Emulating Life Itself

To see how to create change in a player, it's helpful to see what forces cause a person to change in real life.

In the course of your life, have you changed? I'll bet you're not the same person you were ten years ago. Sometimes what changes us is simply our ongoing observation of ourselves, of others, and of life. We study life and we grow.

More often then not, however, we're changed by a system of rewards and punishments. And this is just how you might do it in a game. What kinds of rewards and punishments are viable?

Applying This to a Hypothetical Game Case Study

Let's say that we want the player's Arc to be to learn to take responsibility for others. In the film Schindler's List, Liam Neeson's character, Oskar Schindler, went through such an Arc. He started off selfishly, but eventually grew. By the end, the most important value he held was to try and use his power to protect Jews who otherwise would be killed in a German concentration camp.

But would something like this work in a game? No. Schindler began the film from a point of being selfish, but we can't cause a gamer to begin a game as anything but how he or she actually is in life.

So let's start with that as a given: The player begins the game with the personality he or she has at that moment. We won't try to convince him or her to have some kind of personality flaw or limitation that he or she doesn't really have.

In the beginning of our hypothetical game, there'd be no benefits and no punishments for the player acting selfishly.

As the game progresses, however, there would be steadily increasing rewards if the player starts taking responsibility for others and steadily increasing punishments if he or she doesn't.



Another Hypothetical Game Case Study

We've seen the drawing on the preceding two pages before, in Chapter 2.15, "Emotionally Complex Moments and Situations Techniques."

There we discussed the powerlessness of the sentient trees to help the forest creatures that are being killed by the beast.

Let's expand upon the story. Let's say that, in the beginning of the game, the forest nymphs played impish tricks on you. They stole your weapons, mocked you, and, in general, annoyed the hell out of you, at least some of the time.

You probably wanted to kill a few yourself, and perhaps you did.

As the game progresses, however, you start to empathize with these characters. They are helpless before the beast (the one you're attacking in the preceding drawing) who kills them regularly.

During the game, you get to know them and see the emotional devastation they feel when one of their own is killed. You also come to learn they have a beautiful, though simple, culture one that is quite endearing.

So, bonding with them would be one incentive to start to take responsibility for them. (The bonding would be caused by the use of the NPC Rooting Interest Techniques, discussed in Chapter 2.10.)

As mentioned earlier, however, there could also be some very concrete rewards for taking responsibility for them:

  • Perhaps, once they begin to trust you, they start showing you shortcuts through the dense forest.

  • Maybe they give you a magical implement or power that can help you traverse through the dense undergrowth at incredible speed.

  • Perhaps they teach you how to extend your "sentient net" through the forest, so you can feel and locate any living creature walking though the forest including your enemies. In short, you can feel and know everything that, collectively, the creatures and trees of the forest feel and know.

  • Maybe they come to your aid and fight to protect you when you're faced with enemies.

In other words, the more responsibility you take for them, the more rewards you gradually receive.

The Role of Punishments

Punishments are also an option, if you don't go through your Arc. For instance, if you don't start helping the forest nymphs or if you start killing them, they could punish you:

  • They steal your weapons.

  • They whistle and alert your enemies when you're trying to sneak through the forest.

  • They could even attack you in great numbers and injure you. Or, if you've been particularly vicious to some of them, they might kill you.

You would be induced to take responsibility for the nymphs by:

  • Having empathy for the forest nymphs due to NPC Rooting Interest Techniques (see Chapter 2.10).

  • Increasingly being offered rewards and punishments that guide your behavior.

Of course, had the beings for which you were taking responsibility been human and not forest nymphs, or if we made them more human-like, we could employ yet another Emotioneering tool: You could have chemistry with one or two of the people, using techniques explored in Chapter 2.11, "Player Toward NPC Chemistry Techniques."

Would This Character Arc Be Real?

Would you exit the game really having come to feel more responsible?

I think the answer is yes you'd be changed at least as much as a film could create a change in you. After all, what we've done in the game is exactly emulate life and induce change the way life does.

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

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