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Balthazar Auger

AJV @ ENJMIN - ThatGameCompany

ENJMIN1 min read

This week, a little bit of our precious crunch time is being devoted to attending a series of conferences held at our school. These conferences, dubbed “Les Ateliers du Jeu Vidéo” – The Videogame Workshop were organized by all-around cool guy Jean-Michel Blottière. I’ll attempt to report on some of them.

Today, the conference was held by Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago via video conference. They talked about how to elicit emotion in games centered around the development of their current experimental game, “flower”.

Seeing as video games are a form of entertainment, they are thus defined as a response to the human hunger for “feeling”. Films use a collection of visual and auditive stimuli to elicit emotions, and it’s emotional grammar is well known.

Games involve your eyes, your ears but also your hands. Interaction is the major component in any game, and thus reset all we knew about eliciting emotion. The video game grammar is still mostly unwritten. Coming from the video games department of a film school, Jenova and Kellee are yet acutely aware that games need to separate themselves from the methods used in film.

Flower, their latest project, slated to be released on the PSN, is an example of this ongoing experimentation. They set out to create an environment where the player feels safe to experiment with his own joy and sense of wonder. What is the emotion elicited by a rolling, infinite flower field?

Throughout production, many different prototypes revolved around the subject. Test groups said they felt their skills weren’t being tested, that the game wasn’t “fun”. But they soon realized that fun wouldn’t be compatible with the goal they set out for. And is fun really important to a video game? Early film was all about simple emotions, elicited by the sole power of the moving images; then, audiences evolved and asked for a wider emotional gamut. Games, then, can’t limit themselves to being fun just for the sake of it.

Instead, they should explore beyond fun to find and elicit new kinds of emotions.

Very inspiring intervention, just like Kellee’s speech at this year’s GDC, which I had attended. I feared that she would repeat the subject, good thing I underestimated her! Please check out their video below:

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