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A Cognitive Psychological Approach to Gameplay Emotions

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As David Freeman wrote at the beginning of "Creating Emotion in Games", the subject of emotion in games is a new continent and an almost uncharted one [2004 : 8]. Starting to map the whole territory, I did distinguish elsewhere three types of emotion in video games [Perron, 2004]. Following Ed S. Tan’s study of narrative film [1996], I’ve referred to fiction emotions (emotions rooted in the fictional world and the concerns addressed by that world) and artefact emotions (emotions which arise from concerns related to the artefact, as well as stimulus characteristics based on those concerns). Then, evidently considering the specificity of video games, I’ve talked about gameplay emotions (emotions that arise from the gamer’s actions in the game-world and the consequent reactions of this world). In order to put forward some approaches to those gameplay emotions, this paper will once more rely on philosophical and psychological film theories. For instance, the curiosity theory of Noël Carroll, an object-oriented emotional state developed regarding the monster of the horror genre [1990], is relevant since the video game involves what is literally a play of ratiocination. The «drama of corridors» that Carroll talks about at one point [1990 : 38] applies quite well to the maze structure of video game adventures and the bodily kinaesthetic engagement of the experience of exploration. As for Ed S. Tan’s interest theory [1996], it focusses the attention around the emotional response to the character(s), namely the avatar in a video game, and the investigation of/in the game-world. While the interest in plot structures is not the main concern in games, the notion of action is at the core of our ludic engagement. The emphasis on the fact that emotions are action tendencies [as defined by Frijda, 1986] allows to clearly distinguish film from game and define the main emotional appeal of the 10th art. There is indeed a big difference between a film viewer witnessing a character being stalked by a monster and the possible actions the gamer can make his/her avatar take in the same situation. Depending on the way the gamer copes with it, the situation will be experienced differently (from which the reference to gameplay emotion as opposed to game emotions that would only stress the production from the game and not the singular experiences of the gamers). Then, insofar as the duration of emotions is measured in seconds or minutes, while the playing of a game last for hours, the mood-cues approach of Greg Smith becomes a great tool to analyse video games. For Smith, mood is the primary set of orienting emotions states that can be elicit by various cues. It orients us toward experiencing specific emotions [2003 : 38]. The fearful mood of the survival horror puts for example the gamer in emotional alert and prepares him/her to experience burst of fear. There is certainly a link to trace between the notion of mood and the way the gamer gets emotionally immersed in games. And as Torben Gordal has underlined, video games are often "mood manager" allowing the gamer to participate in a self-controlled arousing experience [2000 : 209] In the final analysis, in order to carry on the work in the space allotted by the conference, this paper will chart in a bit more detail the playground of emotions in video games. References CARROLL, Noël [1990]. "The Philosophy of Horror or Paradoxes of the Heart", New York, Routledge. FREEMAN, David [2004]. "Creating Emotion in Games: The Craft and Art of Emotioneering", Indianapolis, New Riders. FRIJDA, Nico C. [1986]. "The Emotions", Cambride/Paris, Cambridge University Press/ Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. GRODAL, Torben [2000]. «Video Games and the Pleasures of Control", in Zillman, D.and Vorderer, P., dirs, "Media Entertainment: The Psychology of its Appeal", Mahwah, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum, p. 197-213.. PERRON, Bernard [2004]. "Silent Hill. Il motore del terrore", Milan, Edizioni Unicopli. SMITH, Greg M. [2003]. "Film Structure and the Emotion System", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. TAN, E. S. [1996]. "Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine", Mahwah, NJ, Erlbaum.
Contact: Bernard Perron, Departement of Art History and Film Studies, University of M,
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