Game Development Reference
nonevent. But scouting a strategically important building can reverse a
losing game because that one key piece of information can form the core
of a new strategy that may lead to victory. So, in a game full of combat
and bloodshed, the most emotionally gripping moment might be simply
seeing a building.
There are countless ways to create important human value changes in
response to even small events. For example, the Modern Warfare series of
multiplayer shooters has a kill streak system that hands out special rewards
to players who kill a certain number of enemies without dying. 3 kills in
a row might give a useful radar scan, 7 a friendly jet airstrike, and 11 a
powerful AC-130 gunship attack. This design works because it increases
the implications of certain kills. The 11 th kill is far more meaningful than
the first because it changes the broader game state more than the first
kill. The two kills themselves could be exactly the same—say, shooting an
enemy as he runs around a corner—but their emotional charge is different
because the implications are different.
Emotions don't just appear in response to a change. They also appear in
anticipation of change.
The emotional unconscious doesn't just respond to what's happening.
It constantly peers into the future, watching for human-relevant threats
and opportunities. When it finds one, it signals it with emotion.
Imagine playing Modern Warfare again. You have counted 10 kills.
You know that one more kill will get you the AC-130 bonus and that you'll
likely win the game. In this situation, small local events such as your death
or the killing of a single enemy may determine the outcome of the entire
match. So you feel suspense because you sense that you are on the knife
edge between two drastically different game outcomes. Everything rides
on what happens in this moment. You're feeling an emotion not about
something that has happened, but about something that might happen.
This type of suspense is white-knuckle gaming at its finest.
But even this situation can sag into boredom if the unconscious
senses that there is nothing hanging in the balance. Imagine the same
situation where you are at 10 kills. This time, however, your team is already
way ahead of the other team in score. The AC-130 itself will have the same
effect, but the situation is much less suspenseful than before because your
next kill or death won't actually determine the outcome of the game. The
human value of [victory/defeat] is already locked at victory, so there is no
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