How Do You Feel About Games Telling You How You Feel?


I was curious what everyone’s opinion was on games that tell you what your character is thinking. It’s something that bothers me, and I’ve seen other people post that it’s annoying, but I was curious where people drew the line. Is it something that a writer should never do, that is alright in some circumstances (the game tells you that your character is annoyed they got stuck in traffic), but not others (the game tells you your character is attracted to someone), or something else entirely?

I’ve noticed in the game that I’ve been writing that it’s really tempting to write in emotions because that’s what you do in general fiction writing and stopping to ask the reader what their character is feeling every few paragraphs really mucks with the pace. So I guess I’m wondering what kind of situations/emotions people think call for player input and which don’t.



There are very few cases where a game has told me what my PC is feeling, where said feelings also matched my own reaction to the situation. And when they don’t match, the consequence is irritation.


It gives off an artificial feel to me, usually.


It depends.

I think it can come across as lazy writing if you tell a person how they feel, instead of trying to evoke that feeling within them.

I think Heroes Rise is a prime example. It tells me that I hate Jury. It never actually shows Jury as enough of a jerk for me to actually hate him. Now if he’d come up to me, corrected my grammar, blew smoke in my face, leered at me and then kicked a puppy, I may have been more inclined to hate him.

I enjoyed the game, don’t get me wrong, but it just felt heavy-handed.

Whereas for Slammed! I was totally into the whole obsession with JJ, that felt more believable to me, since it was given a background, it was built up, and JJ did actually act like a jerk, as did Prototype.

I think it can be done well. It can be done badly. I find it easier if it’s clear that the main character has their own personality, and is not just a reader-insert.


Depends on the extent on what they say you feel. I played one game where I choose a lot of options to make friendly with one of the characters, and to treat them like I liked them, only for the game to say that they were just an annoyance to me. It’s one thing for characters you already know, but another for characters you just met (which is where my ex. comes into play)


Aside from the fact that @FairyGodfeather has considerably more patience for Jury than I do, I otherwise completely agree with him. :smiley: A good writer doesn’t have to tell you how to feel, they write in a way that naturally evokes the desired feeling.


The moment a PC is stated to feel something that doesn’t align with the player’s imagining of the PC, you can’t expect the player to think of the PC as “theirs” anymore. And some people are okay with that “from the outside” perspective. Others, not so much.

I think the important thing to remember is that a PC can have character development too, often in more ways than the author can imagine. A pre-established feeling (with good reasoning behind it) that comes with the PC from the very start can be accepted more easily than something that randomly pops out of nowhere mid-game. However, you can’t expect a player to decide their PC holds onto that feeling through the entire game (or even very far into it).


It is quite iffy to find balance between “no longer my character” and “robotic blank slate”. I think it should be done as little as possible but I believe it is needed.

I think it is rather hard to strike a balance so I would give most people slack if my thoughts and my character didn’t match a few times and they tried their best to avoid it. However if it is happening all of the time it will iratate me.


I couldnt stand people tell what my character think and was her motivation. That inflames totally my anger. Why? I role play with my character creating a story who mach with what authors tell but change details to give my flavour and inmerse me more in the story.
For instance i never could role play with heroes rise is so closed that is impossible. Choice of rebel a Wip from @Havenstone is a story engaging rich and quite open. But there are like 200 words almost make me hate and anger all the rest.

You know a creppy girl boy dirty and a detailed description with all i consider ugly. Well my character feel totally aroused to the extreme of launch over him and kiss him passionaly, my girl a noble never see him. well appart almost sex assault him she tells him why want rebel against empire and accept joining a conspiracy with totally random commoners she even not know.

Well my credibility drops to -zero i enjoy the story but really dont feel it like mine anymore its the authors story where i could some customitation there is no way i could rp a game after that. I tried tell me my self that my character drugs herself so he was so hot to feel aroused even for a plastic bag.


There is a “rule” of writing: “Show, don’t tell.” That means, instead of telling us “Jane was really angry,” show us Jane clenching her jaw, getting her face two inches from Jack’s, and shouting, “Say that one more time, I dare you!” It feels flat if the author just tells us, but when the author describes the details it paints an extremely credible picture. We pour our own emotion into it.

