Sponsored By
Joseph Chiang, Blogger

January 20, 2016

7 Min Read

Credit: Joseph Chiang, Qiaochu Li, Melody Lee, Larry Chang, Rahul Nagarkar.

Emotionshop is a project at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center with the goal of exploring how game mechanics evoke emotions. Like our predecessor, the Experimental Gameplay Project, our team of five prototypes as many games as possible, with each person making one game in 7 to 9 days centered around an emotional theme. So far, we have done 28 games for 7 different emotions, namely, serenity, gloating, shame, daring, pride, hurt, and appreciation. Just like how there are art and music theory on the emotional effects of visual and audio choices, we hope to start a conversation on what kinds of interactions are more effective in evoking certain emotions, what kinds are not, and why. This is the fourth blogpost in a series of eight on the lessons we learned about each emotion, as well as the development process as a whole.

Overview of our lessons.


We are proud of exploring Pride this week. Pride falls into the category of powerful in the emotion wheel, which implies pride is a positive emotion with a very active mental status of powerful and joyful feelings. To evoking pride, players need to put efforts in the game which finally turn out to be expected and satisfying results. We made three games to explore it from different perspectives.

Emotion Wheel from [Willcox, Gloria (1982). "The Feeling Wheel: A Tool for Expanding Awareness of Emotions and Increasing Spontaneity and Intimacy". Transactional Analysis Journal.]


The 1st game is Horse Trainer. In this game, the player is training a horse which loses in previous horse racing. By arranging daily training task wisely. The player's horse will perform better and better in the following racing and finally win the first prize. Moreover, players can actually contribute to the training to help the horse grow faster. Contrast to normal simulation games, the racing part in this game is non-interactable. The hypothesis of this game contains different points mentioned below. First, the player won't lose the game if they didn't achieve the goal. Second, the player can do nothing in the match but only spectate the horse running by itself, which assumes that the player will regard him/herself separated from the horse, and eventually feel proud of his/her horse after the horse win a match. Third, the progress from the last place to first place will also evoke proud from the player.

The 2nd game is You Are a Baby. As a baby, you start with learning walk, pronounce, and finally speak words. It is a very emotional journey as everyone has been a baby. The identity of a baby brings you more curiosity and lower bar of satisfaction and proud. On the other sides, solving the mysterious control and puzzles contribute a lot to the feeling as well. The game proposes that pride is evoked upon two things: first, on solving an initially incomprehensible puzzle, and second, on making another character proud of yourself.

The 3rd game is You Must Build a Skyscraper. It is a building tactics. The player is taking the task of building a skyscraper. The player needs to plan wisely to spend his funds on effective actions based on the current situation. The hypothesis for this game is that pride will be built up through game progression and intellectual problem solving in the game.

Combining our design thoughts and playtest feedback, we found the following techniques are important when designers dealing with Pride:

Pride Lesson #1: Pride is actually the release of tension built up by the uncertainty of success. Building up an uncertainty of success is a good way to evoke pride in the game, which is also saying that the player will not feel pride if confident overpowers it. In Horse Trainer, the player is less in control of the result because the player can only spectate the horse racing and couldn't do anything else. The player can only guess or try it by him/herself since there is no other data or simulation that tell the player he/she can win the match. In You Are a Baby, the winning condition itself is uncertain at the beginning, but with some progress in game, the player will start to figure out how the game works and how to win. In this game, the player feels anxious and confused at first, which builds up tension and uncertainty of success> Then they feel pride and some other positive emotions after beating the game because of the release of tension built up.

After winning a match that the player has no idea if he/she can win at first builds up pride.

Pride Lesson #2: Solving a puzzle is a satisfying moment which bring pride to the player. To enhance it, make sure your puzzle is simple and intuitive. When the player spends too much time on solving it, joys from the moment of solving will be diminished. In both Baby and Skyscraper, the player is solving puzzles whether they are optimizing values or enumerating combinations and options. Clues are crucial in puzzles in terms of evoking proud. Clues help the player to solve the puzzle faster and keep the flow. The mother in Baby keeps providing clues for the players which are really helpful for the feeling of proud. In our survey, a lot of playtesters mark proud or related emtotions on the moment they solve the puzzles in the Baby.

Mother gives clues to learn how to walk.

Pride Lesson #3: A lasting winning and the absence of losing are beneficial to being proud. Make the player experience a memorable winning is beneficial to the feeling of proud. In Horse, viewing your horse leading in the race is a lasting output for the feeling of proud. In Baby, when the player wins the game, there is a lasting scene to enhance proud as well. Losing is always hurtful players. Even there might be difficulties and barriers in the game. But make sure the progress is not terminated by the player's fault. All of our games in this round are very forgiving. The player will never "die" in any of them. They just need to keep trying before achieving the goal.

Leading in the racing is a very satisfying time span and the horse behaviors are highly related to the training.

Pride Lesson #4: The relationship between the player's character and others are crucial for being proud. Specifically, there are two ways of others help build the feeling of proud. By help others, the player avoids experiencing the frustration from bad performances. But the player still experiences the progress of becoming better. In Horse, even the horse at the beginning loses the game, the player will never feel bad because of these. (It is the horse, it is not me). But helping the horse become better is just as satisfying as the player himself becomes better. The appreciation from others is also very powerful. In Baby, when the player finally says the word, "mom". The appreciation from the mother is far more effective for proud than the achievements accomplished by the players.

Mother is so touched that she cries for the player saying "Mom".

Pride Lesson #5: Accumulative progress is a positive reminder of the player's performance. Making Progress leads proud. In Baby, the baby becomes intelligent from stupid. In Horse, the horse becomes strong from weak. These provide the player with a strong feeling of achievements and proud. Showing progress is a great indicator of how good is the player's performance in the game. It keeps recalling the player with a positive feeling of what they have done in the game. In Skyscraper and Horse, there are a lot of attribute numbers as indicators of player's good performance. Some players report that these numbers and indicators help them understand how good they are in our games.

Accumulative numbers of residents' needs.

Final thoughts

In sum, when considering being proud, consider three keywords: Efforts from players, Outcomes by efforts, Evaluation on outcomes. Puzzles and accumulative progress enhance the feeling of proud by converting players' efforts to positive outcomes. Relationship with others and winning help evoke the feeling of proud by indicating positive evaluations on outcomes.


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