There is an old but good article on MSNBC on Bringing Emotion to Video Games. It can be accessed by clicking here.
David Freeman is interviewed in the article and his book ‘Emotion in Games’ has a lot of great pointers for game developers to understand writing techniques which help develop player empathy for characters and emotional investment in the gameplay. There’s no doubt that David is one of the leaders in this field, although my feeback from film writers is that the techniques he discusses are very basic writing pointers indeed. But games are in a much earlier state of evolution than films and I think any attempt to deepen the experience of gameplay is worthwhile. David explains it here:
Most game designers started as programmers, testers and sometimes visual artists,” said Freeman. “So none of these people have a background in sophisticated story telling.
Also mentioned in the article is the pioneering game Facade which we have frequently mentioned in classes and public seminars exploring the future potential of games and storytelling. The game has to be downloaded and installed on your PC to play but it is well worth it. You find yourself at the apartment door of two friends you haven’t seen for years, Trip and Grace. Once you enter the apartment it is apparent that there are tensions between Trip and Grace that threaten to burst to the surface at any moment. It’s up to you to either bring it on or to broker a reconciliation. If you don’t do this sensitively enough you are promptly thrown out. The character engagement in this game is a huge leap over anything else and in a world (real and virtual) dominated by first person shooters it is a glimpse into emerging genres of games we can only dream about. While Facade is pretty rough graphically it is a great example of a game that is emotionally engaging.
Trip and Grace from Facade