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In game design, feelings are worth more than brute force

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Game design based on mechanistic considerations or cold commercial calculations is making way for a more emotional approach, according to Robin Hunicke, one of the designers of award-winning adventure Journey.

Speaking at DICE in Las Vegas yesterday, Hunicke argued for a creative approach based on the feelings and emotions of the gamers, rather than on impressive special effects or monetization trickery.

"It comes down to heart," she said. "We [the Journey team] spent a lot of time thinking about the people who were going to play the game and the experience they were going to have. It means caring about the way people are going to play.

Hunicke now runs game developer Funomena which is working on various games rooted in human and emotional stories.

"It means caring about the people playing the game. Instead of thinking of them as eyeballs, you are thinking about them as people, just like you."

She said that exercising the "empathy muscle," is a challenge facing game developers. "Value is best reached with a diving rod called empathy," she added. "Games made by people who care about people are the ones that go viral. If you spend time really caring about your players you get this amazing game development super tool."