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What would you say are the factors that make games quite unemotional (in terms of empathy with the characters, caring about what happens in the gameworld etc)? What helps to make a game more emotionally involving? See here for some more discussion on this subject http://www.buzzcut.com/article.php?story=20031010040723368

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I wish i knew the answer to that one, i could prolly make a fair amount of profit if i did. The problem with getting emotionaly involved with a game is that everyone will react differently to diffent aspects in game, for example, the game i got most emotionally involved with was FF7. Especially around the start of the game where it is completely story driven, because your in a way close to all the characters in game there is an emotionally response when something shocking happens. But apart from story involvement i cant really see a direct way the designer can have an influence on the emotions of the player

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Quote:
Original post by doorstop
The problem with getting emotionaly involved with a game is that everyone will react differently to diffent aspects in game, for example, the game i got most emotionally involved with was FF7.



I couldn't have said it better myself. [smile] Appealing to the player emotionally is not a trivial task, but nevertheless it's something I'm going to attempt in my game. I had an amazing emotional response from playing FFVIII (the only game that has ever made me cry). I think I'm just a sap for corny love stories. [lol] Runner-up would have to be FFVI, where I could really identify how the characters felt and why they acted the way they did.


So here's just a guess, but maybe the first step to accomplishing this is to develop your characters well. After all, which would make you more sorrowful: hearing some random person you never knew half-way around the world die, or hearing that a close relative/friend of yours has died? If you can make the player feel like they are close to the characters in your game, I think that might be the first step through the door. [grin]

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Conveying Emotion
Quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
What helps to make a game more emotionally involving?
You might want to narrow the topic, different sets of techniques are used based on the emotion you want to convey, whether you want to deliver it thematically or through gameplay, and whether the game is single player or multiplayer. Take the list of basic emotions:

Affection, Lust, Longing, Cheerfulness, Zest, Contentment, Pride, Optimism, Enthrallment, Relief, Surprise, Irritation, Exasperation, Rage, Disgust, Envy, Torment, Suffering, Sadness, Disappointment, Shame, Neglect, Sympathy, Horror, Nervousness

For single player game:

Easy
Lust, Cheerfulness, Zest, Contentment, Pride,
Optimism, Relief, Irritation, Exasperation,
Disgust, Disappointment, Horror, Nervousness

Medium
Longing, Surprise, Rage, Envy, Shame, Sympathy

Hard
Affection, Enthrallment, Torment, Suffering,
Sadness, Neglect


For Multiplayer game:
- emotions that the designer can convey through game rules.

Easy
Lust, Longing, Cheerfulness, Zest, Contentment,
Pride, Optimism, Enthrallment, Relief, Surprise,
Irritation, Exasperation, Rage, Disgust, Envy,
Disappointment, Shame, Neglect, Sympathy

Medium
Affection, Torment, Horror, Nervousness

Hard
Suffering, Sadness


These are relative difficulties. Game as a medium includes several other media. In general, if you can create an emotion using a medium that your game includes, your game can also convey the same emotion, given that gameplay does not distract the player. (i.e. the player is supposed to feel sad, but because of the item that he knows he will get afterwards, he feels excited.)

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I find a lot of games are unemotional because the story only really written with the main character in mind, and having the rest of the cast being stereotypical, static and two dimensional characters. You need to give the player the felling of friends and foes full of human emotion and intricacies instead of just tools to help in battle and plot lubricant.
Like instead of the villain just being a force to oppose to protagonists ask yourself what kind of person is the villain, what motivates them and why are they doing what there doing (I find one of the most emotional things is a villain you can partially relate to).

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I find that really good music, if it's been played at the right moment, can make me very emotional. I don't show it much (actually it doesn't happen that much), but nonetheless, it's still there. I can easily feel sadness, excitement, and neglect through music.

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Quote:
Original post by Ketchaval
What would you say are the factors that make games quite unemotional (in terms of empathy with the characters, caring about what happens in the gameworld etc)?


I cease caring about a game, the world, the characters, and the storyline, when I know that the designer thinks it's more important for me to play the game his / her way than the way I want to play it. Freelancer is a perfect example of this. The game has a reputation system which you can get quite involved in trying to figure out and build up.

