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Ned11

Converting Social Anxiety to Conversation Mechanic

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Hey guys!

I am working on a narrative adventure where the protagonist suffers from mild Asperger syndrome. He isn't comfortable in social groups and gets anxiety whenever he becomes part of a conversation.
In order to portray the social disabilities in real life, I have come up with few ideas on how to show them in a game. So hear me out and provide me feedback on the same:

Each conversation happens between Edward and one more NPC.
Edward gets 3 reply options to choose from whenever he's asked something during a conversation. The replies are generally structured like:

1) Smart reply
2) Neutral/irrelevant reply
3) Silence

Now whenever a conversation starts, few white clouds/web start surrounding the edges of the screen and they animate in the form of heartbeat (to convey tension).

Choosing Silence is the easiest as it only requires single click. Neutral/irrelevant reply requires few more clicks and Smart reply is the hardest, requires more clicks to select. If the player keeps selecting Silence, the Smart and Neutral replies becomes harder to select and the tension rises. If the player selects Smart or Neutral, the tension begins to wear out. The whole idea is to convey that how hard it is for an Aspie to talk to someone and how silence is the best option.

I am still not sure if it gets the job done. My aim is to convert the social awkwardness and nervousness faced by a socially disabled person into a gameplay/narrative mechanic. Any feedback/ideas are appreciated!
If you wish to check out how the game looks like, visit out Facebook page: That Little Star.

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I would go with something like a sanity meter/rage meter in other RPGs.  Time spent alone slowly decreases the meter, while active socializing fills the meter faster than silence or shopping.  So if the meter is too full, more 'expensive' options become grayed out.

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There is a very easy way of simulating Asperger syndrome for people playing a game, just use text. With no audio cues the human mind looses a lot of it's speech interpretation abilities.

 

People with Asperger syndrome have a hard time with literal understanding; vagueness, sarcasm and wordplay is harder for them to grasp.

With no voice tone it's hard to grasp the same concepts for everyone, example: "Making a game focused on a disability is a great idea." am I being sarcastic or supportive?

 

Last use the old school RPG text that appears as the character speaks, keep it at a good slow speed. Five or six words later the text disappears, keep no log of what was said, forcing the player to remember the dialog and selecting a choice based on the conversation.

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I would go with something like a sanity meter/rage meter in other RPGs.  Time spent alone slowly decreases the meter, while active socializing fills the meter faster than silence or shopping.  So if the meter is too full, more 'expensive' options become grayed out.

Thanks for the feedback. A rage meter, implemented subtly could actually work.

There is a very easy way of simulating Asperger syndrome for people playing a game, just use text. With no audio cues the human mind looses a lot of it's speech interpretation abilities.
 
People with Asperger syndrome have a hard time with literal understanding; vagueness, sarcasm and wordplay is harder for them to grasp.
With no voice tone it's hard to grasp the same concepts for everyone, example: "Making a game focused on a disability is a great idea." am I being sarcastic or supportive?
 
Last use the old school RPG text that appears as the character speaks, keep it at a good slow speed. Five or six words later the text disappears, keep no log of what was said, forcing the player to remember the dialog and selecting a choice based on the conversation.


Thanks for the feedback. Let me tell you that we have no voiceover in the game, mainly because we can't afford it. But you give a new meaning to no audio cues and I kinda like it. I also liked your idea of making the text disappears and forcing the player to remember and be a part of the conversation. But don't you think the player might feel frustrated if he is bad at remembering things?

Secondly, I had this idea of shuffling responses in a conversation so it becomes hard to select desired reply under pressure. What do you think about this?

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But don't you think the player might feel frustrated if he is bad at remembering things?

That is kind of the point, because it allows a normal person to experience how laboring a conversation can be for Asperger syndrome. However you are correct, it would make players frustrated maybe to a point where they stop playing.

 

Some RPG games have key words in the dialog, maybe you could do the same and if a player clicks a key word it freezes the text; allowing the player to save the related text into a log. This should act as remembering for the player and reduce frustration, although you should test it to see if it works.

 

Secondly, I had this idea of shuffling responses in a conversation so it becomes hard to select desired reply under pressure. What do you think about this?

If you mean shuffling the responses when the player starts dialog so they don't memorize where what option is then yes.

 

If you mean shuffling while the player has to select the option then I could see this also being frustrating, especially if the shuffle happens just as the player is to select, causing them to select the wrong one.

