To create more emotion in innovative future games, we at XEODesign want to know more
about the role of emotion in games and identify ways to create emotion other than story cutscenes.
In improving over 40 million Player Experiences during twelve years of research and
design we have seen people get angry, excited, and on occasion even cry. These reactions
make us wonder how many emotions do games create? What makes failing 80% of the time
fun? Do people play to feel emotions as well as challenge? If emotions are important to play,
where do they come from? Do people modify games to feel differently? Is it possible to build
emotions into games by adding emotion-producing objects or actions to game play rather than
cut scenes? To what extent are game developers already doing this?
Pioneers in Player Experience Research and Design methods XEODesign conducted an
independent cross-genre research study on why people play games and identified over thirty
emotions coming from gameplay rather than story. Our results revealed that people play
games not so much for the game itself as for the experience the game creates: an adrenaline
rush, a vicarious adventure, a mental challenge; or the structure games provide, such as a
moment of solitude or the company of friends. People play games to create moment-tomoment
experiences, whether they are overcoming a difficult game challenge, seeking relief
from every-day worries, or pursuing what Hal Barwood calls simply "the joy of figuring it out.”
We were curious about what could be said of all computer and video games and what, other
than story, triggers emotions. What types of internal and external experiences (inside and
outside a player’s head) do players appreciate and expect from games? We wanted to learn
what adult players thought made good game experiences, after all, not all games with good
graphics and advanced features are fun. A game’s value proposition is how it makes its
customers think and feel. We wanted to observe how popular games deliver these
experiences, and consider how to do it better.
To answer these questions XEODesign conducted a research study with 15 hardcore gamers,
15 casual gamers, plus 15 non-players. We looked for clues in what happened before, during,
and after play. We considered theory from pertinent psychological studies. We went off in
search of emotion and found Four Keys to releasing emotions during play.