Emotions and Games

This Stormtrooper is so cute! Aww.  One of the things I really like about RPGs and MMOs is how the games pull on our emotions.  Anything from anger and frustration, to sadness and concern.  To me, one of the best ways to provide and immersible experience is to relate to players on levels that are real for them.  Emotions do this beautifully.

A few days ago I watched a video (contains spoilers!) showing a cut scene from Gears of War 2.  I wont dive deep into details in order to avoid spoiling a very powerful moment for anyone who actually cares about the game.  I played GoW but now that I no longer have a roomie with an xbox 360, my desire and ability to play console games has all but diminished.  However this scene really struck a chord with me.  I am usually a sponge for the emotions around me so its not surprising that I almost felt the pain of this scene as I watched it.

I wrote a few days ago about an experience I had in ME2 during the Tali Loyalty Mission.  This isnt really a spoiler but the little laptop that I watched in game showed a mother Quarian giving her final farewells to her child before screaming “I Love You’s” and being shot down by Geth.  It was so creepy and terrifying that I actually found myself angry and wanting revenge for the innocent mother.  You can read about it here.

These two moments really got me thinking about how useful emotions can be when making a gaming experience what it is.  Those moments of fear when enemy players are charging you, the adrenaline pumping as members of your party die as a boss is nearly finished off, or even those small moments where a smaller player throws out the /cry emote as you charge to gank.  It all pushes on emotional triggers that aim towards making the experience more real for the individual.

I am currently leveling up my priest in World of Warcraft.  I happen to be working out of the Coldera region of Borean Tundra.  For anyone not familiar with the quest chains, you follow a story figuring out what is happening to the region and finally end with a scene of Keristrasza (a dragon companion) being captured and taken by Malygos.  Keristrasza is a good helpful dragon that has her will bent by Malygos and eventually is defeated by you in the end of the Nexus Dungeon.  The story is almost heart breaking and makes the final Nexus battle all the more interesting.  Essentially you must kill your companion through Coldera in order to free her from Malygos’s will.  A mercy killing.  I am not one for reading much quest text but I am glad I did here as it made Nexus so much more interesting in the end.  I actually felt really bad during the fight having to put her down.

Humor is a huge one.  If you have not played Mass Effect 2, then you should.  The game has tons of humor that has had me laughing for minutes.  I don’t think a single person can claim that when you laugh, you are not enjoying yourself.  Make a player laugh and they will in turn have a more positive experience in your game.  Do I always want to be laughing? No. I like my angry and sad moments too.  The mix of emotional queues in Mass Effect 2 is nothing short of brilliant.

Its not all about quests and cut scenes, although they really help.  Music is another huge stimulant or depressant to a scene or experience while playing a game.  The right music at the right time can absolutely change how you interpret a scene or area. Notice how combat sequences in games pick up the tempo and intensity.  This adds to the adrenaline rush.  Ever listened to something faster paced during pvp?  How about slower tempos with calming melodies? Its strange but I have more fun pvping to fast music but tend to get pissed off more quickly than when I listen to calming songs.  Desolace region in WoW is a great example.  People hate that place and regard it as one of the most boring areas of the game.  Besides being a desolate waste of bad quests, the music also contributes to this.  You wont find a more boring melody that drudges along in the game.  Throw on some Coheed and Cambria and I bet that zone wont feel nearly as bad.

Crafting emotional queues in games is becoming some what of an art form.  Those games that pluck them really resonate with players.  Take Biowares Mass Effect and KotOR series.  There are lots of reasons people claim those games are arguably some of the best single player RPG’s of all time.  Story, npc interactions, and dialogue options all have the common connection of allowing the player to express and enjoy emotional decisions and experiences.  Take out the emotion and those games would not have been nearly as successful.

MMOs that can tap into this will always be more appealing to me.  World of Warcraft has it if you look for it.  EQ2 does as well.  When looking to the future I think Guild Wars 2 and SWTOR will have it even more.  While both games have concerns from me, I do think this area of both will excel.  If they do, it will only bring us one step closer to feeling like we are really wielding magic or a lightsaber.  I think that is something we all can appreciate.

What moments really hit your emotions in a game?  How did it affect your experience? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.


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