Emotional Content

edited October 2011 in Story Games
I'm trying to take something from one of the recent "Orcs = Indians" threads and remove it from the rather charged context, because there is something I'm really interested in here - the emotional investment of players and how that relates to their characters.
Posted By: TomasHVMI amfeeding the players interactionwith elements that are volatile, laden, provocative or shocking, to have the players experience that the situations are hard to control, and choices hard to make. And when choices are made, I follow up with consequences that makes the world come alive around them.

This... is working the imaginative field, deepening the theme and strengthening the conflicts, by simple and effective means. The players never have any reason to doubt my intentions. I will support their characters in scenes of harmony, in dealing with their everyday life, to make it easy to build a social base for their personality. But I will challenge their characters in scenes of conflict, to see how their personalities plays up in crisis. Through the characters, I will also strive to challenge the players themselves.

The point is to make players engage in the game, and to have them produce an emotional content that is in support of the game theme.
I long for this particular sort of player engagement the way a pig longs not to be bacon. What are some techniques that don't feel like tricks for bringing this about?


  • edited October 2011
    I have a blog project I (infrequently) post to about this very subject. It's sort of gaming philosophy I call "Play Passionately". This article is sort of a summary of the whole thing:


    Free free to poke around the other articles. If it's the sort of thing you're talking about, I'd be happy to answer any questions about my views.

  • edited October 2011
    Read your article, Jesse, and it's really great! I love what you are saying on "pushing the characters agenda with no certainty". You go a long way in showing how that opens up the imaginative field for emotional content. These are really good observations, matching my experience closely. I see that you have gone deeper in analyzing this theme than I have, even though I've been mulling over it for decades. You way of putting this together, examining and explaining it, is very, very good. Well spoken!
  • I agree, great article, but I would draw it back to literary roots a bit more. In a mystery or adventure novel or film, the capability of the main character is normally what's in question. I mean, what's Miss Marple's agenda? To catch the killer. But everyone's lying and got something to hide, so can she? (Spoiler alert: Yes.)

    So games in which you go on adventures or solve mysteries are often about capability, and the infinitely different sorts of capability or incapability someone can have. If you're looking at more straightforward forms of drama, Jesse is right that capability isn't really the main showpiece and systems that focus on it aren't a good match.
  • Posted By: JDCorleygames in which you go on adventures or solve mysteries are often about capability
    How come you bundle adventures together with mysteries?

    And are you sure the mystery-genre is so very different, in role-playing games?
  • edited October 2011
    @Jesse: that essay was awesome. I'm not sure I agree with all of it (though I do with most of it), but more importantly it was super well written, unpretentious, succinct, and approachable for someone like me who isn't up to par with most the the lingo used to discuss story games nowadays. Great job, and thanks for writing it!
  • Posted By: TomasHVMHow come you bundleadventurestogether with mysteries?
    Because their literary antecedents are often about capability?
    Posted By: TomasHVMAnd are you sure the mystery-genre is so very different, in role-playing games?
    I just said it wasn't?
  • This sounds pretty close to the Bang idea, in that you're presented with a situation in which you must engage and have to make a decision. I usually find that engagement comes from valuing the players' creative input and one of the ways you can do this is to give them choices which have consequences which clearly depend on the choice.
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