INFLUENCING EMOTIONS TASK:
TEARAWAY UNFOLDED GAME EXPERIENCE
GAME: Tearaway Unfolded
DEVELOPER: Media Molecule and Tarsier Studios
PUBLISHER: Sony Computer Entertainment
DESIGNER: Rex Crowle
PLATFORM: PlayStation 4 (PS4)
GENRE: Platformer, Adventure
MODE: Single Player
GAME MECHANIC (Interaction, controls, strategy)
Tearaway Unfolded is a third-person platform game with heavy emphasis on environmental interaction, the features of DualShock 4 controller and quirky creativity. This game is a game about telling stories where the player navigates the main character as a messenger around the environment by helping the non-player characters (NPC) around. So far, the movement of the character are walking and jumping.
Upon starting the game, the player is thrown into an unfamiliar world with extra ordinary colors and weird looking characters that are mostly made out of cut-out papers. Character is known as Iota or Atoi, male and female respectively. The character aka the player is known a 'YOU' (literally you, the player). The story has YOU take control of the messenger to guide the character through the world. Player has the total control towards the character, but as the omnipotent onlooker, player work with the messenger in multiple ways.
By using the DualShock 4 controller, player is able to use the light on the back of the controller as a big light within the game. As the controller also has a gyroscope, it allows player to use the controller’s back light to shine in the world and bring paper environments to life. It also offers one interesting mechanics where player can draw their own shape and use their drawings in the game.
There is not much combat in the game, but if there is a combat, it will be pretty straightforward once you get used to it. Though it is straightforward, it is not immediately clear on how you are supposed to deal with the villain called Scraps each time. There are variety ways to banish the Scraps from the paper world, one of it is to use the light to gather them together and then simply throw them away or eliminate them. The one thing that we noticed for the task is that, there is a specific screen time given and player do not have the control to leave the scene until the task is completed. We had our moment of difficulties and since in the task, there are no clue given, time is consumed by exploring the locked scene to complete the task blindly.
Below is some of the interaction in the game with guidance:
DESIGN CRITIQUE (Graphics/Visuals)
The world in Tearaway Unfolded is bright and colorful and constantly uses the paper aesthetic to its advantage. For a game with such simple graphics, the visuals come off as very atmospheric. The magnificent color scheme in the varied natures of the locales throughout the journey in their verticality, platforming and decorative style are marvelous. The graphic designs throughout the game is thematically consistent - the textures, colours, animation, and the rustly papery sound effects are so satisfying to play in. Every new mechanic, location and story beat have a fresh moments to use paper, glue and stickers and it is agreed where it is visually stimulating throughout. It has that moment where we feel like walking through and interacting with a favorite storybook.
Nevertheless, despite having a vibrant looking world and cute characters, some areas are a little bit dismal. Some characters in the world are about as uninteresting as a random RPGs town folk where the character seems useless at some point.
Most of the dialogue in the game is presented in text boxes which we personally find really frustrating as some of the dialogue are a bit lengthy to read and quite often we need to click through a couple of text boxes to know more about the story instead of an automated animation.
Below are some of the designs in Tearaway Unfolded:
Despite it is a simple straight-forward story told, the strong voice acting from the pair of narrators keep the player invested in the journey. The switch between gibberish and actual voice acting is jarring at first, but it works to the game’s advantage in that it makes the player aware of when the story is being told. As this game is build in paper world, most of the time we can hear the rustling papery sound effects when we interacts with the environment or the NPCs. This gives the living moments in the paper world. Meanwhile the sound front is absolutely dominated by the superb soundtrack with so many various genres. It also has a very nice ambient, environmental sound effects; wind blowing, flowing water, buzzing insects. Overall the game has nice soothing audio. The sound effects fits the action perfectly.
Overall, Tearaway Unfolded have that attraction where player is invested into the story and it has that momentum where we just do not want to stop playing. It was not only the bright colors and the engaging narrations that keep our attention to the game play. The story line that keep us engaged the entire time. The story was told bit by bit with only revealing our main goal for that game - be a messenger and save the NPCs. Each episode have it's own continuity and the one thing that made us stop playing was the difficulties that we encountered and it was a dead end.
For our last game play, this can be illustrated in Yerkes Dodson Law, The Inverted U-Model and Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Model.
Yerkes Dodson Law, The Inverted U-Model
As the name stated, the Inverted U-Model was created by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson in 1908. Their theory describes that there is a relationship between pressure and performance. The Inverted U-Model is shown below. In summary, the lower the arousal is, the performance will increase. The higher the arousal is, the performance will decrease.
Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Model
Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. The flow state is the optimal state of motivation, where the person is fully immerse in what he or she is doing.
Flow include anxiety, apathy, arousal, boredom, control, relaxation, and worry; they result when a learner experiences a combination of skill and challenge levels of a task in non-optimal combinations.
He believe that certain requirements should be met for a flow to exist:
- Player performs challenging activity that requires them to train a skill
- The activity that provides clear and close goals with immediate feedback about progress
- The outcome of the activity is uncertain, but directly influenced by player actions.
In summary, flow is most optimal if both skill and challenge level is high. This increases the focus and player is more immersed.
If challenge level is low but the skill level is high, player is most likely to be in relaxation.
If skill level is low but the challenge level is high, player will experience anxiety.
The Flow Model of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi represents the emotional state someone can be while undertaking a task or activity. Below is the flow model:
Low Arousal, Weak Performance.
Low Skill Level, Low Challenge Level
At the beginning of the game, we are still curious and lost on how to control and expectations on the game play is low. As the navigation is given through as we go further into the first stage of the game, we are then familiar with the controls and this peaks our interest to continue playing the game. The motivation is due to capturing and alluring graphics/visuals as well as the step by step guided navigation by the narrators in the game. Slight and faint hint is given at certain areas. Narrators guide us how to jump, navigate the environment, interact with NPCs and how to defeat the scraps.
Optimal Arousal, Optimal Performance
High Skill Level, High Challenge Level (Optimal)
Once we get the hang of the controls and the environment, this is the Optimum arousal level where we can navigate ourselves through the game and comfortable with the surroundings and challenges we faced in the game play. This is where we manage to defeat the scraps easily and interact with the NPCs for the next task in the game play.
High Arousal, Weak Performance
Low Skill Level, High Challenge Level (High Arousal)
However, as we go further, we started to have difficulty in one of the task where the scrap is stuck in the mud but we couldn't figure out how to pull out the scrap nor even defeat it. We couldn't help the NPCs that stuck in the building. After spending sometime trying to figure out the way and since could not leave the scene until we completed the task, our pressure started to build up and we slowly starting to lose interest with the game. Despite the curiosity of the game play, we stopped playing and decided to end the game. This is where we hit the High Arousal Level, where we did not manage to complete the task, our pressure builds up and started to tense and lose focus. It is safe to say that the complexity of the task is influencing the build up pressure resulting our lost interest in continuing the game.
In conclusion, Tearaway Unfolded is one of those games that have a beautifully created world with interesting concept. We did not manage to complete the game due to the unavailability of the PS4 console. Though there are some factors that manage to lose our interest, it manage to capture our interest with the engaging story line and bright colored environment.
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