And How Does That Make You Feel?

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I was skimming through Kotaku this weekend and this post on the top ten video game emotions jumped out at me. It's over at Only a Game, and it's based on a survey of around a thousand gamers. The results are interesting, plus I learned a couple great new words: fiero, the sense of triumph over adversity, and naches, the feeling of pride in the accomplishments of a student. A cursory analysis of the survey data seems to suggest that casual gaming is big; a feeling of triumph is great, but softer emotions like curiosity and amusement are even bigger.

I'm also pleased to have seen this because I was unfamiliar with Only a Game. But scanning through their archives, it seems they've worked on some very interesting things.

I'll give you the basic run-down here; for an actual analysis of these results, check out the original article.

10. Bliss
09. Relief
08. Naches
07. Surprise
06. Fiero
05. Curiosity
04. Excitement
03. Wonderment
02. Contentment
01. Amusement

And the emotions at the bottom of the list were

20. Sadness
21. Guilt
22. Embarrassment

I have a couple problems with this study, although I'm thrilled so see research being done in this area. My major concern is that the survey's scale seems to conflate two distinct ideas: the effectiveness of emotions in games and the desireability of emotions in games. There is no room on the scale to describe, for example, an emotion that I would like to feel, and which I actively seek out in games, but which is not effectively presented. I'd also like to see a better breakdown of what emotions players recognize as being present in the games they play, independent of their effectiveness. Do the respondents mean to say that they don't like feeling sad, or that games are bad at making them feel sad?

The author notes that this is only a preliminary study. There's an enormous amount of potential here; quite honestly, this article leaves me with more questions than answers. I'd love to see a follow-up that addresses trends within demographics and even within individuals - do the same people who seek out fiero also seek out curiosity, or do these emotions represent two different types of gamer, the acheiver and the explorer? How does a person's reaction to negative emotions in games relate to their reaction to similar emotions in other media - do people who enjoy tearjerker movies also seek out sadness in games? I'm also curious about how these players go about seeking out their emotions of choice, and where they find them. Which genres, and which games specifically, give them the emotional high they're looking for?

Very promising research. I'm hoping to see a lot more of this sort of thing in the future.

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