Then the storyline, supposedly for the sake of drama, wipes all your progress clean. Similar games that have only one solution, particularly those that are ridiculously difficult (as several of the Freelancer end missions were) prompt me to think, "okay, idiot designer, why don't you come to my house and play the game and I'll just watch your precious cutscenes."

(btw, a good signs that the game creator devalues your experience over their presentation of the game: Non-skippable cutscenes. A producer once told me, "dammit, we paid good money for that art and dialog, they're going to watch it." I kid you not.)

Quote:

What helps to make a game more emotionally involving?


Validation. A game that allows and acknowledges the impact that I've made on the world. I'm not just following someone elses plans, what I think matters to some degree, and the choices I make have an effect.

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Several very good points have come up so far, the ones I'd like to focus on are. Estok's point that in order to have a proper discussion we'd need to limit the topic to specific emotions/feelings, ie. the feeling of accomplishment, horror, tension. Kaze's point that many in-game characters are one dimensional at best, and only exist for hackneyed plot / gameplay reasons. They don't present much subtlety, or emotional depth. And this stops us identifying / bonding with them on an emotional basis. Wavinator's point about interfering with the player and not allowing them to play as they want to / shoving cut-scenes down their throat ( or long codex conversations Metal Gear Solid style).


On a personal note I was thinking that to help someone bond with another character (affection), then you could show them in a bunch of different lights. And involve the player with them, ie. have the PLAYER compete in mini-games / games of chance vs. the other character. Or steal / borrow something they care about and not give it back on time. What he ate all the cornflakes and didn't replace them? The git! This could work both ways ie. trying to make a positive bond with the player / or a negative bond where the player doesn't like them. It would also help to flesh out their character more and give them a feeling of "an independent life".

EDIT: One last thing for the moment, Ico had the great idea of removing all the onscreen clutter like health bars etc. That stop you concentrating on the characters and reinforce the fact that they are just a bunch of procedures (ie. you see that they have two health points out of five).

[Edited by - Ketchaval on May 15, 2005 6:59:26 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by Kaze
... story only really written with the main character in mind, and having the rest of the cast being stereotypical, static and two dimensional characters.


I really have to agree with this. Nothing kills a story more than stereotypical characters.

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Quote:
Original post by MickePicke
Quote:
Original post by Kaze
... story only really written with the main character in mind, and having the rest of the cast being stereotypical, static and two dimensional characters.


I really have to agree with this. Nothing kills a story more than stereotypical characters.


I concur completely. One of the reasons I feel that FFVI was so emotional is that it developed not only the main characters (which there were *a lot* of), but even some of the NPCs as well. (

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When it comes to emotionally involving media (any form), the trick is to not to make it happen to the player, or an audience member, but to make it happen to the character that the player or audience has identified with. For instance, lets pick a fairly superficial movie for which I'll have no problems with spoiling.

Armageddon.
The scene when Bruce Willis's character, Harry, has decided to stay on the asteroid to blow it up and has his good-bye talk with his daughter Grace, played by the adorable Liv Tyler. The movie itself is criticized for being fairly shallow and cliche', whatever, but what it does right thats completely transparent to most people is it goes well out of it's way developing the characters and relationships between them. So, when Gracie, a character whose central to the story and a point of identification for most of the audience, realizes that her Daddy is going to die, everyone in the theatre will react to it as a matter of either basic human empathy, or a bile in your throat, depending on if you're a bad person or not.

So, the lesson for game design is if you want to convey emotion to the player, you have to emulate it between the characters and make sure that its authentic enough that the player develops an identification and attachment to his characters.

On a side note, anyone get a reaction out of Chrono Trigger, the scene where Crono dies? Its not because crono dies that you react, its because Marle had to suffer the lost of her best friend that you react.

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The best way to make a game emotional is to make the characters as someone they can relate to, or put them in situations that the player can relate to. Also to make the game emotional you have to make the characters emotional, make them care, laugh, cry, get jeleous etc. The more emotions the characters have the more the player will have. Also you cant fill the game with ton of text to make the character feel the emotion that the characters are.

