The secret of understanding and application is knowing the meaning of the words. (A ton of practice helps too.)

Action Puzzles.

Action puzzles is my term for puzzles that take place in the middle of action. Furthermore, they're puzzles that take doing something active to solve the puzzle (i.e., achieve the desired result). They're not puzzles that merely require thinking.


Making the player feel like he or she is impacting, if not shaping, the story is sometimes called "giving the player a sense of agency," or simply "giving the player agency." Chapter 2.24, "Self-Created Story Techniques (a.k.a. Agency Techniques)," focuses on ways to accomplish this ways to help the player feel that he or she is playing the game, rather than simply being taken along on a ride.


Feeling simultaneously both positive and negative about a person or situation.

Beyond Structure.

( The name of David Freeman's screenwriting and fiction workshop, the most popular of its kind in Los Angeles and New York. The workshop is also occasionally offered in other cities around the world, like London and Sydney.


In games, a villainous or monstrous person or beast of some importance that you fight.

Character Arc.

The rocky path of growth a character undergoes in a story, usually unwillingly, during which the character wrestles with and eventually overcomes some or all of a serious emotional fear, limitation, block, or wound. Some examples: a character overcoming a lack of courage, overcoming a lack of ethics, learning to love, learning to take responsibility for others, or overcoming guilt.

Character Diamond.

The group of Traits (personality aspects) usually four, but sometimes three or five that determine how a major character sees the world, thinks, speaks, and acts. Having a Character Diamond of three to five Traits makes characters dimensional. Character Diamonds make characters interesting, but not deep unless some of the character's Traits are also Deepening Techniques. () Major NPCs, as well as the character played by the gamer, can have Character Diamonds. Sometimes the Traits of a character's Character Diamond are referred to Corners or Diamond Corners. Sometimes a Character Diamond is referred to simply as a character's Diamond.

See also [Deepening Techniques]

Chemistry Techniques.

Techniques to make it feel like two characters have Chemistry i.e., that they belong together as friends or lovers.


A section in a game that is like a very short movie. The player loses control of the game and watches passively. Cinematics can range from a few seconds to a few minutes. There are currently no consistent terms for cinematics. Cinematics animated or filmed separately from the game and then later integrated into the game are called pre-rendered cinematics, FMV (full-motion video), cut scenes, or CG cinematics (computer graphics cinematics). Cinematics created in real time with the game engine are called in-game cinematics, in-engine cinematics, in-game-engine cinematics, or real-time cinematics. Some in-game cinematics permit the player to control the camera angle.

Cohesiveness Techniques.

Techniques to make various parts of the game that are distant in (apparent) space and time feel connected.


Adding emotional and/or psychological complexity to any character in or aspect of a game's story. The verb form is "to Complexify."

Cross-Demographic Techniques.

Techniques to make games appeal to both kids (or young teens) and adults.

Deepening Techniques.

Techniques that, in traditional, linear storytelling, add the feeling of (or the actuality of) emotional or psychological depth or complexity to:

  • Characters

  • Dialogue

  • Relationships between characters

  • Scenes

  • Plots

In games, many other elements can be "Deepened," such as a moment of gameplay, or even the person who is playing the game. Other words for "deep": making things emotionally layered, poignant, soulful, emotionally complex, psychologically complex, and so on.

Dialogue Deepening Techniques.

Techniques that make single lines of dialogue by minor NPCs convey a sense that the NPC has emotional and/or psychological depth.

Dialogue Interesting Techniques.

Techniques that make single lines of dialogue by minor NPCs interesting, and thus they make the NPC speaking the line interesting.


Another term for Character Diamond.

See also [Character Diamond]

Diamond Corner.

Another term for Trait.

See also [Character Diamond]

Eavesdrop Mode.

When you overhear two or more NPCs talking to each other. Some games use this as a way to get information to the player, or to enhance the emotion of the moment. In Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force, for instance, you overhear an NPC express his fear about the upcoming mission to another NPC. It has the effect of making that mission seem much more frightening.

Emergent Gameplay.

Gameplay such as in the highly popular game The Sims. Instead of the game supplying a narrative or a staging a contest (such as with many driving games or sports games), emergent games provide advanced building blocks that the player can use to create his or her own story. Did you ever play with Lego as a child? It's the same basic concept.

Unlike Lego, however, in emergent games, there's usually some kind of instability built into the system. Either you constantly need elements you don't have but are required to get, or the system needs to constantly be attended to so that entropy doesn't destroy it. Thus, the player is continually prompted to take action to maintain or expand whatever world or system the player has created using the building blocks.

Because there could be an almost (or perhaps actual) infinite number of ways a game of The Sims could end, and it could perhaps go on without end indefinitely, emergent games such as this are called Open-Ended.


David Freeman or any member of his game design and writing consultancy, The Freeman Group, when applying Emotioneering techniques to a game or other interactive experience. As a verb, "to Emotioneer" means for David or one of the members of The Freeman Group to apply Emotioneering techniques to a game or other interactive experience. Emotioneer™ is trademarked by David Freeman.


