Design through Emotion: Crafting Memorable Player Experiences

Designing games isn't just about mechanics; it's about emotion. The player's emotional journey can make or break a game. In this post, we'll explore the profound impact of designing with player emotions in mind.

The Power of Emotion in Games

Great games elicit strong emotions from players. Whether it's satisfaction, pride, tension, fear, astonishment, or joy, emotions drive player engagement. Tailoring your game's design to evoke specific emotions can enhance the player's experience.

Take "Potions: A Curious Tale" as an example. In this game, a low-level creature called a Mushdoom surprises players by popping out of the ground and chasing them. The design choices behind this creature are intentionally crafted to invoke surprise:

- Sound Design: It emits a "pop" sound like a cork, not overly scary but surprising.

- Behavior: It doesn't immediately attack, encouraging players to run without overwhelming fear.

- Visuals: The creature's animations, vocal sounds, and movement strike a balance between playful and threatening, maintaining the element of surprise without turning it into fear.

These design choices are all geared toward creating the intended emotional response in players. For instance, a gruesome, terrifying spawn sound would be counterproductive.

Satisfying Headshots in FPS Games

In first-person shooter (FPS) games, landing a headshot should feel deeply satisfying. Designing for this emotion involves multiple aspects:

- Skill Requirement: The game design should demand skill to land a headshot.

- Visual Effects (VFX): Include distinct VFX that signal a headshot.

- Audio Feedback: Incorporate impactful sound effects and perhaps even announcements for headshots.

- Recognition: Celebrate the player's achievement on a scoreboard or in replays.

Each of these design elements contributes to the player's satisfaction, aligning with the intended emotional response.

Observing Player Emotions

To create a game that resonates emotionally, closely observe playtesters. Understand the emotions your game elicits and decide whether to emphasize or adjust them. This emotion-focused perspective empowers game designers to fine-tune gameplay, UI, player interactions, and more.

A Tool for Identifying Emotions

To help you navigate the landscape of player emotions, Geoffrey Roberts' emotion word wheel serves as a valuable resource. Use it as a foundation for identifying the emotions you want your players to experience.

Designing with emotion in mind can elevate your games to new heights and inject fresh creativity into your projects. It's a simple yet powerful concept that can make a world of difference in creating memorable player experiences. So, keep those emotions in focus and design games that players will remember for years to come.