The Interactive Empathy and Embodiment (IEE) framework is an innovative, sensory design approach to game design and interactive media that is founded on traditional craft techniques (and inputs from acting theory, neuroscience, psychology, etc.) to heighten the player-audience's physical experience of gameplay.
You can think of sensory design as working inside-to-outside, which starts by defining the player's kinaesthetic state (referring to physical activity-based aesthetics) before designing the mechanisms that evoke the desired sensations. Approaching the game development process from a sensory perspective—as opposed to a rules, objectives and mechanics-driven approach—enables readers to actively explore solutions to the following ideology:
What if empathy, not conflict, was the organising principle of game design?
2020 was a challenging year for everybody, which is why the 2-part book is unreservedly FREE (with the possibility of giving a voluntary donation), since the need for interactive experiences that promote empathy and reconciliation is at an all-time high. The IEE framework therefore hopes to nudge the industry in a more artistically self-aware and conscientious direction in a format that is accessible to everybody.
Who is the framework for?
The IEE framework has been written for the entire development (including disciplines like level design, narrative design, programming, audio, engineering, etc.), although it is also serves as a workbook for educational and training purposes. Whether you’re a developer of video games, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or cross reality (XR), a filmmaker, game user researcher (GUR), a gamification and transmedia expert, game theorist, psychologist, or simply interested in experiencing resonant and meaningful interactive art—you’ll find the following insights will awaken a new appreciation for traditional craft, and provide you with an entirely new methodology for influencing the player-audience's kinaesthetic experience of gameplay.
What do you get?
The IEE framework is a professionally written book and comprehensive design framework for games and interactive media, with a particular focus on narrative, art and empathy-driven experiences. The book is composed of two volumes featuring practical exercises that explore everything from traditional art and contemporary media to game art and game design with video and audio links.
- IEE Volume 1: Shape Language and Composition Fundamentals (Ver. 3 / Jan 2021 / 80-page PDF) serves as a primer for Vol. 2, with a historic look at gaming's artist heritage.
- IEE Volume 2: Framework Walkthrough (Ver. 1 / Jan 2021 / 231-page PDF) provides step-by-step instruction for creating games and interactive experiences, from conception through to prototyping.
The IEE framework can be used in studio training and academic settings, with frequent practical exercises that encourage participants to develop deep structural understandings of personal projects or selected case studies.
A work in progress
Please note that Interactive Empathy and Embodiment is a work in progress. It may be the culmination of 15+ years of research, practice, and development (not to mention the 2000+ years of traditional craft techniques on which it is founded), it nonetheless requires extensive testing and further development. I am aware that the framework continues to have diversity and inclusivity issues despite my best efforts, and I must make investigations into how my work holds up against valuable research in the fields of data feminism and disability. I’m therefore eager to know if you felt your culture or demographic is respectfully represented, or at all. I humbly welcome critiques and feedback that will help expand the framework’s scope to rightfully acknowledge an even wider range of peoples and historic contributions to traditional craft. The advantage of IEE being in a download-able PDF format, over a conventional book, is that it can readily be updated.
I would also be grateful for assistance with proof-reading, editing and translations, since I hope to have the framework available in multiple languages.
Why pay what you want?
This IEE framework is unreservedly FREE. It is nonetheless possible for those with the means to make a donation in support of my work. The book was written in my spare time for which I am not paid. Completing it has been an immense challenge that took 2-years of writing and 15+ years of development, with the kind support of those mentioned in the Acknowledgements sections. The IEE framework consists of a combined total of 311-pages of professional quality work, hence the suggested donation is set to $30+ inline with similar books on the market. Therefore please consider donating if you find value in my work, so that I can continue making such contributions to game design theory and practise. Donations can also be made after downloading and reviewing the content.
You may also be interested to look into my first two books, Drawing Basics and Video Game Art (Watson-Guptill 2012) and Interactive Stories and Video Game Art (CRC Press 2017), which you'll find linked via my website at: www.solarskistudio.com/books
About the author
Chris Solarski’s started work in video games at Sony Computer Entertainment’s London Studio as a character and environment artist before making a career-defining detour into figurative oil painting. The unusual mix of game art and classical art eventually resulted in Chris authoring Interactive Empathy and Embodiment—a sensory design framework that adapts traditional craft to interactive media with the aim of heightening kinaesthetic empathy and embodiment. Chris has also authored two books on game art and storytelling in games that are endorsed by the likes of Assassin’s Creed founding member Stéphane Assadourian, and Cyberpunk 2077 level designer Max Pears. Chris’ work has been described as gaming’s equivalent to Robert McKee’s screenwriting classic, Story (1997), and Joseph Campbell’s universal storytelling structure. Chris has had the pleasure of presenting at the Smithsonian Museum’s landmark The Art of Video Games exhibition, Disney Research, SXSW, Google and FMX, to name a few.
Please visit www.solarskistudio.com for more info.
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