The vast body of techniques created and/or distilled by David Freeman, which can create, for a player or participant, a breadth and depth of emotions in a game or other interactive experience, or which can immerse a game player or interactive participant in a world or a role. It also means the application of these techniques by David or his game design and writing consultancy, The Freeman Group, to a game or other interactive experience. The goal of Emotioneering is to move the player through an interlocking sequence of emotional experiences. Emotioneering™ is trademarked by David Freeman.[1]

[1] Emotioneering™, drawing from a wide palette of language, visuals, sound, and action, creates emotional special effects in games and other interactive experiences. It's a multifaceted, creative technology that enhances the immersive power and scope of a player's or participant's involvement.

See [Game Engine]
First-Person Character Arc Techniques.

Techniques that make the player go through an emotional transformation by the end of the game.

First-Person Deepening Techniques.

Techniques that give the player more emotional depth by the end of the game.


A character's fear, limitation, block, or wound. It's something emotionally wrong with the character, such as a lack of self-esteem, a lack of ethics, blaming the world, being afraid of love, and so on.

Game Engine.

Code that makes a game run, renders what you see in the game, renders the audio, governs the use of the controller, and operates all other systems that make the game function. Some people (but by no means all) in the game industry also use either the term rendering engine or renderer for the code that renders what you see in a game, and say that the rendering engine or the renderer is a subset (or part) of the game engine.


The Game Developers Conference, the largest convention in the world of game designers and others intimately involved with the creation of games. (See It's held annually in March, traditionally in San Jose, California. Besides 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.

Group Bonding Techniques.

Techniques that make a group (such as a squad) feel bonded. If the player is part of that group, the player will feel bonded to the group as well.

Group Deepening Techniques.

Techniques that make groups as small as a squad or as large as a race or culture embody a feeling of emotional depth.

Group Interesting Techniques.

Techniques for making groups as small as a squad or as large as a culture or race fascinating and intriguing to the player. A group, however, is not simply a few friends who might know each other, but instead is any collection of people who have, to some degree, their own distinct, collective identity for example, the Celts or the Marines.


The movement or movements performed by a character you play when you've stopped moving the character about. Idles are used so that the character doesn't seem stiff and lacking life. In some games, funny idles are occasionally used to provide humor.


Putting things together that normally one wouldn't think of as belonging together. Some examples: a white dove settling on the slaughtered body of a war hero or a small child, alone and laughing in a dark, scary alley at night. There are many types and many uses for Incongruence.

In-Game Cinematic.
See [Cinematic]
Interesting Techniques.

Techniques that make one of the following five elements of linear storytelling interesting:

  • Characters

  • Dialogue

  • Relationships between characters

  • Scenes, moments, or situations within a game

  • Plots

Other words for interesting: making things unique, imaginative, or original. In games, interesting can apply to other categories than those listed in the preceding list, such as a player's relationship to one or more of the NPCs. Another example: a group, culture, or even a race can be interesting.

Layer Cakes.

A situation in which Character A has various layers of feelings toward Character B. These various feelings (Character A's Layer Cakes toward Character B's) can present themselves either simultaneously or sequentially.


A false front, and sometimes an entire false personality, that covers up who the person really is. A character's Mask makes life more manageable and keeps pain repressed. In the great majority of cases, the character is unaware that he or she has a Mask, and would deny it if you brought it to his or her attention. In the provocative film American Beauty, Ricky Fitts, a troubled teen played by Wes Bentley, puts on a Mask that he's serene and even enlightened, when in fact he's almost numb (which is his FLBW). That numbness stems from his once having been wrongfully committed to a mental institution and drugged. In the same film, Annette Bening plays Carolyn Burnham, a woman who wears the Mask of a cheerful, successful businesswoman and housewife whose life is storybook example of perfection. In truth, however, her life is hollow, and she's full of loathing for herself and others (her FLBW). There are many varieties of Masks. When used artfully, they give depth to a character, and thus are a subset of NPC Deepening Techniques.

Meaningful Nonlinear Re-Sequencing (MNR).

This means that the player in a game can undergo a variety of experiences, or pursue a variety of tasks, in any order he or she pleases (thus, they can be "re-sequenced" in any number of ways, and so are "nonlinear"). These experiences and tasks, which can be re-sequenced nonlinearly, have meaning. By meaning, it's implied that the experiences and/or tasks have emotional content, and they feel like they hang together coherently as an emotionally engaging story or as part of a story.


Actions that can be performed by the character or characters being controlled by the player.


A non-player character, meaning any character in a game that is not controlled by the player.

NPC Character Arc Techniques.

Techniques that give an NPC a Character Arc.

NPC Deepening Techniques.

Techniques that give major NPCs emotional depth and/or complexity.

NPC Interesting Techniques.

