Game Design

Game Design: Emotion

By Game Design No Comments

Now listening to: “Spiritual State”, by Nujabes

I want to make a game. In my mind, it’s still a board game. It’s been bouncing around my mind for two years. It’s a horror game.

I want to deal with the issues of separation.

I like “Dracula”. I think it’s a solid gothic horror novel. A classic, through and through. I always thought that I was reading the beginning of a story and the ending of another one. I like the mythologies behind “Dracula”. I like what’s implied by what little information we get about the titular character’s backstory. I also like the possibilities that fan out from the novel’s ending. In that sense, I think that “Dracula” is not unlike Star Wars. A baton pass between characters.

The tragedy of giving everything to fight monsters only to become one.

Every good story has a payload. A story should generate some sort of response from the audience. Euros are usually defined as abstract. That, however, doesn’t mean that they cannot convey an emotional experience effectively. It’s just harder, given their abstract nature.

I want my game to generate what stories like “Dracula” generate.

I think that horror is a really challenging genre for a game designer. Doubly so for a board game designer. There are countless examples of bad horror and there are few examples of good horror.


I like social deduction games. I like hidden traitor games. The problem is that being a traitor or not is usually preordained by the game. I always wanted that to be a human element. I think that to disagree and turn on each other is a very human thing. I want the player or players to choose to betray the group and feel the consequences of doing so. In the end, I think that the best kind of horror that I can offer is the fear of human nature. Of each other.

But fear is meaningless without a counterpart. Dread is meaningless without hope. Dread is the terrorĀ of the future. The fear of things yet to happen. Horror is less sublime. Horror is disgust and rejection in the face of things that are happening. But the things that actually do happen are rarely on par with what our imaginations can come up with. The fear of when a player will turn.

But betrayal rarely feels like what it is to the betrayer. It’s more often than not a justified inevitability of consequence.

I want them to feel in over their heads. I want them to feel that sacrifices will have to be made and that they will have to pull the gun. That luck eventually runs out. That someone will probably have to bite the dust and be damned.

#1 Emotion
#2 Essential Experience