Empathy in Wonderland

Was the name of a talk about developing Empathy in XR given by Nicole Lazzaro at XRDC. This talk will be available to watch later in the GDC Vault. It’s one that I recommend especially if you are a game developer, and especially if you are developing with XR (for AR or VR devices).

Article by Micah Blumberg

In this talk Nicole Lazzaro delivered a very comprehensible & concrete explanation of how to increase empathy and thus immersion, fun, user engagement with characters and user enjoyment of content in AR VR or other game formats.

Nicole’s talk covered three different conceptual stages for deepening empathy in XR experiences. The first one is Empathy Channels, and some of her examples of opening an empath channel might include when characters break the fourth wall and look directly at the player. She mentions that if Henry a character and a VR app developed by Oculus, had healed somewhat from his emotional loneliness by engaging with the player it have stepped up the level of immersion another notch.

Beyond developing empathetic channels she covers the concepts of Empathy hurdles, and empathy bridges. Empathy hurdles are challenges that can only be overcome when a user responds in an empathic way during a game challenge, that could include doing something for a non-player character that reflects an understanding of that character’s mind and what they care about. Importantly empathy hurdles can help filter out people who want to be trolls because they won’t be attracted to the kind of empathetic behavior that is required to progress in that direction of the a games multi-threaded storyline. Nicole notes that there are many stories and game scenarios, such as superhot, where empathy doesn’t make any sense and may actually worsen the game. Imagine if you were compelled to care for each of the characters in Superhot before you had to kill them? That doesn’t sound very fun. So empathy isn’t the right strategy for every type of game.

Lazzaro’s talk covered three empathy deepening XR techniques distilled from 4 years of research from thousands of players in Lazarro’s XR Lab from work done in partnership with Google, Hidden Path, Survios, ‘Beat Saber’, ‘Fragments’ (HoloLens), and 3 unannounced titles.

Her strategy is important for bringing to life deeply rich narrative spaces for AAA IP such as Harry Potter, the kind of content from Disney Pixar, and its important for first rate content such as Star Wars by ILMxLAB. These three empathy techniques can double your XR creation’s ability to create emotional depth.

So make sure to check out Nicole Lazzaro’s talk at XRDC on the GDC Vault when it gets published sometime in the next month.

Update: you can check out Nicole’s slides here https://www.slideshare.net/NicoleLazzaro/xrdc-empathy-in-wonderland?fbclid=IwAR1FweaG2pqDyaNnjvE62V63Rqs8Sj6yTTQdIcD3FzGe0uezsDb27hIU96A