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TIGSource ForumsPlayerGamesDropsy, Undertale, and empathy as a gameplay mechanic.
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FK in the Coffee
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« on: September 25, 2015, 04:16:01 PM »

In an industry saturated as it is with violence, it's refreshing to see games like Dropsy and Undertale come along to subvert that long-followed trope. Only two games, I know, but I think there's something significant about their release and reception that might herald the beginning of a new push for games with more of an emotional component to enemy confrontation and interaction, one which encourages empathy over senseless killing. Studios like thatgamecompany have already been specializing in non-violent games for a while now, but unlike "Journey" or "flower" or the like, Dropsy and Undertale seem to confront video game violence head-on.

What do you guys think? Could this be the beginning of an exciting new chapter in games? Or are these titles just one-off exceptions?
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jamesprimate
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« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2015, 06:26:50 PM »

There seems to be a huge untapped market for these sorts of games. The people that like them are REALLY passionate about them and REALLY underserved by studios. Plus Ive seen a number of people who otherwise would never touch a PC game go right out and download steam after reading a review specifically to buy them. I love it.

I think culturally the movement toward empathy games is significant and timely, but also just from a gaemdesign perspective there is soooo much cool new stuff that can be done. Innovative new mechanics, blending or subverting the common gamer tropes. Undertale is really almost like a call to arms for that. It's pretty exciting tbh.
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« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2015, 08:52:23 PM »

Check out the games of Love-De-Lic and its descendants (eg, Moon Remix RPG, Chulip, Chibi-Robo) and you'll see they strike similar chords.

Chulip in particular is extremely similar to Dropsy, except that it uses kisses instead of hugs and the player can lose by taking damage. It's excellent.

Mother 3 was marketed with a

of a crying celebrity who insisted the game was a tearjerker, which it was and was intended to be. This was otherwise a very traditional JRPG.
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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2015, 12:58:43 AM »

Phoenix Wright. A lot of that games require getting to the truth, and when approaching it, it can cause a lot of emotions to come out and a  sense of understanding; whether it be clear or rather vague what the motive is, since some of the antagonists are quite inhuman. However there is a reason for everything as the games try to convey and it doesn't do it with violence but rather the truth.

There's a game in the future that I want to pitch that would have an empathy mechanic. It's current name is "Last of Mail". The idea is that the world has advanced to the point that we are very dependent on technology and there is only ONE mail office left - and it's about to shutdown. You, the protagonist, are the last mail carrier. Suddenly a war breaks out and no one is safe from technology. You suddenly become one of the most important people in your city at the time and now have a much heavier job delivering mail, whether it be bills, newspaper, secrets, love letters, or perhaps a message to an enemy. Does that sound good at all?



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DJFloppyFish
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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2015, 06:45:39 AM »

I think the desire to avoid violence is already so prevalent in the indie community that I'd be surprised if we didn't see more games to reflect that. So yea, I definitely think there'll be more. Dropsy and Undertale coming out around the same time probably wasn't just a fluke, the banality of violent gameplay and the moral weirdness of that banality is on a lot of indies' minds.
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Dinosaursssssss
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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2015, 10:30:03 PM »

I wouldn't really say this is a new thing...games like Papers, Please, Cart Life, and Depression Quest were being labelled "empathy games" back when they came out a few years ago. Here's a Polygon piece that talks about them and some others Gaming's New Frontier: Cancer, Depression, Suicide: How "empathy" games are striving to make powerful emotional connections

I think Cart Life in particular really has a lot of little touches that force the player to experience the frustration of the character in really interesting ways; the ways they force you to think about spending money and time are frustrating in just the right ways.
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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2015, 12:51:28 AM »

this is the OG "empathy game" as far as im concerned. im not joking btw, i was legit impressed with this thing when i first played it.
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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2015, 10:12:36 AM »

i think these are notable as "empathy" games because they are distinctly more game-y (shut up, i know) and actually enjoyable to play. i love those games mentioned in the polygon article but dropsy and especially undertale really clicked with me in a way i was not expecting at all.
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DJFloppyFish
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« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2015, 10:25:15 AM »

Idk if I'm just dumb, but I also feel like there's a distinction to be made between games that evoke empathy and games like Dropsy & Undertale where performing empathetic actions is literally a part of the game.
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FK in the Coffee
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« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2015, 10:45:18 AM »

