It seems a mystery that a problematic game like Final Fantasy VII could be so, well, unforgettable. Its villain was even worse than cliché, its translated dialog conjured images of poorly dubbed Godzilla movies, its blocky graphics reminded me of children's artwork, and its love triangle came straight from that novel the 15-year-old captain of the chess club hides in his violin case. So why do industry experts consistently cite this game as a "defining moment for our industry"? Critics are at a loss to explain its massive success. One blogger, desperately trying to explain this, said - I swear I'm not making this up - the masses of Final Fantasy VII fans were all part of a group delusion caused by the shock of seeing the first CGI graphics integrated into a large RPG world; all else was just nostalgic fondness.

Perhaps it's time to learn the true lesson of Final Fantasy VII: Even a mediocre game can be made great through incredible "Emotioneering."

Diamond Characters
Coined by David Freeman in his book Creating Emotion in Games, Emotioneering is "the vast body of techniques that can create, for a player ... [a] depth of emotions ... [or immersion] in a world or a role." Freeman, a successful TV writer, found it intriguing to bring evocative techniques to gaming. Freeman believes we will create "the next revolution" in electronic entertainment by bringing emotional impact to the medium. He may just have a point, as the success of Final Fantasy VII proves.

From the moment the first cut scene plays, we're immediately assaulted with Emotioneering techniques. A beautiful and mysterious flower-girl walks the streets of the grotesquely industrialized city of Midgar. We're intrigued and pulled in by the girl. Who is she? The mystery motivates us to keep playing. Freeman calls mysteries a "motivation technique." The visual incongruence of the fantastical city pulls us out of our reality and into that of the game's in an emotionally resonant way. Visual incongruence is a "world induction technique," because it pulls the player into the fantasy world.

Moments later, the main character, Cloud, nimbly leaps from a train and prepares for combat. By the cut scene's end, we already know Cloud is an athletic action hero looking for a fight. Cliché? Just keep playing; a cliché Cloud is not. Though, on the surface, he's a stereotypical action hero that only cares about himself, before long we'll see that it's all just a facade meant to conceal his fear of failure. Cloud has what Freeman calls a "character diamond" - a diamond has four points, just as a nuanced character has at least four defining characteristics. Cloud's character diamond might look like this:

Action hero: He leaps dramatically from trains and looks great on a motorcycle. Oh yeah, and the size of his sword rivals only the size of the spikes in his hair.

Distant and uncaring: He's just here to do a job and get paid. Save the planet from Shinra Corporation? Who cares!

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