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Emotions and Game Development

Friday, 18 Dec 2015

People who are related to game development or a bit familiar with it often ask questions like "what makes the game the way it is?" or "how can I make a good game?" or "why does nobody like my game?". We suppose that answers to these issues are quite similar. It's all about feelings that player experience while playing one game or another. At the same time, main emotions any addictive game should trigger are excitement and interest. Today, Program-Ace company would like to talk about feelings of a specific target audience and why it's so important to pay attention to a mental stage of a player.

Feel the Rush

Gamers emotionsIt takes skills and imagination to create a fascinating game that can make a player interested in a game he's playing not only once, but over some period of time. It can be achieved using two different techniques and accordingly attract different audiences. First, you can create a game using a well-known concept but it should be improved and extended with your own ideas. Besides, the player should not get a clue of what is going to happen with the main character in the end. So, basically, it's the major concern of a game developer - to create a gameplay with an unexpected ending.  In this case, the user understands gameplay partly or completely, however, excited about his future in the game.

The second approach is based on a novelty. Here you need to invent the whole new concept that hadn't been seen before. The task of a game creator here is to develop the conception of an adventure and think carefully about all little details. Then users will be interested in this new entertainment, as well as excited about its capabilities. Thus, these two emotions, or better to say feelings, - excitement and interest - determines the quality of the game.

Besides these criteria, the game could also be judged upon availability and quality of semantic content. It's not just about pure sensation game like football simulation, but articulate and meaningful content. It, basically, introduces the main idea of the game and its implementation. It can be a story or point of view, description or characters, etc. By the way, the one who specializes in the area of semantic content creation, is called a narrative designer. These professionals focus mainly on development of narrative elements of the adventure, and also changes and improvement of the story during the whole development process.   

Know the Player

How many times did you hear statements like "Our target audience is everyone" or "Our audience is as broad as it could be"? We bet a lot. However, ones who say so are lying or have absolutely no idea about the game development itself. Designing a game for a specific target audience is one of the most significant things in a successful game creation process. In some game development studios, the team gathers and creates a portrait of the perfect player. They discuss and determine this person's gender, age, mental abilities, job and salary, marital status, education, personal qualities, etc. Of course, this description is very generalized, for example ‘a 26-27 years old man who likes thrillers and monster movies, has a stable job at the bank and earns approximately $4000 a month, who has a wife and two kids and is desperate to do something for himself only' will be glad to distract his thoughts and definitely like your new strategy about saving the world from a zombie-apocalypse.

Why is it so important to generalize the audience? Because only when a development team can picture the player it can predict his expectations and feelings about the game. For instance, a person who likes to read fantasy and watch 'Lord of the Rings' will expect a lot of magic and adventures from the game of his dream.

Besides, haven't we told you before that game development is all about emotions? How are you planning to help your player feel interested and excited about the game without picturing the player himself? You are right, in no way. Every good dame developer knows that to meet user's expectation you need to predict the behavior and emotional state of the future audience.

Building Emotions

Let's pay a bit more attention to how to encourage people to experience the criteria that allow to figure out how good or bad an actual game is. In order to explain the process of emotions constructing more clearly, let us set a very easy example. Picture yourself in a preparation stage for 'Meet the Parents' nightmare, who are going to visit you in a short time. Your better half has surely told you everything you need to know to impress them. You are going to wear special clothes, cook dishes with strange names and put away your favorite old sweater. And, of course, you will be talking about golf with father and praise mother's dress. In this way, you will create a welcoming atmosphere and parents will feel like they belong. It's one of the approaches to construct the feelings and meet someone's expectation, just in case of game development there are more people you need to impress.

On the one hand, it could be easy for game developers to satisfy audience’s needs since they can create the whole new world. However, despite the fact that game creators generalize players, they basically have no knowledge of who, when and why will be playing the game and have to foresee the behavior of potential users.  

And the most difficult task here is to make the game the way it will force the player to experience emotions that game creators wait from him. Developers have to decide carefully what kind of emotions they expect players to feel. It can be anger, ardor, happiness, anxiety, fright, delight or all of them together.

Let's take anxiety as an example and see how to create an appropriate atmosphere. First, think about that generalized person, a man who is saving the Earth from zombies, and what to do to make him feel worried and excited. In such strategy where a player needs to defend the planet (or city, or building, or something else) from a threat (monsters, aliens, zombies, terrorists, etc.) there is always a main character (a hero) who eventually gets the work done. To decompose the feeling of anxiety to the physiological level, we have to put this hero in real danger. Make game environment more dangerous than it already is. Create sounds of growing risk (make the world around quieter, use sharp sound), make an atmosphere as more intense as possible (deserted corridors with unexpected traps) when it's impossible to look away because a player has to concentrate his attention on a game to win it. In addition, limit the time of the mission and number of retries, so there will be no time to think or hesitate. Besides, you can play with color and surroundings, for example, use bright flashes or explosions, and change the conditions of a game. All of this will challenge the player and make him feel tension, concentration and anxiety.

That's how game developers form particular emotions in players' hearts and minds. It's impossible to build an 'emotional map' for every individual; however, this should be enough for average people in your target audience. Just think of these people as you think of yourself, figure out how to make you laugh or scared and do the same in a game.

What's In The End

Once you decided on an emotional matrix and how to implement it in life, it's time to build up the feelings, make them completed, ensure they are in harmony with each other, provide transitions between particular emotions, live open questions and so on. In some cases, you can include unexpected feeling, for example, everybody was happy on a farm, and then a wolf suddenly came and ate all the chickens; in some games, there is no such need. In the field of games, developers rule the world; they decide the destiny of a character and a player; they make a game exciting, interesting and addictive.

If you feel that constructing emotions can be hard for you or your team, ask for professional help. Program-Ace is a crew of professional experts with significant experience in the field of game development, and we are ready to assist you in any possible way. Check out our portfolio to see recent works and explore feelings we put in there for yourself.   

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