• Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  

How to create EMPATHY in Games

This topic is 734 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

Heya guys,

 

this year I am applying at several universities for game design courses. For one of those universities I have to do a homework, which is creating a concept for a game related to the topic "Empathy". I only got one month time for it, fortunately I already got an idea for the concept. Anyway I am still searching for good ways to create empathy in the player. Which games do you know that created empathy in you? And why did the manage to make you feel empathic either for the characters in the game or for a certain topic in real life, like iillness, war, etc.? Maybe some of you have ideas, I'd be very happy to hear from you :)

 

All the best!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement
Moving this to the Writing forum.

I felt empathy in Ico, Never Alone, and Heavy Rain. Haven't played That Dragon, Cancer yet.

Edit: Also The Last Of Us, when the daughter is killed.

Edit2: I'm not giving detailed answers because you need to do your own homework (we don't help with homework here). Edited by Tom Sloper

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Moving this to the Writing forum.

I felt empathy in Ico, Never Alone, and Heavy Rain. Haven't played That Dragon, Cancer yet.

Edit: Also The Last Of Us, when the daughter is killed.

Edit2: I'm not giving detailed answers because you need to do your own homework (we don't help with homework here).

Thanks for your answer Tom! I am not searching for anyone to do my homework, that is actually impossible because the task is way too complicated to just solve it via a forum. It was more asking for games that created empathy in gamers. I wanted it to be more like a survey. And thanks again for mentioning "Ico", because I didn't know that game yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my opinion the basic way to create empathy is using visuals to show the facial expressions of a character who is experiencing emotions.  Body language can also be used but it would be difficult to use entirely without facial expressions (in a game - novels do it just fine with only words).  Voice acting can also be used to strong effect.  In the craft of writing novels, it's a common philosophy that it is an essential part of the first chapter of every novel to show a focus character experiencing an emotion, then elaborate on why the character is feeling this emotion, and what action they want to take as a result of this emotional motivation, whether they are forced by circumstances to take some different action instead, and what obstacles or reactions they anticipate from their action.  You can create empathy for pretty much any emotion - loneliness, eagerness, annoyance, pride...

Edited by sunandshadow

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I have to do a homework, which is creating a concept for a game related to the topic "Empathy".

If that's the wording of your assignment, could it mean that you don't necessarily have to create empathy in the player? Could you instead have characters in the game demonstrating empathy in some way?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 


I have to do a homework, which is creating a concept for a game related to the topic "Empathy".

If that's the wording of your assignment, could it mean that you don't necessarily have to create empathy in the player? Could you instead have characters in the game demonstrating empathy in some way?

 

Yes, how we interpret the topic is totally up to us. I am just very interested in the field of serious games and "Empathy" fits very well to that. So I thought my task could be to come up with a concept for a game which creates empathy in the player. Other applicants may interpret the topic differently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I never played Ico, but Shadow of the Colosus was suppsedly related or a sequel/prequel or something. Simply the way the character was animated made me feel a bit more empathy toward him. When you ran up stairs and rocks you'd ocassionally trip or stumble. The character was generally animated in a way that made him feel clumpsy and unskilled. His attacks were kind of wild, desperate, and unfocused. He obviously had no training, was just a kid with a sword and desperation, going up against massive monsters.

 

They really focused on telling a story about the character just through his motion since there was only a vague hint of a story and no dialogue. They were smart to make the odd animations not detract from the responsive controls. When you stumbled, it didn't actually slow you down. It was just there for storytelling purposes.

I think Shadow of the Colosus wouldn't have been as good of a game if the main character was some buff swordmaster who had perfect form with his sword and climbed with confidence and ease.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Empathy is a core writing tenet, which can be achieved in a number of ways. Here are a couple of the basic ones (with examples from movies):

 

  • make your protagonist an underdog. Have someone bully them. Make the world unfair to them. People want underdogs to succeed. (this is not the perfect example, but it's one of the most black and white applications of this idea, which takes it to the extreme: the latest Riddick movie where the entire world has turned against them; also, Katniss Everdeen is a classic underdog - she's a survivor with few skills among a pack of murderers, forcing her to team up with other underdogs and fight against the odds)
  • strip your protagonist of special skills. Make them weak, but good-hearted. Make them flawed, but well-meaning. (eg Forrest Gump)
  • make the world ignore the protagonist even though they are in the right (or coversely make it a mystery whereby the protagonist is up against the challenge of figuring out the world and the puzzle they are in). Make them struggle to save everyone else or work towards a goal that is not what it seems. (Identity, all Nolan films are mysteries at their core, or for instance, in terms of games, Bioshock Infinite)

 

The idea here is to create conflict in the way your protagonist behaves and how everyone else behaves towards them. The underdog approach is the easiest - just make everything unfair and an uphill battle for your guy (or gal) and the viewer or player will grow empathy for them quickly.

 

If you haven't read this, the gold standard in screenwriting today is Blake Snyder's "Save The Cat". The reason the book is name Save The Cat, is because of a very simple dramaturgical trick you can employ to bias empathy towards the protagonist at the start of the story: the protagonist walks down the street and notices a cat in a tree. To make it more dramatic, the tree is on fire (to add a time bomb). There's no one else around, so it's up to the protagonist to figure out a way to climb the tree and save the furry bugger, or it dies. It's a small thing, but it results in immediate empathy right off the bat, because people want to root for good characters. That's why we call them heroes.

 

It's possible, albeit MUCH harder, to turn this formula around and build the story around a negative character. Don't try this unless you're Stephen King or something.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also The Last Of Us

 

The Last of Us always comes to mind when I think about empathy in games. It's not just what happens to the characters that makes you feel a connection to them. Any medium can do that. What's amazing in The Last of Us is how they use gameplay to strengthen the empathy we feel for these characters. At the very beginning of the game, you control the daughter as she calls out for her dad. By controlling this character, you feel more connected to her, which makes you feel as helpless as she does. Once you find her dad you understand that you need to stay close to him so he can protect you.

 

Then control shifts to her dad carrying her. You understand how helpless she felt, and how she needed her dad to protect her, and now with her in your arms you understand that it's your job to protect her, just as it's his job to protect her. And through the gameplay of carrying a girl, that's all you can do (no fighting just yet). Everything that happens with this character from then on stems from this feeling they reinforced at the beginning, that it's your job to protect the girl. The character you control shifts only a few times in the game, and when it does, it's amazing how much they get you to empathize with that character through the gameplay and story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement