The Creativity of Emotion in Game Designing

From left to right, Katherine Isbister, Professor of Computational Media, and Frank Lantz, Director of the NYU Game Center. Photo taken by Daniel Figueroa.

From left to right, Katherine Isbister, Professor at the University of California, and Frank Lantz, Director of the NYU Game Center. Photo taken by Daniel Figueroa.

* This weekly lecture took place on April, 14, 2016.

Part of the imminent downfall of Generation Y, the stereotype of video games and gamers seems to have been focus of violence since the 1980’s.Too often we hear stories of shootings fueled by video game violence, youth deaths caused by obsessive playing and game induced rage the result of murder.  These instances may have an effect on children and future generations of techsavvies.

Katherine Isbister is a professor in the Department of Computational Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is a core faculty member in the Center for Games and Playable Media. Isbister is here to discuss her book, “How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design.” This lecture shares insights from her new book aimed at bridging this opening, toward raising the quality of public conversations about games and their artistic influence.

“From the beginning, people working in games has been interested in emotion. And trying to figure out on how to create different kinds of feelings in people through gameplay.” said Isbister. Emotion in gaming is a key innovation for game designers and how it shape how players feel. Isbister states,  “In the swooning years, games, managed to absorb cinematic techniques and start to work them[the consumers] in interested  experiences that also involve gameplays so you think of series like Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, you know maybe even Metal Gear Solid.”

For years, researchers have analyzed the emotional effect of film, while the videogame industry has been largely ignored as non-emotive interactively. Katharine Isbister poses the question, “Why should games be any different than Television sitcoms?”

Isbister discusses the negative stereotype surrounding games and to open up public conversation up to a more sophisticated approach to videogames as a cultural medium like Television. Isbister states when Television first came out, families were flocking to TV screens than going  to watch live plays at theaters. Isbister says, “But there is certainly a synergy in the censuses happening. When television first came out, people did these live, in essential, live theater plays. And ran them on television and you would have to watch and for a  certain set hours and would be sponsor by Kraft or someone and it would be film just , you, know it you would, at a live theater and you look sitcom TV today, it still some elements or that live theater experience.” says Isbister.

Isbister does not define games as a whole. The huge variety of games are not merely computer games, Isbister differentiates games but does not attempt to define it. Isbister is focusing on the causal individual thought on certain games within sub genres while recognizing the subjectivity of her question. “Is that really a game or is that like a narrative simulator?” Isbister asks.  Isbister provides an answer that training society in critical thinking is a good idea to understanding a game designer’s point of view.

Isbister positions the issue as complex, “I think part of the problem too is that we not being train as a society to think in complex ways about games as a medium. People need to know how to be literal about the media forms around them and to be able to unpack them and to be understand them from a design point of view. To figure out how they impact them emotionally and how to work with them, not just as player or consumer of media but also as a creator of media.”

Researching further into the simulated world of gaming, Isbister also considers how certain games create strong emotional links between players, their avatars, non-player characters (NPCs), and social connections among players in online games. It is because the avatar is the actuality person for the player. It is a suit the player puts on and can actually act through.

Katherine Isbister’s “How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design.” is available to purchase.