Jeux et émotions
Games and emotions

v314-shaman

Je suis de ceux qui versent facilement quelques larmes en regardant un film ou en lisant un livre, mais jamais cela ne m’est arrivé en jouant à un jeu de société. Le jeu de société est en effet bien peu romantique, et cela le distingue de bien d’autres formes culturelles, qu’il s’agisse du livre, du cinéma, de la peinture, de la musique, mais aussi du jeu de rôles, et dans une certaine mesure des jeux en ligne et des jeux d’argent.

Le joueur n’a pas d’amis, ni d’états d’âme, il n’a a que des objectifs et des intérêts. Il ne s’apitoie pas sur telle figurine qui n’est pas parvenu à prendre pied sur Omaha Beach, ou sur telle autre qui s’est fait dévorer par les zombies. Il la remet dans sa « réserve », pour la ressortir à l’occasion représentant un autre personnage tout aussi anonyme.
Cela n’a bien sûr rien d’étonnant si l’on voit dans le jeu un mécanisme abstrait, sans âme, et dans les règles une simple métaphore destinée à en faciliter l’explication, comme semblable à l’énoncé d’un problème de robinet. Ce n’est cependant pas le cas de tous les jeux, en tout cas pas de tous les miens, mais même les jeux au thème fort comme mon Mystère à l’Abbaye, même les jeux au thème triste comme les jeux de guerre, ne suscitent pas chez les joueurs de réelle émotion.

Les contraintes matérielles de leur conception et de leur réalisation, la limitation à l’usage de cartes, de dés, de pions, pour render compete d’histoires complexes, tout cela tend à faire des jeux, et tout particulièrement des jeux de société, des systèmes très simplifiés dont les éléments sont, au sens propre du terme, objectivés. On ne s’attache pas à un pion de bois ou de plastique comme à un personnage de roman, de film, ou même de jeu de rôle, dont il n’a pas la profondeur. C’est cette objectivation, cette simplification, plus que le caractère relativement abstrait, des jeux, qui contraint l’auteur de jeu à faire vivre son thème à coup de clins d’œil là où l’écrivain ou le cinéaste recourent au récit et le concepteur de jeux videos à la simulation, et qui fait du jeu de société le moins romantique des loisirs.

Pour autant, nos jeux ne sont pas dénués d’émotion. On y pleure rarement, mais on sourit beaucoup, et on rit assez fréquemment. Ça fait du bien aussi.


v315- grand chaman

I often shed a tear when reading a book or watching a movie, but I don’t think it ever happened when playing a board game. Boardgames are definitely les romantic than books, movies or paintings, and even less than role playing games, gambling and most online games.

The gamer has no friends, no conscience, only goals and interests. He doesn’t feel any pity for a miniature that couldn’t land at Omaha Beach or was eaten by zombies. He just puts it back in his « reserve », and takes it out later to represent some other anonymous figure.

This isn’t surprising if you think that games are just soulless mechanisms, and theme a metaphor used to make explanations easier, like water taps in a math problem. Some games are like this, but not all, and certainly not all of mine. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen a player cry or express a strong story related emotion even in a game with a strong theme, like my Mystery of the Abbey, or with a really sad theme, like wargames.

Because of the strong constraints of board game design and production, of the limitation mostly to cards, dice and pawns to create complex storylines, boardgames are very simplified systems in which all elements are, strictly speaking, objectified. One doesn’t feel the same empathy with a simple wooden or plastic figure, no matter how nice it looks, as with a much deeper novel, movie or role playing character. This objectification, this simplification, and the relatively abstract character of boardgames, forces the game designer to build his theme using nods and winks where the writer or moviemaker uses storytelling and some vied game designers simulation. That’s probably why boardgames are definitely not romantic.

On the other hand, our board and card games are definitely not devoid of emotions. There are no cries when playing, but we have lots of smiles and laughs.

9 thoughts on “Jeux et émotions
Games and emotions

  1. ‘même les jeux au thème triste comme les jeux de guerre, ne suscitent pas chez les joueurs de réelle émotion.’

    C’est quoi cette vision étriquée du jeu d’histoire…… Quant on joue avec mes potes on rigole je peux vous l’assurer.

