Building Empathic Games for Healthy Outcomes
As anyone who cried when Aeris died knows, it’s easy to fall in love with your favourite game character. Gaming’s strength lies in the bonds players develop with characters and how these bonds impact their self-knowledge. Empathizing with characters helps players understand others, and ourselves. Navigating difficult scenarios helps us manage our lives and provides a sense of belonging.
Given the above, games have enormous potential to be interventions for mental health promotion, but the majority of mainstream games don't address mental health and inclusion in a purposeful way.
Game designers working on Long Story, a queer positive dating game for pre-teens, will lead a conversation on narrative and choice mechanics that call for empathy, growth and reflection. We invite gamers, interactive designers, health care professionals and entrepreneurs to discuss with us how designers can include white-label health interventions in their games to build emotional resilience through play.
Additional Supporting Materials
- What is the nature and the depth of the emotional bonds that people form with fictional characters, and how does that affect our understanding of our own lives and the situations we find ourselves in? Do you ever find yourself thinking about a character or story long after you've turned off the game - and if so, what is it about that story or character that holds your attention? This question explores the types of stories and personalities that resonate most with us and why.
- How does an interactive medium affect our relationships with the characters and how does it create a more impactful scenario for the player? Does the ability to interact with the characters change how we feel about them and their choices, and how does it translate into real-world situations? This question explores the uniqueness of the interactive space and its potential to affect change in our real world lives.
- Does the capacity for empathizing with a fictional character in the game space have implications on the ability of the player to empathize with others? For instance, if a player encounters a scenario that they haven’t experienced in reality, can the game scenario inspire compassion that extends past the screen? This question explores whether the strengths of parasocial relationships impact real-world behaviour and beliefs.
- How can game designers leverage the emotional impact of games to help players deal with their feelings, social situations, etc in a more positive way? Can fictional characters serve as a way to help us understand ourselves? How does sandboxing fictional yet realistic situations help us manage our own lives? Does it provide comfort or a sense of being “not alone?”
- What are the consequences of narrow representation and inclusion in games? If the only perspectives we ever encounter are white, male and heteronormative, won’t that have implications on the players worldview? This question explores how game designers can create games that are inclusive of all types of diversity.
Elysse Zarek Bloom Digital Media
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