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Ned11, on 27 Nov 2016 - 12:57 AM, said: But don't you think the player might feel frustrated if he is bad at remembering things? That is kind of the point, because it allows a normal person to experience how laboring a conversation can be for Asperger syndrome. However you are correct, it would make players frustrated maybe to a point where they stop playing

The problem that I see with this is that different people read at different speeds.

 

I'm thinking that your best bet to give the experience that you want would be to just have a well written script.

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The whole idea is to convey that how hard it is for an Aspie to talk to someone and how silence is the best option.

 

I like the idea, but one thing I'd note is that social anxiety is not a symptom of Asperger's. An Asperger's individual might also experience social anxiety, and I can absolutely believe its more common in that sub-population, but they're different things. An Asperger's individual might, for example, have very specific circumstances where they feel prompted to reply in a social situation. That may be interpreted as social anxiety by others, but subjectively the individual is just following their specific social norms. It's also not uncommon for an Asperger's individual to have the opposite problem of the protagonist and have trouble with social cues about when it's not "appropriate" to keep talking on a subject.

 

Your protagonist is an individual, so it's totally reasonable that his experience matches your mechanism, but I'd caution overgeneralizing that.

 

Depending on the point of view you want to express, you might have the "win" state being the creation of relationships with like-minded, supportive individuals. Asperger's spectrum includes a tendency towards very passionate interests, finding interest groups on the topic could flip the interactions such that engaging reduces stress. It's also not unusual for an Asperger's individual to be very talkative with a very select group of friends/family and silent otherwise. Perhaps the accumulation of personal coping strategies and a supportive social network allows the player to accomplish things previously outside their ability (holding a job or getting promoted, romance, etc.)

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Secondly, I had this idea of shuffling responses in a conversation so it becomes hard to select desired reply under pressure. What do you think about this?[/quote]
If you mean shuffling the responses when the player starts dialog so they don't memorize where what option is then yes.
 
If you mean shuffling while the player has to select the option then I could see this also being frustrating, especially if the shuffle happens just as the player is to select, causing them to select the wrong one.
[/quote]

I mean whenever a NPC is speaking, the 3 reply options which the player has keeps changing their position. Imagine these 3 responses in 3 different boxes, aligned vertically one below the other. And when they shuffle, the responses change their position. But I don't know if makes sense?
 
 

Ned11, on 27 Nov 2016 - 12:57 AM, said: But don't you think the player might feel frustrated if he is bad at remembering things? That is kind of the point, because it allows a normal person to experience how laboring a conversation can be for Asperger syndrome. However you are correct, it would make players frustrated maybe to a point where they stop playing[/quote]
The problem that I see with this is that different people read at different speeds.
 
I'm thinking that your best bet to give the experience that you want would be to just have a well written script.
[/quote]

I think you're right. A well-written script might be the best answer but I am looking for subtle ways to portray disabilities and how conversations might work for someone who is socially disabled.
 
 

The whole idea is to convey that how hard it is for an Aspie to talk to someone and how silence is the best option.
[/quote]
 
I like the idea, but one thing I'd note is that social anxiety is not a symptom of Asperger's. An Asperger's individual might also experience social anxiety, and I can absolutely believe its more common in that sub-population, but they're different things. An Asperger's individual might, for example, have very specific circumstances where they feel prompted to reply in a social situation. That may be interpreted as social anxiety by others, but subjectively the individual is just following their specific social norms. It's also not uncommon for an Asperger's individual to have the opposite problem of the protagonist and have trouble with social cues about when it's not "appropriate" to keep talking on a subject.
 
Your protagonist is an individual, so it's totally reasonable that his experience matches your mechanism, but I'd caution overgeneralizing that.
 
Depending on the point of view you want to express, you might have the "win" state being the creation of relationships with like-minded, supportive individuals. Asperger's spectrum includes a tendency towards very passionate interests, finding interest groups on the topic could flip the interactions such that engaging reduces stress. It's also not unusual for an Asperger's individual to be very talkative with a very select group of friends/family and silent otherwise. Perhaps the accumulation of personal coping strategies and a supportive social network allows the player to accomplish things previously outside their ability (holding a job or getting promoted, romance, etc.)
[/quote]

Thanks for the feedback and sharing your views. I totally agree with you and I think I know what you're talking about. I can already think about lot of ideas on the information you shared, might be of great help.

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