Imposing feelings on the player?


Other than a few ChoiceScript games and a couple stories, I’m not very familiar with stories told in the second person, so I thought I’d seek out advice. :slight_smile:

One of the people who tried the demo for my WIP pointed out several lines where the narrator imposes feelings upon the player–ex. “This doesn’t look good,” “You were shocked,” and similar lines–and suggested I cut or alter them so I’m not telling the player what to feel.

Is it possible to add emotion and reactions to a game like this without it coming across this way? How do you guys feel about this?


Tastes vary wildly; and on this, there’s significant overlap with the difference between players who like to imagine themselves as the protagonist and those who prefer a protagonist who’s a distinct character. Write what you enjoy. You’ll not please everyone, alas. (:


Thank you for finally putting this in words for me. Yes, thisis possible. I tend to just allow the player about 5 emotion choices that are widely different. All these choices do is provide a -5/5 stat change that affect a few dialogue options later in the game. Although I prefer to think of myself as an outside force in games, only providing suggestions to the character. This is why I like the style you are going in; the character has his/her emotions, while you just sit back and tell the character that this or that might be better for you.
@Havenstone. I agree, you can not please everybody.
Best of luck!:grin::laughing:


Sorry for the DP, but I would like to ask what WIP you are working on. I might have seen it (your profile looks familiar), but I have been running on the forums for a while now.


There also those that are like me – I don’t put real self as the protagonist, but I still want to feel I am, to a degree, in control of the character I play (i.e., I role-play a character, not myself).

So I suppose I am in the camp where I prefer the game to ask me how I feel about something, unless it is based on how my character have reacted previously, in which case I am fine with it – but things like panicking around creatures from the Cthulhu mythos is all right in my book. :blush:

But, write you game as you want – you cannot please everyone, as they said above – because if you change too much then you may find you lose the drive as you no longer write the way it comes naturally to you. Then again, listening to feedback is also important. :laughing:

I suppose you need to find your sweet spot of balancing these two. Good luck! :grin:


How dare you tell me what feels to feel! I’m an apathetic forum-frequenter, a rational actor and destroyer of drama! Now, cater your tale to my whims. While I take from you everything, I’ll give you nothing in return—I won’t even attempt to get into character or “roleplay”. Bwhahaha!


I apologize for that. It really does come down to give and take between the author and the reader. And as @Havenstone says, you certainly can’t please everybody!

Having choices on “how do you feel about this?” are great, but if the protagonist can only feel during those choices—he/she won’t be doing that much feeling throughout the narrative. Not unless you put in a choice at the end of every paragraph. Most situations and thoughts will therefore need to be read without a tone, in a generic, personality-less method. Writing that stuff is even more painful than reading it.

I think “You” is a hurdle some folks just can’t jump over. Second-person narrative is awkward in a lot of ways. Trying to force the reader to roleplay to some extent is necessary though, if you want to make them feel empowered or scared or anything. There’s a role (or several) that fits the tone of your writing, and my only advice is to try making it easy for the reader to assume that role.


As already mentioned, I think the best compromise is to give the player a few possible personalities (I usually just have all my choices loosely based on the four temperaments) and have hidden variables keeping track so you can actually use their personality when writing their reactions. (This can be used in more than just emotion too! I like to alter scene descriptions based on it; have a more logical/rational type notice the layout of the room while a more emotional bubbly type would look to see who all is in the room and recall their distinct relationships. It can be a surprisingly immersive thing).

I just wanted to post though to say that I think there are some things the author can reasonably force the player’s reaction to, imo. Things like Cthulhu monsters (as mentioned) who are known to cause unimaginable horror, or amnesia, where the player might remember a character, but their character has no way of knowing (so if a former friend just shows up in their house unannounced, they might think that they’re a burglar or something and react accordingly). But even in these situations, you can still do the personality thing I just mentioned. Horror might cause a rational type to get lost trying to understand the science behind such a terrible beast, while an emotional type would probably just scream for years. SOOO YEAH try that?


That’s similar to what I do. This is an excerpt from my WIP, Colonising Kepler 62e: Inception. (I also have a ton of these little “tweaks” to make the MC more like what the reader wants him/her to be in my other works.)

The supposed sorcerer steps forward, saying, "The powers Primaz has granted me have served me well, heretic." 
		His voice sounds like a chorus of tortured beings all piling together, shrieking, wailing, groaning and crying;
		*if ((social >= strong) and (social >= intelligence)) 
			you're reminded of an ancient, independent horror movie with a pitiful budget.
		*if ((intelligence > strong) and (intelligence > social)) 
			he's obviously using some cheap voice distorter.
		*if ((strong > intelligence) and (strong > social)) 
			the result is more annoying than frightening, really.