Small stuff matters later in the game the player will think back on when character A met character B, and character A is kind of clumsy and trips and both character A and B laugh as character B helps the other up. You can even have the characters mention that etc...

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Personally, I feel greater emotional involvement from things that 1) are not mandatory or force-fed, and that 2) are or at least seem to be under player control (and not in cutscene-universe).

For example, I think it lessens the feeling of curiosity in Unreal2 when on the alien planet mission, you explicitly get side-objectives to investigate the aliens' experiments. In contrast, no-one tells you to examine the translator logs lying around in the original Unreal.

Another example: compare the PC - NPC "romance" in say, JK2: Jedi Outcast and Doukutsu Monogatari (Cave Story). In the former it's forcefed, predetermined and happens mostly in cutscene space, in the latter it's optional (at least after a certain point), dependent on player actions, and severely underplayed. Guess which I felt more connected with?

I think the interface also matters quite a bit. For example, Deus Ex has tons of conversations, but not much of "cutscenes" as such. The conversations aren't just for passive watching, as you often need to make choices, or are under gunfire while receiving some info :) In a way, the player is thus kept "in the game" at all times and may likely get more involved. But if there have to be cutscenes, I'd say in-engine are better than binks: you may feel more connected if the representations of characters & places don't suddenly change.

In line with doorstop's thoughts, I'd find it optimal if a game had emotional depth for those who want it, but would not try to force it on those that just want to focus on the pure "gaming" aspect. But can there be too little forcefeeding? After all some complained that there was no story in HL2 :)

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Chrono Trigger <- Agreed, though it was upon his return. Very moving. Wish I felt that way about the ending... Lavos was a faceless and almost unnecessary villain.

[nitpick]
And aren't 2-D characters considered moderately well developed? They're no novel protagonists, but they have some development and an 'area' of multiple characteristics. A 3-D is what you want I think, having an 'area' of characteristics, plus some 'depth'. The pure 'stereotype' characters are considered one dimensional, not two...
[/nitpick]

I agree that characters are the only way to appropriately convey emotions. If you expect to get a reaction from the player, simply telling them of something in the story isn't going to do it. That's like the news, it's a passing glance at an event that doesn't really have a face or a name or any way to connect with. It's when you hear of its effect on actual people and how they react that it becomes actually emotional.

Example:
- Event
a) Your main villain goes out of his way to kill a fluffy kitty.
b) Your main villain goes out of his way to kill a fluffy kitty that belongs to a poor orphan, and it was her only friend.
- Reaction
a) Meh, he's a prick.
b) I'm actually feeling very sympathetic and sad for this orphan, who already has such a rough life... she didn't need her innocent kitty friend taken away.

You can work with b) to further plot or develop character, but a) is bland and without purpose. Connect to characters, and work with that. Don't just force feed players events that are supposed to have feeling.

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There could be deeper reasonings to option a), perhalps he's fighting his own inner demons, and what may appear as some random act of violent agression could lead to deeper understandings later on, or as a subtle clue for people to hate him or associate him as a tortured individual, depending on how he looks when he does it. Your more likely to get that kind of reaction if a child kills a fluffy bunny rather than an adult, somethin's gotta be wrong if a child does it. ;D

I think visual representations of emotions ingame can hold a powerful impact as well, just look at the Silent Hill series and its representations of Evil, or the cutsy factor of Klonoa 2, Threads Of Fate, and other anime titles that kids like. Pokemon/Digimon should probably be mentioned, god knows kids couldn't seem to get enough of those.

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A major element in developing emotional attachment is time.

If you have a character who's supposedly the hero's best friend, and they get killed off in the very first cut-scene, sure, it's a tragedy for the poor bloke. Let's all bow our heads for 2 seconds of silence and then move on...

If you have a character who's been an active part of the game all the way through - constantly making comments, or offering assistance, or otherwise making their presence felt, then losing that character has a big impact. It may be a feeling of vast relief that you don't have to listen to their annoying chatter any more, but you still care about the fact that they're dead...


