Been meaning to publish this for some time. It is an essay I wrote recently about the emotional realism in computer games…
“While photorealistic animation and gaming visuals offer a graphic realism, in what ways have contemporary titles such as Half Life 2 (Valve, 2004) succeeded or failed in expressing an emotional realism?”
Computer games have achieved many realistic effects and are constantly improving each and every day as they continue to define and push new technology to its limits. Game developers have already acquired the skills enabling them to create photorealistic environments, characters and experiences in game worlds but how do they successfully create emotion? There are a number of ways emotion can be expressed in a game; the most obvious is through storyline. However, other effective techniques are more subtle and can be created within the character design, the environments, animations, audio and how the player portrays the game world as a whole. To explore this question I will be looking at the series of games created by Lorne Lanning at Oddworld Inhabitants, Abe’s Oddysee (GT Interactive Software, 1997), Abe’s Exoddus (GT Interactive Software, 1998), Munch’s Oddysee (Microsoft Games, 2001) and Strangers Wrath (Electronic Arts, 2005), with particular focus on Abe’s Oddysee. While looking at these games, as well as a number of other references, I will explore the different aspects of the game design and look at how they trigger different emotions within us as a player.
Emotion is an important factor in good game design as it makes the player believe in what is happening and feel involved with the events that occur during game play. It helps give the feeling of urgency and reinforces the actions in which the game is instructing us to take. The Oddworld games are an incredibly popular series. I believe a huge contributing factor to their success is the way they invite the player into the unique game world.
Emotional Triggers in Game Characters
Characters are often an important part of a game and being able to relate to the characters, especially the main playable characters, is essential. A number of conscious design decisions have been made for all of the Oddworld characters with close consideration to their roles in each of the games. The most widely known character is Abe the Mudokon, the main character for the first two games; Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus. I will use Abe as my example as I discuss the character design aspects and how they enforce emotion upon us.