In a choice game, this is doubly true. Instead of telling the reader, “You are very angry,” show their physical reaction to the NPC and allow them to fill in the emotion themselves. Of course, the author also has to give them a good reason to hate/love/whatever a character, and the choices to express that hatred (or lack thereof).


Isn’t the “showing” nearly the same as the “telling” in this case, though? It’s still the author controlling the PC in a way that may or may not align with the player’s vision of how their character should act or respond.

I don’t think there’s much difference between “You have a major crush on Character X.” and “You can’t seem to force your mouth to form proper words whenever Character X is around.”. Both seem questionable without the choice over it being offered.


Sometimes I happen to be playing a character that would have that exact reaction so I’m ok with it. Other times I’m playing as an evil SOB that loves no one and then I’m forced to hear three paragraphs about me crying about my forced love interest. It gets frustrating sometimes, others its just a small annoyance.


I guess the ideal thing would be to implement different personality schema so that the writing lines up with the personality you choose for your character. For instance, say if you had the option of choosing if you character is heartless, then the writing would reflect your character’s indifference to puppies getting kicked, or something. I personally get annoyed when loved interests get shoved in your face and you actually have no interest in them, but your character still is like, “Oh, but that person is super hot and WOW look at dat bod.”

So yeah, tl;dr maybe give choices on how to feel based on personality?


The problem I see with that is that the character can get locked into a personality and forced into things that they might otherwise make exceptions for. What about the character that is mostly heartless, but has a soft spot for puppies? They wouldn’t be indifferent to the puppy-kicking, but a game that ran things based on a predetermined personality would assume otherwise.

Best example I can think of why that doesn’t work well is in the older version of Heroes Rise, where the major choices in the game were taken away because “you already made your choice a long time ago” or some such. That was annoying.


I don’t think every emotion needs to be a choice. After all, for 90% or more of what I feel in the real world, I don’t have a choice to feel it. I’d rather have an MC with a bit of history and personality than a total blank sheet, and choosing every aspect of that personality would be altogether too much work. So when the protagonist of Heroes Rise or Choice of Romance reacts differently than I would, I just take that as a new parameter for the character; as long as I can still put together a consistent mental image of who I’m “reading,” I’m happy.

“Showing not telling” is a vital rule of thumb. But as with any rule, there are exceptions and complicating factors, and I’ll go out on a limb by suggesting a couple. :slight_smile: Showing usually takes more words, so at times, the pace of a passage is better served by a quick “telling” (especially if an emotional bent has earlier been established by “showing,” or in the case of CoGs by a player choice).

More importantly, there are nuances of emotion that we all read instinctively in people’s eyes, faces, and voices – but we could never get down on a page what the eyelids/muscles/tenor is actually doing that communicates the emotion, and if we tried it would be impossibly cumbersome. When we get past the simple broad emotions like anger or lust and are trying to communicate more complex or nuanced feelings, sometimes “showing” is not an option on the menu.

Describing people’s reactions is another staple of “showing not telling” – but as @CS_Closet already mentioned, describing the MC’s reactions to another character risks alienating readers like the ones on this thread.

Anyway, I’m always grateful for feedback on specific cases where I can show rather than tell. And some bits of CoReb are going to be much tighter for the feedback I’ve had on that so far, not least from @MaraJade. Thanks!


Wow, the responses to this thread have given me a ton to think about. Thanks a bunch!



After all, for 90% or more of what I feel in the real world, I don’t have a choice to feel it.

Actually - this isn’t strictly speaking true… at least not in my opinion.

You might not think that there is a choice… however you probably hold a belief somewhere (perhaps subconsciously or unconsciously even) that governs or “allows” you to experience a particular feeling… as opposed to a different one in that same situation!


@nine, I see choice as a function of the conscious mind, so I’d have said the subconscious and unconscious were part of the 90%. You’ve put it back to “beliefs,” but I’d say that 90% of what I believe (at least) is also unchosen.

I’d agree that, having felt something as a spontaneous reaction, I can then have the choice to try to feel something different.


Yeah @Havenstone we don’t choose great part of our feelings they are unconscious . But each one feel different in each situation besides in a game more if I rp I more conscious of what my mc could feel I need choose something similar or a ambiguous text not you feel this because x and you have no choose option about it.


@havenstone I’d still say that what you feel spontaneously may well have been a different feeling, if you had a different belief in the first place…

I’m curious… why do you say that 90% of what someone believes (at least) is unchosen?