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Jenova Chen planning journeys to new emotions

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"We are not just making games. We are making memories that are treasured for whole lifetimes."

Jenova Chen, thatgamecompany co-founder and creator of Journey was at the Gaming Insiders conference in San Francisco today to talk about emotion, and how he has spent his career finding new ways for gamers to "feel something new."

It has, he said, been a challenge, because games have traditionally restricted themselves to a limited array of emotions.

"With action games, the emotion is about empowerment," he said. "That is important to teenage boys, who want to feel like they are free. It's a very small section of the palette of human emotion. It's raw and primal." When Chen began his career, he wanted to find other emotions, he said, but there were few examples for him to follow.

"Composers know what to look at when they want a specific emotion. For games it is very difficult," he said. "We have to do a lot of testing to get it right."

Chen said that with all his games, including Flower, Flow and Journey, most of the development time had been taken up by "research and development" in finding ways for people to enjoy games that were not about fulfilling challenges or dominating rivals, but about feeling peace, togetherness or awe.

"It's not about asking people what they want," he said. "You need to find out what they need. That's my approach to designing games. Flower was about nature and rejuvenation. I look at games and they are too stressful. People say they want bigger games, but what they [need] is some form of peace and harmony."

He said that game companies would increasingly follow movies and books into catering for all audiences and all types of emotional needs.

"In the future everyone will have a game to play, depending on what mood they are in," he said. "If you are sad you want something to cheer you up. If you are bored you want something to excite you. [Games] are emotional supplements, to make you feel better.

"We like to make games that make you feel different from other games, to find new emotions that have not been possible in the past."