I guess the title might've been a little poorly worded; I've certainly felt empathy as a direct consequence of gameplay design (e.g. Cart Life's strict financial restrictions/stressful micromanagement options, Brothers' control scheme, Every Day the Same Dream's banality and repetition, etc.), but the direct subversion of violence, and the idea of love and understanding as an alternative method of confrontation is something I've seldom seen in this way.
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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2015, 12:00:54 PM »

Phoenix Wright.
Also you're a DEFENSE ATTORNEY, which is like a fundamentally empathetic position.
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2015, 06:52:54 AM »

I guess the title might've been a little poorly worded; I've certainly felt empathy as a direct consequence of gameplay design (e.g. Cart Life's strict financial restrictions/stressful micromanagement options, Brothers' control scheme, Every Day the Same Dream's banality and repetition, etc.), but the direct subversion of violence, and the idea of love and understanding as an alternative method of confrontation is something I've seldom seen in this way.

Ah, ok I think I misunderstood but I see what you were getting at now. Sorry for getting off track! I think what confused me was including Dropsy as an example; in that game, I think the empathy goes both ways, in that it's both the mechanic used to move the story forward and solve problems, and something the player experiences as they inhabit Dropsy and are forced to experience peoples fear and disgust of him.
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J-Snake
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« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2015, 05:39:57 PM »

In an industry saturated as it is with violence...
I don't mind violence, but the industry is saturated with impotent mechanical systems which hide inside the coat of artistry or other forms of flavor.

What do you guys think? Could this be the beginning of an exciting new chapter in games?
I hope not. People who find these games exciting probably never read a good book.
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« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2015, 06:22:27 PM »

People who find these games exciting probably never read a good book.

The fundamental difference between a book and a game is that games are interactive. Similarly, you can feel empathy for a character in a book, but only in a game can you act on that feeling of empathy and actually help that character. And when these interactions are turned into puzzles, you get a whole new genre of games.
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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2015, 09:00:16 PM »

i fucking love to beat the shit out of things and people, and shoot a special kind of gun called a double gun at my foes
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Daruman
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« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2015, 11:58:10 PM »

The thing I love about Undertale is the blending of game-play and story. It doesn't feel like it favors one over the other if that makes sense.

I think (and hope) the trend of meta-fiction in video games catches on because I just love it.
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J-Snake
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« Reply #16 on: October 16, 2015, 02:32:16 AM »

People who find these games exciting probably never read a good book.

The fundamental difference between a book and a game is that games are interactive. Similarly, you can feel empathy for a character in a book, but only in a game can you act on that feeling of empathy and actually help that character. And when these interactions are turned into puzzles, you get a whole new genre of games.
That's just theory. In practice it will remain on shallow grounds. The practical strength of interactivity is to forge gameplay systems, not story telling. Not to get me wrong, I don't mind story/emotion driven experiences at all as long as they also offer good gameplay. It is just not realistic to expect them in practice.
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« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2015, 05:59:23 AM »

So I've played the first half-hour of Undertale now, it's actually pretty cute
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FK in the Coffee
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« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2015, 07:09:24 AM »

If you limit interactivity to such a narrow, “practical” purpose, what does that accomplish? How does putting the medium in a box help it? The archaic notion that games cannot tell meaningful stories is toxic to the development of video games as art. I think that strong gameplay is, of course, an incredible vital element, but I don't think games should shy away from breaking their own rules to convey themes and story. One of the things I find so interesting about Undertale is that it warps its system to serve its story, rather than warping the story to fit its system.

If the purpose of poetry was to “forge meaningful meter,” we wouldn't have ee cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Alan Ginsberg willfully bending those conventions. If the purpose of music was to “forge meaningful melodies,” artists like John Cage would have no place in the medium. The prescriptivist idea of what art (yes, games too) is is incredibly limiting. You and I might disagree on the role of video games, but to objectively state that storytelling in games can't be anything more than shallow is presumptuous.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2015, 07:28:56 AM by FK in the Coffee » Logged
Torchkas
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« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2015, 07:16:26 AM »

is an interactive story a game with bad "gameplay" then?
what does that word even mean?
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