Techniques that make major NPCs dimensional and fresh, and thus interesting.

NPC Toward NPC Chemistry Techniques.

Techniques that, with very little reliance on dialogue, make it feel like two NPCs have chemistry that is, that they belong together as friends or lovers.

NPC Toward NPC Relationship Deepening Techniques.

Techniques that, with very little reliance on dialogue, make it feel like two NPCs have a rich and complex relationship.

NPC Toward Player Relationship Deepening Techniques.

Ways to make it feel as if major NPCs have emotionally complex relationships with the player.


Sometimes a game (or film/TV) story has a bit of mystery at the end, leaving the player (or viewer) to speculate as to what really happened in the story. Sometimes the ending leaves a player (or viewer) to wonder or what will happen to the characters in the story, or to the world of the story, after the part of the story the player (or viewer) has experienced is over. I call these types of finales open-ended endings. The greater the mystery or the speculation at the end, the more open-ended the story is.

Open-Ended Game.
See [Emergent Gameplay]
Plot Deepening Techniques.

Ways to give game stories emotional depth and resonance, the way some films do, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, American Beauty, Casablanca, or Blade Runner.

Plot Interesting Techniques.

Ways of making game plots interesting, taking into account many different kinds of story structures linear, nonlinear, and multi-path (among others) unique to games.

Player Toward NPC Chemistry Techniques.

Techniques that make the player feel Chemistry with an NPC that is, make the player feel close to an NPC, either romantically or non-romantically.

Player Toward NPC Relationship Deepening Techniques.

Ways to give the player emotionally complex relationships with major NPCs.

Pre-Rendered Cinematic.
See [Cinematic]

A piece of information given during a game. It can be information about the story, the backstory, a character, an event, an object, and so on. In a game, some Reveals are necessary for the player to experience in order to make sense of the story. Usually some are optional, meaning that they give information which, though interesting, informative, and/or potentially adding to the game's emotion or context, aren't necessary to experience for the player to make sense of the game's story.

Role Induction Techniques.

Techniques that make a player willing to identify with the character he or she is playing.

Rooting Interesting Techniques.

Techniques that make players root for or, more precisely, identify with (empathize with) a character. The term sounds like it means players cheer on the character who has Rooting Interest. That's just a byproduct of players identifying with the character. Thus a character with Rooting Interest is one with whom we empathize. (This term, and "Character Arc," are the only two phrases in the book that come from the film industry.)

Scripted Sequence.

A small or large sequence of actions that would occur identically if the game was played the same way every time. Usually the scripted sequence is triggered by the player's character taking a certain action or hitting a certain point in the game. An example: when the player's character A, in health condition B, carrying weapon C, who has taken previous action D, hits position E, then the enemy F steps out from behind the tree, and takes a certain action.

Consider a more concrete example from a hypothetical game: The player's character Darius (A), his health points almost gone (B), carrying the Sword of Eden that he has taken from Vladamir (C), which Darius had earlier used to kill Vladamir's father (D), steps into the clearing (E). If these phenomena are all in place, then Vladamir will step out from behind the trees, vow to Darius that he will now avenge his father, and take aim at Darius with his bow.

Vladamir stepping out and saying he's going to avenge his father is the scripted sequence. If any of (A) through (D) above didn't happen (in this fairly sophisticated example), then Vladamir wouldn't step out from behind the tree at that point, or would step out but say or do something different. A Scripted Sequence doesn't require all the components of this complex example. The key feature of a Scripted Sequence is that something occurs in a game, triggered by something done by the player but while it occurs, the player can still control his or her character. (This contrasts to a cinematic, where the player loses control of the character.)

Self Auto-Talk.

When you hear the character you're playing speak.

Self Auto-Thought.

When you hear the thoughts of the character you're playing.

Set-Ups and Payoffs.

Something an object, a phrase spoken by a character is introduced early in the plot. When it's introduced, it's a set-up. A set-up is revisited in an interesting way one or more times later in the story. Each of these instances is a payoff.

Story Element.

There are more than 150 elements frequently found in stories, such as opposing sides, quests, obstacles, and so on. Each of these is a Story Element.

Symbolic Subplot.

An object or action that represents (symbolizes) the character's growth through his or her Character Arc.

Technique Stacking.

Layering one Emotioneering technique on top of another simultaneously, or utilizing them very close to each other in time, to create complex emotional impacts.


As used in this book, a subject central to the story, explored from many points of view, with no conclusion made about the subject. Or, a subject central to the story, explored from many points of view, with a conclusion finally made about the subject.


A major facet of the character's personality part of his or her Character Diamond. As such, a Trait (in combination with all of the other Traits in a character's Character Diamond) governs how the character sees the world, thinks, speaks, and acts.

World Induction Techniques.

Techniques other than realism that cause a player to become emotionally immersed in the world of the game. It doesn't mean the teaching of skills and weapons. It refers instead to techniques for making a player want to spend time in the world of the game.

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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