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Session Name:

The Lives of Others: How NPCs Can Increase Player Empathy


Non-player characters, or NPCs, are an essential part of any video game world. Allies, enemies, and civilians all contribute to make the spaces feel dynamic and realistic. But, more often than not, their lives are meaningless and unguided, their deaths shrugged off as collateral damage, and their very existence erased as soon as the player is out of sight.
Rather than treat these characters as background decoration, what if they could be leveraged to increase immersion and deepen player empathy? This session presents case studies from around the industry, including examples from the speaker's own work on Homefront, Far Cry 4, and the recently released Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and suggests best practices for writers and designers looking to maximize the narrative value of these under-appreciated extras.

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  • GDC 2016
  • CJ Kershner
  • Polyhedron Productions
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  • Game Narrative