In X-COM: UFO, it's surprisingly easy to get emotional about your troops - unlike your wingmen in X-COM: Interceptor - the troops in UFO may not have discernable personalities, but they do have individual staticstics, and develop over time according to their history, and they have a history which you are intimately concerned with - you remember when your Commander was just a Rookie - you remember the time as a Sargeant he took a plasma shot to the chest and was on the sick list for a month recovering, and the time as a Captain when he was the last soldier standing fighting to defend one of your bases and took out 3 Ethereals with one burst of fire... In Interceptor, your wingmen are just voices on the comm system competing for kills and making annoyingly repetitive taunts whenever they get a kill - at least for me, the major concern about losing one of them is the cost of the replacement ship...

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Exactly, i think character history has a lot to do with any emotional attachment the player may feel. Anyone remember Cannon Fodder, at the start of the game youd jus throw in the troops not thinking twice, but once you got the same few troops through a couple of levels you started being more cautious and if one died my god youd be kicking yourself after, seeing characters grow from your actions gets the player involved with the character, im not talking MMORPG style development here thou, but more subtle things, choices that the player has to make and different paths they can take the character down, as apposed to repeating actions to boost stats

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Quote:
Original post by Cosmic One
And aren't 2-D characters considered moderately well developed? They're no novel protagonists, but they have some development and an 'area' of multiple characteristics. A 3-D is what you want I think, having an 'area' of characteristics, plus some 'depth'. The pure 'stereotype' characters are considered one dimensional, not two...

I screwed up I mean to say flat/ round.
With flat being after first impression theirs nothing else to them and round having emotional depth and complex personalities.

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One aspect that would be interesting to examine is how interactive Choices interact with the players emotions.



http://www.gamestudies.org/0101/juul-gts/
Quote:

Such as rules, goals, player activity, the projection of the player's actions into the game world, the way the game defines the possible actions of the player. It is the unique parts that we need to study now.

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Delivering emotion through* gameplay
Quote:
One aspect that would be interesting to examine is how interactive Choices interact with the players emotions.
This is correct. The posts about characters and the use of music were correct, but those are what we can readily borrow from other medium. Interactivity (gameplay) is what unique pertaining to games. It is about the design of game rules that convey emotions. This topic however is not really new. And you can draw many parallels from sport games, card games, group games, and other forms of games that do not involve computers.

What is it that induce fear in certain dice games or tarot games? How do the notions of inevitability and fate embeed in the game rules amplify fear by denying control?

The set of rules that induce emotion regardless of the context and content of the game.

*The keyword here is through, not during. To achieve 'during', it is a simple matter of providing a multimedia experience.

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Quote:
Original post by Estok
This is correct. The posts about characters and the use of music were correct, but those are what we already know and can readily borrow from other medium. Interactivity (gameplay) is what unique pertaining to games.



I've been thinking recently about how a game can combine the game rules (ie. monster health / vulnerabilities), with character and level design to "slide" between a range of emotional responses. Ie. If you are being chased by a tough monster that you cannot defeat it will be more panicky (Haunting Ground?) whereas monsters with few hit points will generally be less worrying. Unless they are in large numbers (imagine sneaking through a Zerg lair!), or if the character is low on health / particularly vulnerable to certain attacks. Likewise if the player has lots of armor and powerful weapons they will feel more secure and powerful. Of course they don't know how long this superiority will last. And for positive feelings a game could build on AI teamwork, frequent bonuses (the fruit in Pacman), Building up the player's 'stats' (Zelda gaining bonus hearts on winning. Camararderie etc.

edit:You may have noticed at least from my examples that the emotions via "gameplay" tend to focus more on the actual player and their unit. Can we expand these psychological factors so that they encourage bonding with NPC characters and get the player to feel good bad, empathy / sympathy / understanding / camararderie / affection / suspicion / trust / distrust towards them and are affected when something happens to the NPCs?

