Digital Experience of Love and Loss: Emotional Game Design in Emily Is Away

Magdalena Bednorz


The article aims to shed light on the relationship between digital media and emotional experiences such as love and loss. It follows Lee Mackinnon’s theoretical assumption that love can be considered and experienced differently depending on the technological system which facilitates it, broadens that assumption to the wider range of emotional social experiences, and employs that view in analyzing the emotional game design of Emily Is Away – an interactive story about a relationship with an old high school friend as depicted in conversations via instant messaging client. In doing so, the article aims to investigate how the digital context and mediation of personal conversations through instant messengers can influence the ways in which we experience drifting away from people we once considered important, crafting a set of cultural associations later to be used within a text of culture. It focuses on the accessibility and immediacy of contact via internet contrasted with the spatial divide, as well as the capacity for representation of uncertainty and longing in the visual form on the interface. It also discusses the seeming universality of the depicted emotional experience, as it became recognizable enough to be thematized into a game which relies on the feeling of nostalgia. Finally, by exploring the emotional design of the game on the levels of its aesthetics, narrative, mechanics and procedures, the article attempts to show the potential of the digital medium to represent and/or reproduce such experiences and emotions, thus broadening the spectrum of our cultural emotional experiences. 

Słowa kluczowe: digital games, game design, emotional design, discourse machines, new media, agency, nostalgia

Aboulafia A., Bannon L.J., Understanding Affect in Design: An Outline Conceptual Framework, “Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science” 2004, no. 5(1), pp. 4–15.

Arjoranta J., Do We Need Real-Time Hermeneutics? Structures of Meaning in Games, in: Proceedings of the 2011 DiGRA International Conference: Think Design Play, vol. 6, 2011.

Arsenault D., Perron B., In the Frame of the Magic Cycle: The Circle(s) of Gameplay, in: B. Perron, M. Wolf (eds.), The Video Game Theory Reader 2, Routledge, New York 2009, pp. 109–132.

Ballard G., Koskela L., Rhetoric and Design, in: International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED13), Seoul 2013.

Bogost I., The Rhetoric of Video Games, in: K. Salen (ed.), The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2008, pp. 171–140.

Calleja G., Digital Game Involvement: A Conceptual Model, “Games and Culture” 2007, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 236–260.

Clough P., Halley J. (eds.), The Affective Turn, Duke University Press, Durham–London 2007.

de Byl P., A Conceptual Affective Design Framework for the Use of Emotions in Computer Game Design, “Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace” 2015, no. 9(3).

Drucker J., Humanities Approaches to Interface Theory, “Culture Machine” 2011, vol. 12.

Garda M.B., Nostalgia in Retro Game Design, in: DiGRA ’13 – Proceedings of the 2013 DiGRA

International Conference: DeFragging Game Studies, vol. 7, 2014.

Gratzke M., Love Is What People Say It Is: Performativity and Narrativity in Critical Love Studies, “Journal of Popular Romance Studies” 2017, iss. 6.

Isbister K., How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2016.

Joost G., Scheuermann A., Design as Rhetoric: Basic Principles for Design Research, Symposium of Swiss Design Network, Zurich 2007.

Mackinnon L., Love Machines and the Tinder Bot Bildungsroman, “e-flux journal” 2016, #7, June 21, (accessed: 12.11.2019).

Miller L., Invitation: Granting Emotional Access through Romantic Choice, in: H. McDonald (ed.), Digital Love: Romance and Sexuality in Video Games, CRC Press, London–New York 2018, pp. 159–181.

Muncy J., Return to the 2000s with This AIM-Inspired Chat Game, 2015, October 30, (accessed: 12.11.2019).

Murray J., Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, Free Press, New York 1997.

Rusch D.C., Mechanisms of the Soul – Tackling the Human Condition in Videogames, in: Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory, vol. 5, 2009.

Seeley K., Emily Is Away, Windows, 2015.

Sterczewski P., Gra w utratę kontroli. Słaba podmiotowość, kwestionowanie racjonalności i problematyzowanie utożsamienia w narracyjnych grach komputerowych, “Replay” 2014, no. 1, pp. 49–58.

Pierwotną wersją czasopisma jest wersja elektroniczna publikowana
kwartalnie w internecie. Czasopismo ukazuje się w sposób ciągły on-line.