The Interactive Empathy and Embodiment (IEE) method 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, disability aesthetics, 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?
Since the need for interactive experiences that promote empathy and reconciliation is at an all-time high. The IEE method 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 method for?
The IEE method 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 method is a professionally written book and comprehensive step-by-step guide for designing 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. 4 / Feb 2021 / 91-page PDF) serves as a primer for Vol. 2, with a historic look at gaming's artistic heritage.
- IEE Volume 2: Method Walkthrough (Ver. 2 / Feb 2021 / 241-page PDF) provides step-by-step instruction for creating games and interactive experiences, from conception through to prototyping.
The IEE method 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’m also eager to know if you feel that your culture or demographic is respectfully represented, or at all. I therefore 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. Please note: I will eventually edit both volumes into a presentable book format once I've had an opportunity to review and implement feedback from the community.
I would also be grateful for assistance with proof-reading, editing and translations, since I hope to have the method available in multiple languages.
What it's worth
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 section.
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 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 method 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 compared to 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.
IEE Fundamentals (Ver. 4, 91-page PDF, 4MB) and IEE Walkthrough (Ver. 2, 241-page PDF, 11MB)