Triangular drama”
• Play-testing game mastered scenarios with authored sets of
sentiments - game mastered plots.
• Identiﬁcation of potential successful approaches for further
(Additions to existing deep story structures, that are incorporated
into the game mechanics. )
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