Broadening and deepening emotional engagement with an emphasis on mechanics and systems
Video games, with their unique properties such as interactivity, agency, control mechanics, feedback loops and gameplay systems, have the potential to impart deep emotional experiences – some already do of course.
However, study of this emotional engagement remains lacking. To date, much digital games analysis has been done using techniques and theory appropriated from film, literature and cultural studies. Yet reliance on these areas alone yields limited results and there is little understanding of how procedural elements such as control mechanisms and gameplay systems can be leveraged (or synergised with narrative and/or audio-visual elements) for emotional affect.
Games should be studied as interactive systems, but are more often studied using techniques reserved for non-interactive media. As developers, we are ‘selling ourselves short’, and not exploring the creative and expressive potential of digital games to their fullest. Out of the myriad of affective experiences possible, we generally only design and experience a fraction of what could be offered. This hascommercial as well as artistic ramifications.
Tom hopes to help address this by studying how game mechanics, gameplay systems and control methods can be used and interpreted to create meaning and elicit a wider range of emotional responses than is commonly seen in digital games at present.
Tom was previously at Supermassive Games where he was a designer on the BAFTA award-winning horror game Until Dawn and artist on Killzone Shadow Fall.
Tom got his BSc in Biology with Industrial Experience from Manchester. After teaching science in secondary schools for a while, he decided games were more interesting and got his MA in Digital Games Theory and Design at Brunel. Since starting his PhD in 2014 he has had 3 papers published on emotion in games and research methodology.
He recently secured a placement at Bossa Studios where he is working on the upcoming sandbox-MMO Worlds Adrift.
Home institution: Goldsmiths
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