Relationships between mood and aesthetics in video game design


Session Title:

  • Tracking Emotions

Presentation Title:

  • Relationships between mood and aesthetics in video game design




  • Abstract

    Current video games are commonly based on an underlying narrative structure. As with most narratives in various media, the intention is often to affect the audience on an emotional level. To accomplish this, the storyteller creates a world that mimics or references the audience’s ‘real’ experiences. Once the audience can accept the virtual worlds of these media they are more likely to be receptive to the characters, story elements and aesthetic cues aimed at affecting their emotional responses to the experience. The game experience is created through the relationship of player to the environment within the narrative structure and underlying rules of the game. While the relationships and interactions among players may be the driving force in the game experience, the aesthetics of the game world play a supporting and sometimes central role in efforts to establish mood and influence players’ emotions. ‘It is the game’s aesthetics that generate the atmosphere necessary to establish a themed environment, but it is not the determining factor in the meaning of the game’ (Wright 2007: 252).

    In this paper we will focus on how emotional cues are expressed through aesthetic elements that form the basis of game world design. In this sense mood is not emotion, but an environment that favours some emotions and discourages others. Once the audience is in the proper mood, the author may use additional storytelling devices to evoke a specific emotion; for instance, once the audience is in a suspenseful mood, the author can scare them more easily. Mood management theory explains how people select specific media to suit the mood they are in or wish to be in. Studies have shown that a player’s mood influences decisions made in the game and that the mood a game communicates to a player can influence that player’s later behaviour in real life.