Learning From Games: A Language for Designing Emotion

Session Title

Learning From Games: A Language for Designing Emotion


Joe Lamantia, Independent

Session Type: Presentation

Emotion is one of the most powerful elements of an experience, and also the most difficult to design. Yet games regularly inspire intense emotions, drawing players into the experience they offer, and making these experiences enjoyable and memorable. How can designers structure interactions to encourage emotions, the most powerful part of human experience?

Nicole Lazzaro, a leading games researcher and design consultant, has studied games and game players extensively; her work on games and emotion offers useful insights for interaction designers seeking ways to inspire emotional impact. Lazzaro’s work suggests there is a language for designing emotion.

One example of an experience that demonstrates this ‘language of choice’ is the cross-media hybrid formed by the popular Killzone console games and their companion site

Working together in real time, the game console and web site environments blend game elements and complex social interactions to create a strongly emotional experience. Players build meaningful histories for individual characters and groups of all sizes through competitive and cooperative interactions that take place in the linked game and community contexts. Game mechanisms and social architecture elements encourage the accumulation of shared experiences, group identities, and collective histories. Over time, designers hope shared experiences will serve as the basis for a body of social memory.

This case study examines the design and architecture of, using Lazarro’s language of choice to understand the emotional underpinnings of the experience, and the lessons it suggests to interaction designers.


Joe Lamantia has been making digital things for nearly 15 years. A recognized leader in the international experience design community, he has also been an entrepreneur, consultant, architect, evangelist, and author.

In addition to Internet, software, and media products of all types, Joe has built successful business models, customer insight programs, user research tools, strategy and design methodologies, project teams, and thought leadership practices within organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Joe is currently based in Amsterdam, where he is a freelance experience strategist focused on helping businesses – especially early stage startups – improve their product and service offerings using design insights and methods.

Joe speaks and writes often about topics at the leading edge of design, culture, and technology, ranging from ubiquitous computing and augmented reality, to games and emotion, and enterprise information strategy.

He blogs at, and tweets as @MoJoe.


  1. Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I’m betting gameplay will become a large part of all sorts of non-gaming online experiences this century. I’m looking forward to learning about the language Lazarro uses and I’m sure Joe Lamantia will make it easy to understand even for folks like me who don’t know Killzone from ozone.

  2. Posted September 21, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Would like to see this.