The Four Keys Revisited - Emotion and Games

aleaiactaest.jpg I don't always agree with what Chris Bateman has to say over at his Only A Game, but I generally find his (occasional) lengthy commentary on video games to be quite interesting. This week, he was tackling some aspects of Nicole Lazzaro's Four Keys model, which has to do with "unlocking" emotion in games without relying on story (a popular subject, to be sure). It's a lengthy piece, but pretty fascinating if you're interested in game design, regardless of whether you agree with his conclusions or not. Bateman frequently seems concerned with the divide between casual gamers and what he terms 'gamer hobbyists' (that would be the more dedicated market) and how it impacts the industry:

As the videogames industry reaches further and further into the mass market, the old assumptions become less and less useful. Publishers who expect to reach a casual market must abandon to some extent their employees' traditional assumptions of what constitutes a videogame, which almost without exception consists of said employees projecting their personal play preferences for competitive play onto a wider audience who may not share this bias ....

Understanding emotions of play is a crucial new aspect of game design, which goes hand-in-hand with understanding the diversity of play styles. The sooner the games industry wakes up to this commercial reality, the sooner we can achieve a more stable base to the market.

There's certainly been plenty of theoretical and downright fantastical mulling on the subject of designers evoking emotion without falling back on cinematic techniques or storytelling, but the "four keys" (and subsequent responses) is a reasonably practical and applicable framework for designing better games.

Emotions of Play Revisited [Only A Game]


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