Describing Emotions For Game Design

Essay • Durham, NC • 2017
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Emotional literacy is a challenge. As designers, we often lack the language to accurately describe emotions and end up designing towards nebulous emotional outcomes as a result. We treat emotions as if they were atomic, unable to be reduced to smaller components or generalized to a set of dimensions. We end up lacking a common language through which we can discuss our emotional ambitions with teammates and colleagues.

Different theories and models of emotional experience are going to have different affordances for users. The goal here is to provide a model that affords a common language of emotions (nouns) and set of processes (verbs) for creating emotional experiences in games. The model should be simple enough for inter-disciplinary teams or students of game design to adopt its basic principles. It should accommodate context, and help us step over personal differences. It is my hope that it engenders greater levels of emotional sensitivity in designers, and leads to more compelling emotional experiences in games.