Another thought is that instead of using characters (ie. human or alien, or animal) I wonder what can be done if we design LEVELS (ie. places and worlds and countries) so that the player feels the same sort of link to them as they do to people. Have you ever noticed that some game worlds almost become characters in their own right? Consider coming to the safety of the farm from nighttime in Hyrule field in Zelda:Ocarina of Time... where the gameplay (few monsters) and the homely atmosphere combine to make a welcoming place vs. the run down bits in say, Grand Theft Auto. Different levels can deliberately reflect different attitudes and values, ie. between livning in a stable democracy and an oppressive dictatorship. (Obviously this has been done before, but I think it is still a worthwhile observation).

One last observation for the moment:
http://www.buzzcut.com/article.php?story=20031010040723368
Quote:

The short argument in favor of the idea is: Games are rule-based--call them algorithmic. In a sense a game is pure thought because rules are pure thought. You don't need emotion in a game to make it work. Things that we call games, like foreign policy and dating, have a lot of emotional content. But they are not games in any sense close to what we mean by "game" when we use the term "video game". Chess is a game in the purest sense, and happens to stand-in as a metaphor for all cerebral activity. That doesn't seem to be an accident.

This rational, ideational nature of games is unique. There is no expressive medium I can think of so naturally devoid of feeling, a medium that can exist so easily without it.

I'm wondering if it would help to add more shades of grey to games, ie. an emotional stimulus doesn't always produce the exact same result in the different simulated characters. Ie. If someone slaps someone then they might get angry, or they might run off crying, or they might simmer with anger and plan a sneaky revenge. If they do it twice then they might get a more angry reaction. There are still rules, but they are less obviously rules and become more realistic. It creates the illusion that it isn't just if a then b, but becomes if a then a, b,c,d, or e.

[Edited by - Ketchaval on May 17, 2005 7:53:57 PM]

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Scaring the player using gameplay

This is not about making the player believe that the character is afraid, but scaring the player directly through gameplay. It is not difficult to scare the player with various means through cinematics and context. The topic here is how fear can also be delivered through the channel of gameplay.

When was the last time you click on the menu, and you see an option (or the abscence of an option) that makes your heart stop beating? A principle behind the induction of fear is to place the player out of the comfort zone. In terms of gameplay, this could correspond to:

1) introducing area with threats that cannot be overcome (what you said)
2) denying the player's knowledge or usage of past experience for the current situation
3) introducing gamerules that had gone very wrong with respect to the context

The objective is not to make the game harder, but to scare the player.




Yes you can expand the psychological factors to encourage bonding with NPC. This goes back to the discussion about character development.

Quote:
One last observation for the moment:
http://www.buzzcut.com/article.php?story=20031010040723368
Quote:
The short argument in favor of the idea is: Games are rule-based--call them algorithmic. In a sense a game is pure thought because rules are pure thought. You don't need emotion in a game to make it work. Things that we call games, like foreign policy and dating, have a lot of emotional content. But they are not games in any sense close to what we mean by "game" when we use the term "video game". Chess is a game in the purest sense, and happens to stand-in as a metaphor for all cerebral activity. That doesn't seem to be an accident.

This rational, ideational nature of games is unique. There is no expressive medium I can think of so naturally devoid of feeling, a medium that can exist so easily without it.
The author is incorrect. There are different kinds of rules. Not all rules are related to strategy. That the very simple game of tag. The rule that, "The one being tagged must tag the other player", is a direct implementation of fear through dominance. Now take the game of hide-and-seek. Similar rules, but you know that you are afrad (or excited) when the seeker is right outside the cabinent you are hidding. In both situations, fear is induced by complete dominance introduced by the game rule, where the state of the player is discrete.



Quote:
I'm wondering if it would help to add more shades of grey to games, ie. an emotional stimulus doesn't always produce the exact same result in the different simulated characters. Ie. If someone slaps someone then they might get angry, or they might run off crying, or they might simmer with anger and plan a sneaky revenge. If they do it twice then they might get a more angry reaction. There are still rules, but they are less obviously rules and become more realistic. It creates the illusion that it isn't just if a then b, but becomes if a then a, b,c,d, or e.
There is a difference between what you consider as rules and what I have been refering to. "Delivering emotion through game rules" is not the same as "Designing the rules that govern the emotional behaviors of the NPCs". With respect to shades of grey, it is in general expected that NPCs with different personalities will have different reactions to the same stimuli.

