GENE on Design | A design blog from Digital Dreams lead designer Geert "Gene" Nellen
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In the meanwhile, I've done a lot of research into themes in games and narrativity. Mostly "evoking"' certain emotions with game design or touching new themes. There are a lot of theories for other media to quickly evoke specific feelings, making it easier to give the consumer a certain feeling. There have been many, many studies and experiences with techniques to achieve a high level of emotional engagement By using everything at hand and using it over and over again, media like film has become very effective in doing this. Theory can be boiled down to the simplest of things. For instance we all know in design that blue is calm/cold, red is love/ jealousy/ anger, black is evil and white is good (in western society). I have studied a lot of screenplay and visual language. This language, which we created over time in film / animation (even comics have their own vocabulary, which is nicely displayed in "Understanding Comics"), is something we all understand. Western society grows up with this language resulting in that it doesn't take any effort to understand if somebody walks out one door, and the camera cuts to another room and the actor walks in again, it is the same actor and the same door and he just walked to the next room. We understand the language perfectly and for film makers it's a handy set of rules. We know what camera angles, music or editing does with feelings of the consumer. But what height should Mario jump in other to make the player feel sorry for him? Or happy? Does his jump height has an influence on how we feel for Mario? I think so, and I think the player doesn't necessarily feels sorry for him, losing his princess.

For an industrial design studio from Eindhoven, we had a school assignment to make an audio game for their  interactive game machine aptly named "SoundSteps", aimed at children. Soundsteps is a device with a wireless speaker connected to 10 mobile pads which the player can lay on the ground and move around throughout the room. The machine registers when a player steps on one of the pads and can play a sound. The assignment was to invent a couple of new games for the device.

The Soundsteps

We came up with a humongous number of concepts, and when presented to the client, they choose "Piratenavontuur" (Pirate Adventure). Piratenavontuur is basically a funny, story-driven adventure. The player has to successfully work his way through several mini-games and branching story paths as a freshly arrived pirate. At first I wasn't bothered that much with the entire concept and device. It looked like a simple design compared to the complex design matter I was into. But along the way, something really interesting happened when playtesting the first prototypes. When the pirate characters in the game told the players to take off their shoes, the kids immediately took them off. At one moment in dialogue, one character told the other to step to the right, the kids thought they had to, and they moved to the right as well. While we didn't intend to have players act outside of the game, the kids went along and did it anyway. It was an immense amount of fun seeing the players act along!