Emotion in Gaming – Part 1 – Group Consensus

This is Part 1 of a Series on Emotion in Gaming. You can see the rest of this series here:

As I stated in my introduction, I believe emotions to be the biggest factors in our lives. Emotions guide our thoughts, motivate us, and can alter our minds in truly illogical patterns: love can make some turn away from another to protect them, but the other party winds up getting hurt even greater than they would have, mutual hatred can breed friendship, and vice versa, etc.

This then reveals that the most meaningful games we play must touch on our emotions and evoke some kind of response. But what that response is, exactly, will differ wildly from group to group.

Evoking bad emotions for enjoyment is not a new concept. Horror and Romantic media has been doing it since the outset. The Greek Tragedy/Comedy is the basis of all modern storytelling and yet half of that coin leaves the audience feeling sad. Yet people sometimes choose to experience these forms of media so it is clear that people seek out these emotions in their entertainment.

But there is nothing worse than watching a sad movie when you do not want to be sad or a comedy when you want nothing more than to cry. Emotional media should fit your target emotion. Same goes for RPGs.

GMs must talk to their players about what sorts of emotions they would like to explore during their campaigns and games. Further, a GM should be able to pick up on the moods of his or her players. Whilst a degree in psychology would drastically help, it is not required, but a level of empathy is. If something seems to go too far, or the players seem to be actively not enjoying themselves, then make sure you as the GM have some opposing emotional curve balls to throw at them.

It is also important to talk about taboos. What can the game touch on? What is forbidden? This is very important, as everyone has experiences outside of the game, and particularly harsh ones can encroach on the mind when certain imagery is evoked during a game. Was someone the players know hurt in a particular way? Were they hurt? If you mention a situation that is similar (make sure it is only similar and not actually based off of said event!) will it be to real and confronting?

These are important issues to address at the outset of a campaign.

Make sure you talk to your players and discover what they want emotionally from your game, and what you can and can’t do to evoke said emotions.
I hope to talk to you again soon,

Ben Scerri