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Feature: 'Emotion Engineering: A Scientific Approach For Understanding Game Appeal'

Is there a defining theory for game design? Kalisto and 10tacle designer Stéphane Bura <a href="http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3738/emotion_engineering_a_scientific_.php">tries to create a 'periodic table of elements'</a> for creating games - from

July 29, 2008

2 Min Read

Author: by Staff

Is there a defining theory for game design? Kalisto and 10tacle designer Stéphane Bura tries to create a 'periodic table of elements' for creating games - from surprise through dread and beyond. Bura's goals were deliberately not to talk about creating emotion through subject matter or story, as is most commonly thought of, but rather through interactions with the game and its mechanics itself. Bura explains: "Interactions between the player and the game produce changes in the gameplay variables. For instance, finding a heart container in Zelda and getting a bigger full health bar obviously changes something in the game state. Variations or stability of these variables induce emotions in the player. For instance, having a bigger full health bar could make him more confident. Player's emotions influence how he interacts with the game. For instance, being confident might make him take more risks; pride might keep him chasing a high score; or boredom might make him stop playing altogether. Some of these emotions are the result of a carefully crafted sequence of events. Others stem from the normal moment-to-moment interaction with the game. Since the players and their playing experiences are so different from one another, one cannot guarantee that a given player will feel a given emotion at a given point in a game. However, from our understanding of physiology, psychology, cognition, or culture, we can identify situations that create the proper context for the expression of such an emotion. Game design works backwards around this cycle, trying to predict player emotions from changes in the interactive system. But our knowledge of the dependencies between interaction and emotion is so sparse that most changes require testing. Testing in part requires implementing the changes, which costs time and money. Thus, in a professional setting where budget is an issue, game design innovation can quickly become a risk." In order to mitigate that risk, Bura pulls in research and theory from designers like Daniel Cook, Will Wright and Nicole Lazzaro to present a semi-scientific breakdown of affecting emotion with game mechanics. You can now read the full feature, with full charts of game design variable categories, and how those game variables variously affect emotional impact on the player.

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