Hmm, thanks for the thoughts, everyone! One thing I probably should have mentioned is that my WIP is more of an adventure game and less of a choice-driven story, so the protagonist’s personality really isn’t a factor for the majority of it. Most of the choices are about picking up items and going through doors.

So far, I think there’s only one instance where I have a personality-related choice.

@Alvern and anyone else who was wondering, my WIP is “The Mansion”: The Mansion (WIP)


In this case, it is better to avoid imposed feelings. Just write what happens and leave the emotional part to the player.


@Samuel_H_Young that’s really interesting coding. I haven’t used anything as eloquently. Thanks for sharing.

By the way, I concur with everything SpaceLesbian said. I will add at times, I also ask the player how she or he feels with a fake_choice. I have become a proponent of such opportunities for players to express feelings and not set stats, which is a subtle way to change perspective.


I gotta say, I find this difficult as well. It’s actually one of the things that has stopped me from producing anything significant in choicescript.

I always find myself torn between a boring narrative and imposing feelings and thoughts on the player. For example, my protagonists always end up being a bit of a dork because my humour seems to be ingrained in my writing. I can either let all the bad jokes out and hope readers won’t mind, or I end up struggling with my writing a lot and producing something I personally find horribly dry.

I have not yet found a way to get around that. :confused:


I agree. I think the author’s sense of humor, sarcasm, etc is going to bleed through in the narrative but that’s not a bad thing. You can’t realistically insert a fake choice or one of Sam’s coding examples above every time the MC has a single passing thought, whether it be about the physical appearance of another character or a reaction to an odor or taste.

I would save the choices and stat-based reactions like Sam’s for the more important reactions.


Gee I hate to see this. Write what you want, what’s meaningful to you, and if it’s what you wanted to see in print then you’ve done your job. If other people like it, too, then all the better but you write for yourself first and foremost. Plus, you never know what other readers might find interesting.


I’m not, on a structural level, in love with choice games with psychologically well defined protagonists. It strikes me as conceptually backwards: if you’re telling me who the character is, why are you then asking me what the character does? Shouldn’t the latter flow directly from the former? Although it probably wouldn’t be workable on a large scale, I’d be interested in a game that just quizzed me on my characters feelings, opinions, and personality, and then set that character loose to make their own decisions without my further input.

That having been said, I think people tend not to notice or be bothered by railroads if said railroads are taking them where they want to go. If you describe an emotional reaction, and that reaction makes sense for how the player imagines the character, and they’re imagining a character they find interesting and/or sympathetic, they’re not going to notice that they weren’t directly consulted. The choice being made for them is the choice they would have made anyway.

Therefore, my conceptual objections aside, the practical question is less about whether or not you define the character, and more about how you define the character. If you know in broad terms who your target audience is and what’s likely to resonate with them, you’ll have a lot more leeway to make assumptions for the PC.

Think about the story you want to tell, what minimum assumptions you have to make about the PC for that story to work in terms of plot and theme, and look for emotional reactions that feel inevitable for any version of that character. There will probably be enough of them to keep the story from feeling bland and robotic.

Then, if a player objects to being assigned a given emotion, try to determine why it rings false. If the player wants to portray a character that isn’t compatible with your core assumption, then see previous comments about not being able to please everyone and move on.

On the other hand, you might be inadvertently assigning the character traits that don’t flow from, or are even incompatible with that core character.

The biggest concern here is that you might be assuming reactions you haven’t earned. Even in a static, 3rd person story, the emotional reactions of the character obviously still need to be justified by what’s going on. If you announce that “Bob was frightened” and nothing especially frightening is going on, then readers are going to assume Bob is neurotic or a coward, whether or not that’s the author’s intention. If Bob is the character the player is being asked to assume the identity of, that disconnect is going to be even worse .


My two cents:

You can’t please everybody, but you have a shot at least at not confusing everybody. If you want to give your protagonist a distinct existence from the reader, you should signal it early in the story. You might even consider writing in first person.

If you get into the middle of the story and suddenly you (the writer) start telling the reader how he feels, it is understandable that the reader feels confused, or that you violated the personality he projected onto the protagonist previously.

Of course there’s probably a lot of special circumstances depending on your story and style,


Thanks, everyone. :slight_smile: Looking at what you’ve said, I think it’s probably best for me to minimize feelings shown in the text. The focus is more on the setting and the actions, and I’ll try to present the information in such a way that the player can have their own reactions without it being written.

Going off of what @Wonderboy said, the only assumption about the character is that they were friends with the antagonist in school. That should allow me to keep the general sense of betrayal.

Since there are a handful of moments that reflect the player’s personality (or alignment, maybe?), I might use those to influence the narration in places.