Games, Cognition, and Emotion

University of Hamburg, 5-6 July 2013

Panel II.2: Games and Emotion I

Jonathan Frome, University of Texas at Dallas

Sadness in 1600 Pixels. Emotion and Jason Rohrer’s Passage

Previously, I have defended a somatic model of videogame emotion based on Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘seeing-as’. The core idea of this model is that any particular element of a videogame can create different types of emotions based on the cognitive framework through which it is perceived. In this talk, I will explain my model by analyzing Jason Rohrer’s independent, open-source videogame, Passage. This ‘art-game’ has unusual elements that elicit a variety of emotions from the player, including sadness, but it manages to do this without any significant reliance on character or narrative. The game succeeds in this goal by drastically limiting common types of player engagement to encourage uncommon emotional responses.

Note: Although familiarity with this game is not at all necessary for my talk, I encourage participants to play the game in advance. The game is very short (gameplay stops after 5 minutes), free, open-source, and available for PC, Mac, and Linux. Download it at

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Jonathan Frome is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas where he has also been Assistant Professor of Film and Digital Media in the School of Arts and Humanities (2008-2012). He holds a doctoral degree in Communication Arts (Film Studies) since 2006. In his Ph.D. thesis Why Films Make Us Cry but Videogames Don’t he addressed questions about how traditional and new media elicit emotions and why different media tend to elicit different kinds of emotions. His research interests include media psychology, film and video game aesthetics, documentary and animated film, Asian film, and video/media production.

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