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Emotionally Complex Moments and Situations Techniques for Game Development

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David Freeman discusses ways to put the game player in the middle of emotionally complex moments and situations.

Emotioneering Techniques Category #15

You just got a promotion. You call your best friend to share the news flash on your upwardly mobile ecstasy—but before you can even squeak out one gleeful, artificially modest yet subtly self-congratulatory news flash, he hits you with a bombshell: His wife is leaving him.

You can't share your good news. It would be insensitive, and maybe even cruel.

This is an emotionally complex moment. Life is full of such moments. Movies are full of them. Television shows are full of them. Even the best comic books are full of them.

They are far too scarce in games.

When it comes to emotionally complex moments and situations, if these other art and entertainment forms are giant redwoods, games are still bonsai trees. Isn't it time for these interactive, emotional shrubs to gain a little altitude so they can go one-on-one with the giant Sequoias of film and television?

While there are a vast number of potentially emotionally complex moments and situations, let's focus in on a few choice techniques.

You Are Forced to Do Potential Evil

In our first game example, you're the leader of a rebel force, fighting against a tyrannical, planetary government. Your forces have been decimated. Your only hope for survival is to resurrect an ancient and banned practice—using a disturbing mixture of sorcery and mechanics to build and bring to life a monster that can save you and your band of rebels.

However, there's no predicting the monster's actions. You know the creature will also be capable of great harm, yet you have no choice. The creature is your only chance for survival, and the only chance for the survival of your fellow rebels.

Yes, as the game progresses, the monster will save you. But later it will establish its own agenda—just as such monsters did in a previous era, which is why they were banned. When the monster turns on some innocents, to protect them you'll be forced to fight it. This new foe, which you have created, is much worse than the enemies you built it to destroy.

Even as you were building the mechanical beast, you knew this was likely to happen. That's why creating it was an Emotionally Complex Situation.

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