Games seek to bond with players

Leading game developer David Braben takes issue with the recent assertion by Laura Fryer, director of the Xbox Advanced Technology Group, that games are still something for just "geeks and guys".

Games like Rollercoaster Tycoon and the Sims have already crossed the gender divide with broad appeal across the ages, and there are more to come. Aspects which help games move out of the "geeks and guys" stereotype are the inclusion of emotion and humour coupled with the avoidance of pointless killing and death. It is far easier in a game to show something exploding than to have a character showing emotion. This leads to the "shoot-it-if-it-moves" mechanic of games like Quake - a fundamentally empty experience (unless you're fighting people you know well). Even in Elite, we made shooting another space craft illegal, so the player had to think before opening fire, in theory, at least. Emotion is something that many in the games business have looked at, but it is hard to achieve in practice.

Deeper than speech

At Frontier we started working on the issues involved many years ago, but pretty soon realised body-language is vital. Human communication goes far deeper than just speech. A character standing with their arms by their side with only their lips moving is utterly soulless, irrespective of what they are saying. As a starting point, we have been looking at emotion and communication in animals. After all they communicate almost entirely by body language. Animals have appeared in games before, from Sonic the Hedgehog to Crash Bandicoot, but these are really justifications for some special ability, and do not really address body language or emotion. In Black and White, developers Lionhead made major strides in this direction with the player teaching behaviour to mythical creatures and in the process creating an emotional bond to them.

News source: BBC News

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