Chapter 1.2. An Introduction to Emotioneering

Don't become an accidental Buddhist.

Emotioneering™ is

the vast body of techniques created and/or distilled by David that can create, for a player or participant, a breadth and depth of emotions in a game or other interactive experience, or that can immerse a game player or interactive participant in a world or a role. It also means the application of these techniques. "Emotioneering"™ is the trademarked property of David Freeman.

The goal of Emotioneering is to move the player through an interlocking sequence of emotional experiences.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

I was sitting in at a "round table" a moderated group discussion at the Game Developers Conference.[1] The focus was how to put emotion into games.

[1] The Game Developers Conference is the world's largest convention of game designers and others intimately involved with the creation of games. (For details, see It's held annually, traditionally in San Jose every March. Besides the lectures, workshops, and exhibits, it provides opportunities for game designers to mainline Colombian coffee and expand their minds by hobnobbing with their peers late into the night.

In the room where this session was held, 32 people crowded around a number of tables arranged in a big square.

The game designer moderating the session leaned forward, cocked his head, paused for dramatic effect, and unfurled his question with the seriousness of an explorer planting his flag on a new continent: "Who here has had a profound emotional experience playing a game?"

He waited expectantly for a raucous discussion to ignite. It didn't. Instead, his question hung in the empty air.

No one in the group had an answer for him. They were all as silent as monks. In effect, the moderator's simple question had instantaneously transformed everyone in the group into accidental Buddhists.

If the subject of emotion in games is a new continent, it is an almost completely uncharted one.

Obviously, things aren't black and white. Many designers are hard at work trying to inject emotion into their games, and no doubt all of us, if we think about it, can recall one or more times we were moved while playing a game (with emotions other than excitement, fear, or frustration, that is). The problem is that such game moments are far too rare, and no creative technology (no series of techniques) exists for producing rich emotional experiences in games over and over again.

The solution certainly isn't a set of handy formulas; no artist wants the word "cliché" emblazoned on his or her flag. The solution is an expansive palette of techniques that can be layered, adapted, mixed, and reworked in infinite combinations. Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Picasso all dipped their brushes in the same three primary colors, but their artwork couldn't be more varied.[2]

[2] Perhaps it sounds a bit extreme to compare games, which right now are primarily entertainment, to masterful artworks. But most of the game designers, programmers, artists, animators, and game composers I know definitely consider what they are doing to be art, and they strive to raise their art to continually higher levels.

Also, just as with films and television, as games mature, entertainment and art will increasingly merge. For art is entertaining. When you see the Lord of the Rings films, the artfulness of the writing, acting, direction, sets, and photography all contribute to the entertainment.

In this book, I'm attempting to do for game design what I did for screenwriting. During years of not only writing myself, but also studying the best writers in film and television, I created and distilled over a thousand techniques for creating characters, dialogue, scenes, and plots that were refreshingly unique and layered with emotional depth. After finding a way to assemble them, I made them the essence of "Beyond Structure."[3]

[3] "Beyond Structure" (, the course that presents some of these techniques, has grown to become the most popular screenwriting workshop both in Los Angeles and New York.

As I began designing and writing games, I stumbled upon far too many accidental Buddhists. When my game design colleagues were faced with the need or desire to put a greater depth and breadth of rich emotion into their games, their creativity would come to an abrupt halt and they'd screech into a dark, dead-end, ideational cul-de-sac. They'd become silent as church mice.

In truth, who can blame them? Emotion is created in films as a series of scripted circumstances that occur to a character, in an exact order, with exact timing.

Games, on the other hand, may have some linear elements, but these are often combined with any number of nonlinear and what I call "multi-linear" (multi-path) elements and structures. In a game, it's not unusual to have some events that unfold in an exact sequence, while others might be encountered by the player in any number of possible sequences. Other environments or situations might be bypassed by a player all together. Still other events and tasks are often offered as optional, yet useful, diversions.

And even when it comes to linear elements, the timing between the different events (in other words, precisely when they're encountered) will differ from player to player.

So how do you create emotion in experiences that are this variable?

One clue is life itself. Your life has linear elements things you need to do in a certain order. There are other activities for which you pick the time, and others still that are optional.

Yet amidst these different structures, you still experience a wide breadth and depth of emotion. Well, if it can be done in life, it can be done in a game.

But the task is difficult, and we get a clue as to the scope of the challenge when we compare games to film and television. The primary means of evoking emotion in those media is:

  1. Create one or more characters with whom the audience identifies.

  2. Have that character, or those characters, undergo a series of moving experiences.

In games, because the player is the main character, or at least operates the character, what will be the primary way of creating emotion?

You can't just suggest an emotion and assume the player will feel it. Nor can you tell the player he is supposed to experience a state of being or play a role, and assume that the player will experience things the way you hope he will. For instance, just because you tell a player who he is supposed to be, doesn't mean that the player buys into the role. You might tell the player that he is playing a jet pilot with a shameful past. But more likely than not, the player will feel neither like a jet pilot nor ashamed. Instead, the player is likely to feel just like himself.

So, to create emotion in games, we can't rely on the film and television mechanisms of:

  • Always controlling the order of events.

  • Controlling the timing between events.

  • Creating characters with whom the audience identifies, who then undergo moving experiences.

Nor can we easily create a character with a role that the player will necessarily "inhabit."

Thus it's no wonder that game development studios across the world, one by one, have been converted into temples for accidental Buddhist.

I've seen many a cocky screenwriter sure that he or she, in a minute or two, without any study of games, can swoop in and zap these problems into oblivion. These screenwriters quickly find their brains deep-fried and served up as snack food to weary game designers and programmers who knew from the start that linear writers are the crash-test dummies of interactive entertainment.

Perhaps I had a bit of a head start, for many of the techniques from "Beyond Structure" could be applied to games. Still, these techniques didn't even begin to solve the entire problem.

There is a way to put a breadth and depth of emotion into games. Actually, there isn't one way there are at least 1500 ways.[4] These techniques fall, as far as I can tell, into 32 distinct categories. These are the techniques of Emotioneering.

[4] As I was given a mandate by my publisher to keep the length of this book somewhat less than the Encyclopedia Britannica, this book will offer more than 300 of them.

But we've gotten ahead of ourselves. The first question is, why would one want to put emotion into games?

Creating Emotion in Games. The Craft and Art of Emotioneering
Creating Emotion in Games: The Craft and Art of Emotioneering
ISBN: 1592730078
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 394

Similar book on Amazon © 2008-2017.
If you may any questions please contact us: