Computer Games and Emotions

Petri Lankoski

Authoritative version is published in Sageng, Fossheim & Larsen (eds.), The Philosophy of Computer Games, Springer, pp. 39–55,  DOI=10.1007/978-94-007-4249-9_4.

Introduction

An intriguing question in the philosophy of fiction is on how can we be moved by the fates of the fictional characters or how we fear a fictional monster? This question, in the context of literature and film, has been addressed, for example, by Lamarque (2004/1981), Carroll (1990, pp. 61–96), and Walton (1990, pp. 240–289). This same question is relevant in the context of computer games: how can players be afraid in the game events when obviously, for example, a monster in a horror game cannot threaten the players?

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Computer Games and Emotions

Update 2012/08/30:  the full text is available on my blog.

I have a chapter about emotions in computer games in The Philosophy of Computer Games book. Here the abstract of the chapter:

How players experience games emotionally is the central question in this essay. The answer varies and depends on the game. Yet, most of the actions in games are goal-driven. Cognitive emotion theories propose that goal status appraisals and emotions are connected, and this connection is used to formulate how goal-driven engagement works in the games. For example, fear is implied when the player’s goal of keeping the player character alive is under threat. This goal-driven engagement is not enough to explain all the emotions involved in gameplay. Empathy, reacting emotionally to an emotional expression is a potential source of emotions in character-based games. As such, the visual beauty of the environment and character can be pleasurable. Lastly, sounds and music can modulate the emotions of the player. For example, loud and fast music tend to correlate with emotions with high arousal. The emotional experience of playing is an amalgam of these different sources. Importantly, the emotional experience is not straightforwardly caused by the game but it depends on the players’ appraisal of the situation in the game.

In: J.R. Sageng et al. (eds.), The Philosophy of Computer Games, DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-4249-9_4.

The book contains following essays:

  1. Sageng et al:  General introduction
  2. Larsen: Introduction to Part I (Players and Play)
  3. Klevjer: Enter the Avatar
  4. Lankoski: Computer Games and Emotions
  5. Leino: Untangling Gameplay: An Account of Experience, Activity and Materiality within Computer Game Play
  6. Calleja: Erasing the Magic Circle
  7. Fossheim: Introduction to Part II (Play and Ethics)
  8. Sicart: Digital Games as Ethical Technologies
  9. Spence: Virtual Rape, Real Dignity
  10. Reynolds: Ethics and Practice in Virtual Worlds
  11. Briggle: The Ethics of Computer Games: a Character Approach
  12. Sageng: Introduction to part III (Games and Game Worlds)
  13. Tavinor: Videogames and Fictionalism
  14. Meskin and Robson: Fiction and fictional worlds in  Videogames
  15. Sageng: In-Game Action
  16. Asheim: Reality, Pretence and the Ludic Parenthesis
  17. Coppock: Are Computer Games Real?

Player Character Engagement in Computer Games

My paper Player Character Engagement in Computer Games was accepted to Games and Culture. Here is the abstract:

This article argues how players can control a player character influence interpretation and facilitate engagement within a game. Engagement with player characters can be goal-related or empathic, where goal-related engagement depends on affects elicited by goal-status evaluations whereas characters facilitate empathic engagement. The concepts of recognition, alignment, and allegiance are used to describe how engagement is structured in games. Recognition describes aspects of character interpretation. Alignment describes what kind of access players have to a character’s actions, knowledge, and affects. Allegiance describes how characters elicit sympathy or antipathy through positive or negative evaluation of the character.