    • C’est justement ce que je dis. Même les jeux au thème profondément sinistre comme les jeux de guerre (que je pratique à l’occasion), ou les jeux de zombies, ne font pas peur et ne font pas pleurer.

      (En revanche, je trouve que rebaptiser les jeux de guerre “jeux d’histoire” relève d’une vision bien étriquée de l’histoire, et nuit aux innombrables jeux à thème historique qui n’ont rien de guerrier).

      • Vous prenez comme postulat de départ que les jeux de guerre ont un thème triste, là je ne vous rejoint pas. Il me semble que au contraire les passionné de jeux de guerre (en tout cas ceux que je connais) n’ont absolument pas cette sensation quant ils abordent un jeu de guerre.

        (Et bravo pour le boomerrang, néanmoins si vous lisez des revues de jeux de guerre vous verrez bon nombre d’allusion au jeu d’histoire, la guerre étant une manifestation de l’histoire j’espére que vous en conviendriez)

  2. You obviously haven’t played a game by Brenda Braithwaite Romero, such as Train.

    In a post I wrote a while ago, I noted that games are the intersection of three stories: the progress of the game (who is winning), the theme of the game (what is allegedly happening to the pieces thematically), and the context of the game (how is the game affecting my life).

    You must know people who have cried due to the third story, context: haven’t you ever seen a child throw the board in the air and run crying to his mother? We see that even in adults, for example, after a grueling tennis match.

    The first story is highly antisepctic, so of course will inspire no emotion (although the result of the story can trigger emotion in the third story).

    Your post is referring exclusively to to the second story, the theme. For this we need more designers who are willing to create games that are not designed purely for sales, but as art installations (such as Train), or Yoko Ono’s white chess set. With only a handful of exceptions, games are designed and published within an entertainment industry to people looking to have fun. People won’t buy a game that is not “happy fun”; though they will watch a movie that isn’t fun, even repeatedly.

    The first game – the requirement for people to invest in making choices about winning and losing – interferes with the narrative of the second game. Emotions like sadness and romance require a long series of time (several minutes, at least) where one is not actively thinking about something else, like making choices about winning and losing. If you take winning and losing out of the game, you have a much better shot at adding emotions. Of course, then you have an “activity” and not really a game.

    You can also create a hybrid activity. For example, a sad story is first read to introduce the theme of the game. After the story is complete, then the game is undertaken.

    • Interesting points. In a role playing game, and in some relly well designed boardgames, there is no difference between the first and second story, between the progress of the game and its theme. When the second doesn’t exist at all, the game is abstract, and when they feel completely distinct, it’s a disguised abstract, like many of the games ublished these last years. As for the third story, if people understand what a game is about – that is, nothing – they are not affected by it. People who are affected by it, who are sad when they lose and happy when they win, make terrible gamers, and usually don’t enjoy gaming at all.

      I disagree on your point about “fun”. I happen to design “happy fun” games, and I do it more because it’s the kind of games that I like to play and that I’m interested in than because of sales – though I’m quite happy that they sell well. At the moment, however, I think games that are intellectually challenging but absolutely not fun, like Dominion, sell much better. They are not fun, but they are not sad either – they’re just bland brain burners.

      As for Train and the White Chess, I don’t consider these to be games. They are interesting political statements using some game components and references.

  3. I guess we have to define what a) fun is, and b) a game is. 🙂

    When I used the word “fun” I didn’t mean out loud laughing. Any activity you enjoy or play is fun” whether it is social, drama, mindless, poignant, engaging, recreational, aesthetic, challenging, or humorous (I just wrote a blog post on this topic). People use the word “fun” for all of these, including brain burning games like chess and Dominion. I find them to be fun; you may not.

    I define a game as an activity with points and/or win conditions, and often with rules, goals, and play activities.