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Quote:
Original post by Estok
Scaring the player using gameplay

Yes you can expand the psychological factors to encourage bonding with NPC. This goes back to the discussion about character development.


Any ideas on how to use gameplay to (attempt to) strengthen an emotional bond between the player and another character. So that they are pleased when something good happens to the other character, and are upset / worried / concerned when something bad happens to them.

Are games too much of a narcissistic medium?
Warren Spector says
http://www.gamespy.com/articles/596/596223p1.html
Quote:

Warren Spector said that there were a couple of major elements that stories bring about. The first is genuine human interaction. He admits that the game industry has made great strides with making more believable characters, but that they're still 'cardboard cutouts' compared to what's available in other media. He also thinks that empathy is a key element of storytelling. "I want to feel what they're feeling," he says. He suggests that maybe we don't feel more for videogame characters because it's such a "narcissistic medium," where the players see every NPC as an obstacle.


Some thoughts on ways to encourage a bond between the player and another character through gameplay (and tiny tiny cutscenes). character design.

1. Character design and motivations.

-Is the character working towards the same goal as the player? If they are working against their intentions then the player should be less likely to bond with them.
-Is the character good / trustworthy? Will they stab the player in the back when they have got what they want?


2. Gameplay
- Common goal: are they working towards the same goal? Ico needed both the player and the NPC to survive because they could only escape as a team. This doesn't allow us to kill them off or maim them though, so if this happens then the player knows it wasn't meant to happen.
- Help each other out, if the other character can save your butt on different occasions then this could help promote a bond.

... Umm? Cant' think of much else at the moment.


3. I've only touched upon combat oriented games so far.

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Re: Creating emotional bonds between PC and NPC

Why is it easier for an audience to feel connected to a character in a movie than to an NPC in a game? It is because in a movie, the audience is focusing on the emotional value and meaning of the characters, while in a game, the audience is most likely to focus on their utility. In a game, the player is more likely to see NPCs as pawns.

Therefore, the logical solution is to destroy this association.

Through gameplay:
The follow is in the context of a combat RPC where the PC selects and group with a group of NPCs.


1) Dampen the initial strategic value of a character, allow the character's ability to develop, and differentiate as a complement through time

2) Destroy the relation between the NPC and the different game goal. Let the PC pick NPC and goal independently, where any combination of selected NPC is capable of achieving the desired goal.

3) Destroy the relation between performance and emotional state of an NPC. i.e. if the PC is trying to make an NPC happy, the PC is not doing it to get a state bonus, but to shape the story and dynamic a certain way. No bribing.

4) Promote emotional and meaningful plot elements that provide no bonus to combat.


Comments on your method:

- Character working toward the same goal is not required for creating an emotional bond. In fact, conflicts (emotional and visional) promotes the presentation of the characters.

- Character are also not required to be good or trustworthy. These are tangent to the issue.




"Are games too much of a narcissistic medium?"

No, this is cause by players seeing games not as a medium, but as an channel for self-expression for them to entertain themselves. There is nothing wrong with the medium. It is the receivers being narcissistic.








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Forget the big budget films, highly hyped books and video games...they are full of emotional cliches that get beaten over our heads so much the point quickly dulls with repeated use. Instead take emotional cues from your own life, reflect upon how you feel, how certain things effected you...what frustraits you about your girlfriend, family, friends? what excites you about being with them?

Does your girlfriend have a slight dorky quality that you find endearing? Is she neat and tidy, or messy? what attracts you to her outside of her physical form? What do you think she finds attractive in you?

Why are you so loyal to your friends? Which ones do you trust more/less and why?
How honest are you with them? with your girlfriend? Are they honest with you, or do you just trust they are?

there are good reasons why begining writers are advised to "write what you know"...same applies here with video games...if all you want to do is draw upon the emotional responces of movies, books, and games...well you will have a very watered down pallette to draw upon which makes painting by numbers easy, but the resulting work resonates much more hollow then if you put yourself into it.

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