Deconstructing Artificial Emotions

A while ago, Daniel Cook wrote a game design article about how to provoke artificial emotions in players. His suggestion: give players a physiological nudge somehow, raising their heart rate, getting their adrenaline going, and then provide contextual cues about what emotion they should be experiencing at the time. And apparently, the players will be tricked into thinking they're actually experiencing the emotion you've set up.

Are all emotions are artificial?

I don't know, but I have noticed some interesting patterns through my own introspection.

Anger and sadness and frustration and despair, before they solidify into these emotions, start out as an indistinct feeling of tension inside. It is possible to focus on this tension before it is nudged - by my own assumptions and expectations - into one of these negative emotions.

The thing to remember is that the tension is all internal, in my own mind, and not somewhere outside in anyone else or any thing.

At the point where I notice this tension, before it becomes a full-blown, directed emotion, instead of reflexively reacting to it, fighting and getting defensive, I can listen to the motivations behind it. This is empathy. It's a lot like Aikido, except with emotions instead of physical attacks.

First of all, I can think of what expectation or fear or desire or need is causing this tension that I feel, and then, even further, I can think about what need or tension is behind the other person's actions or speech if another person is involved. Maybe this will help me resolve the tension or at least let it pass through me without escalating into something bigger.

One thing that sometimes helps me dissipate dangerous levels of tension safely is to listen to very fast, energetic music while lying down with my eyes closed. After a while, I can transition to more calm, repetitive music while I try to empty my mind of the assumptions and beliefs that are directing my tension outward.

Those who can maintain their composure and relaxed attitude even in difficult situations have probably mastered this ability to release internal tension before it manifests as emotion.

1 comment:

Danik said...

Interesting post! You might be interested in the book Creating Emotion in Games: The Craft and Art of Emotioneering by David Freeman.

Im really enjoying your posts on game design, keep it up!