top of page

Games create emotions

How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design di Katherine Isbister

Katherine Isbister. How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design

An author is effective when a potentially complex and "niche" subject he deals with becomes attractive and interesting for any reader. The magic of How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design by Katherine Isbister lies precisely in the extreme readability, as well as in the journey she proposes. A book of just over 100 pages you should not to miss, whether you are a video game writer or just a fan. The "emotional decomposition" of the videogame, from the most basic to the most complex form, from single player to multiplayer, is the main purpose of the book and makes it an enchanting retroactive analysis tool.

Who is the author?

Katherine Isbister is a researcher of the interaction between humans and artificial intelligence, as well as video games and game theory. She is a professor at the Department of Computational Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and she also directs the Center for Computational Experience. After a PhD from Stanford University she works in Sweden, Japan, Denmark, working for clients such as Microsoft, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and many others. Her fields of study: the man / machine relationship, social connection through the video game and, of course, the potential emotion of interactive fictions.

Emotional Design

It took me a while to write this post on Scenarios. It is an accurate, extensive essay, and it is not a cookbook of theories, but a vantage point on the virtual entertainment industry. An eye on the scripts, characters and even hardware that have evolved along with gamers' behavior. Never obsessively scientific nor superficial. In short, it is very important essay to me as a writer. Her research into emotions starts from board games, exploring the most basic mechanisms of identification as found in Train, the role-playing game in which we are called to move trains to a final destination revealed only at the end, Auschwitz, leading to the player a small dose of critical thinking through a not-so-tiny epiphany; the author also debates on graphic or narrative adventures that can excite with very few technical tools available, such as Cart Life, defining some of the keys to the creation of an NPC (non-player character) that makes us empathize with. The journey continues with the world of online multiplayer and with the increasing customization of our avatars, like in City of Heroes, which boasted a huge fandom with an almost infinite lore, entirely conceived by its players who lived, loved and suffered through the whole game itself. The social play, now not only a genre but a coordinate for all software houses that have understood the potential of connection between players, is a central theme of the whole essay. The birth of the personalization of our alter-ego opened the doors even more to what we would call our "self-recognition" in a game that we play (by the way: what kind of players do you think you are?). The Sims teaches it too. In the second part of the book, Katherine Isbister cites new types of controls, from motion-generated feedback with Nintendo's WiiMotes to more unknown experiments, such as the PainStation, a console that... I leave you the surprise. All with the big magnifying glass of the player's emotion and the ways inventors and programmers found to create interaction and affection. The last part, the one I prefer, is a "harvest" of what the author sown throughout the book: possible collaboration and democratization in the gaming network through positive emotions. I don't want to go further, get this book, it's very easy to find.

Look other categories:


bottom of page