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Dr Tom Cole

Broadening and deepening emotional engagement with an emphasis on mechanics and systems. (Industry placement at Bossa Studios)

Video games, with their unique properties such as interactivity, agency, control mechanics, feedback loops and gameplay systems, have the potential to impart deep emotional experiences – some already do of course. However, study of this emotional engagement remains lacking. Reliance on techniques and theory appropriated from film, literature and cultural studies yields limited results. There is relatively little understanding of how procedural elements such as control mechanisms and gameplay systems can be leveraged (or synergised with narrative and/or audio-visual elements) for emotional affect.

Games should be studied as interactive systems, but are more often studied using techniques reserved for non-interactive media. As developers, we are ‘selling ourselves short’, and not exploring the creative and expressive potential of digital games to their fullest. Out of the myriad of affective experiences possible, we generally only design and experience a fraction of what could be offered. Tom hopes to help address this by studying how game mechanics, gameplay systems and control methods can be used and interpreted to create meaning and elicit a wider range of emotional responses than is commonly seen in digital games at present.


Tom was previously at Supermassive Games where he was a designer on the BAFTA award-winning horror game Until Dawn and artist on Killzone Shadow Fall.

Tom got his BSc in Biology with Industrial Experience from Manchester. After teaching science in secondary schools for a while, he decided games were more interesting and got his MA in Digital Games Theory and Design at Brunel.

Tom is now Programme/Course Leader for the new BA in Games Design at the University for the Creative Arts, Rochester. He also organises AdventureX - the world's only Narrative Games Convention, which has tripled in size in the last 3 years under his watch and this year will take place at the British Library Conference Centre.



Dr Tom Cole




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