Video Games and Empathy: Some Sources

Yesterday, I was curious about the relationship between interactivity and empathy. As I continue to be curious, I thought I’d post a few resources that I found about empathy and video games:

Pixels and Pathos: Video Games and Empathy

An academic presentation by Dr. Alf Seegert. Seegert argues that some recent video games, enable players to experience empathy, not just by inhabiting other’s worlds, but by participating in them (and as them?). I like Seegert’s conclusion:

I think the empathy-evoking potential of video games is summed up best by my student Jackson Myrick. When asked what differentiates video games from other media, he answered that it’s not the ability to inhabit multiple perspectives, “but to enact them—not only bear, but bear responsibility.”

Alf Seegert

I’d like to put this idea of not just bearing witness, but bearing responsibility, in conversation with Nina Freeman’s suggestion that her game is aimed at making players feel what she felt:

I’m not interested in making players feel like they are in the story. I’m interested in making players feel the way I felt in that moment.

Nina Freeman

In Gaming: A Shift from Enemies to Empathy

An NPR online article about a recent shift in video game development, from “mechanics to storytelling”. This article was mentioned in Seegert’s talk. In describing the shift towards emotional engagement with the characters and story in a game, the article discusses three games: Gone Home; Papers, please and That Dragon, Cancer.

That Dragon, Cancer

A video game by Ryan Green and team. Here is their game description:

That Dragon, Cancer is an adventure game that acts as a living painting; a poem; an interactive retelling of Ryan and Amy Green’s experience raising their son Joel, a 4-year-old currently fighting his third year of terminal cancer. Players relive memories, share heartache, and discover the overwhelming hope that can be found in the face of death.

Ryan Green, et al.