    I don’t define a game as being or having fun. If two people are shooting at each other with real guns, it’s a competition: not a game and not a play activity. If one thinks to himself “I win if I kill him”, he has added a game onto an activity that is not fun (it’s not a play activity, but it’s now a game). He has added an abstract imaginary layer onto a real activity. Winning is not inevitably associated with killing the other guy; he could as easily have added “If I survive this without killing anyone, I win; if I kill him, I lose” onto the same activity. Note this is not the same thing as saying “my goal is to survive and not kill him”, adding the words “I win” transforms a goal into a game that has a goal. Also, your goal in a game may be other than to win the game, especially if story 3 interferes with your enjoyment of winning (for example, you might say “I win if I kill him, but I would rather lose”).

    “I win” or “10 points” are indicators of games, fun or not. Games and play are separate ideas; however, games are nearly universally designed into play (aka fun) activities. You (Bruno) design games with strong play activities, and these play activities are often of the type of fun you like most (Citadels) unlike the type you don’t like (Dominion). But they are all games with fun/play activities, using my definitions. When gamification proponents take points and add them to an activity that is not fun (like washing dishes), the result is a game, but it is still not fun, unless those points really mean something to the player.

    To design a game that makes you cry, you either have to leave off the play activity or you have to overcome the first story (the goal of winning) with the second or third story.

    In Train, the theme of the game (story 2) disrupts the desire for the goal of the game (story 1). People who carry on with story 1 are ignoring the second story (or they don’t care about the story) and they don’t cry; people who dispense with story 1 cry.

    I could transform Citadels into an emotional experience by making the game cooperative and adding long emotional stories that are read depending on the card combinations chosen. It wouldn’t sell well, but it would be an enjoyable experience for some people. Probably no one would publish it. But there are games like this used as therapeutic or psychological aids, and they do make people cry.

    Yehuda

    P.S. A person who cries after winning, or losing, a grueling tennis championship is not a bad gamer. If you put your heart and soul into a gaming experience for months or years, emotion is going to play a big part of the outcome.People shouldn’t invest this kind of emotion in a one off board game that lasts an hour or two. But real life stories can intersect with games, just like they can with any activity. If I tell my spouse to leave me alone and let me play a game with the boys, and she runs away crying, then the game is impacting on my life in a way that can cause emotions. That’s the third story.of the game: how the game affects my real life.

  4. With all due respect to Bruno, for whom I have the utermost respect as a game designer and a person, and whom I have been knowning for many years : I’t been a long time since his approach of gaming became analytic more than affective.
    Role playing as an extreme example, but also some very competitive games where one endorses a character for example, that would be treacherous or on the contrary very loyal may trigger very strong affects during the game.
    There are games known to part even the oldest friendships.
    It is not to me completely coincidental with this article that many of Bruno’s recent games either make characters move from player to player, or make players simulate affects.

    Which doesn’t make me anywhere agreeing with Yehuda, especially considering his demonstrative examples, where it is to me not the game, but the existing social relationship that is at stake, the game only being an occasion for affects to become more or less effusive.

    I’m just a player. I am a player.

  5. Ça me fait marrer de lire cette analyse sur les jeux et les émotions.
    J’ai arrêté de jouer aux échecs, justement parce que le jeu me plongeait dans un état émotionnel quasi insupportable. Certes, les jeux de comptable publiés à la tonne depuis quelques années, et les jeux dits ambiance censés rendre hilares leurs participants le laissent assez froids. Mais je me souviens avoir connu de beaux élans de pur bonheur et d’amitié, en ma jeunesse, en jouant au simple jeu du dictionnaire. Quant au Trictrac, ce concentré d’équilibre et d’intelligence au goût parfaitement français, chaque partie me plonge dans un ravissement sans fin, je lance les dés et ce sont quatre siècles d’histoire qui me tombent sur le dos, dont j’entame le récit en bougeant la première dame.
    Les jeux sont comme les livres, la différence essentielle est qu’ils sont finalement beaucoup moins nombreux. Or pour un chef-d’œuvre, combien de médiocres, passables, ou très convenables ?
    Ce qui m’étonne aussi, c’est la fin de cette phrase :
    “Le jeu de société est en effet bien peu romantique, et cela le distingue de bien d’autres formes culturelles, qu’il s’agisse du livre, du cinéma, de la peinture, de la musique, mais aussi du jeu de rôles, et dans une certaine mesure des jeux en ligne et des jeux d’argent.”
    Autrefois, tous les jeux de société étaient jeux d’argent.

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