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How can colour create an emotional impact on the player’s game experience?Diana Udrescu Q5078203AbstractWe are constantly under the influence of colour yet we do not have to have our eyes open to experience it. Colour surrounds us at all times, and after a study of the Freudian psychology, it turns out that a lot of things, including our response to colour, are determined by powerful influences which are largely unconscious – perhaps because we once used colour in primitive times to navigate nature and survive? It has been proven that animals have a different way of perceiving the world and its colours, with colour perception being a key part of survival in the evolutionary context.

Colours can be broadly broken down between several pairs of categories: warm and cool, sedation and stimulus, night and day.IntroductionColour conveys emotion in a very subtle way, for we subconsciously respond not to a single colour, but all colours presented. They are undoubtedly an essential element in any artistic creation – from traditional paintings, to filmmaking and clothing. For thousands of years, colour has been used in theatre and art with the purpose of captivating the viewer’s attention, as they assemble to deliver story and emotion. Video Games are constantly increasing in popularity around the world, having the common goal of seeking the immersion of the player by creating opportunities for emotional engagement. They are among the most complex forms of interactive media, constantly evolving to meet the growing demands of its consumer base. Each of the elements simulated in a digital virtual world has roots in real life and in traditional forms of entertainment such as plays and books. Due to the fact that video games are l’eggEach of the elements of a video game has roots in real life and traditional forms of entertainment such as plays and books, and because it is simulated in a digital virtual world, the creator has a lot more control and customization available over every component in the scene.

Although there are some aesthetic rules that can be used as guidelines to create a harmonious end-result, it is ultimately up to the digression of the creator in how they decide to use their mediums to deliver a story. In this paper, I present a brief overview on the use of colour in video games with the intent of igniting specific emotions from its players. I have prepared a survey to assess if other chromatic stimuli such as saturation and brightness would affect and overall scene and the perception of the player.

 Colour Theory HistoryThe early studies of the nature of colour trace back to Ancient Greece, when Greek philosopher Aristotle developed the first known theory of colour, by attributing four colours to the four elements of nature: earth (black), fire (white), wind (red) and water (yellow). He believed that colours are sent from God in the form of celestial rays of light. Therefore it makes sense for Aristotle to wrongly assume that the primary colours consist of white and black (light and its absence). His findings were used as a basis for all colour work for nearly 2000 years. A more detailed and accurate understanding of colour and its mechanics began decades later in the 1660s, when English physicist Isaac Newton began a series of experiments using white light and two prisms. By shining sunlight though one and respectively two prisms He demonstrated that clear white light is composed of seven visible colours (ROYGBIV spectrum), and wrote “Opticks” in 1704, to share his discovery. Newton’s findings helped advance the science of colour and has been the base for many other experiments in this field to follow.

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Newton went as far as ascribing the seven colors precisely to the notes of the diatonic scale as follows: C= Red D orange e yellow f green g blue a indigo b violet. Since then there have been immense progression with the perfecting of an instrument that can translate colours into sounds, and play them as musical notes.  Figure 1However German poet Goethe disputed Newton’s views on colour, arguing that colour is not just a scientific measurement, but a subjective experience perceived by each viewer. While acknowledging Newton’s findings as a progression, he did not believe it replaces that of Aristotle; but is rather a secondary approach to the matter. He wrote the Theory of Colour in 1810 (originally in German), which was well-received and widely adopted by artists.  Figure 2Colour PerceptionEach colour has its own specific wavelength; each colour is therefore perceived and processed by different receptors within the eye.

Red is the strongest hue on the spectrum, which has the longest wavelength, and therefore requires the most ocular adjustment to look at. For this reason, red is usually the first colour to be noticed in an image, its chromatic properties allowing it to stand out in a scene. Red instigates energy and vibrancy, however if looked at for too long, it can create a sense of irritability and alarm.

  Its complementary colour green, however, requires no adjustment to look at whatsoever and is perceived as restful and calm. Looking at an image with predominant green or cold hues for a prolonged period of time will not tire.  In simple terms, each colour is perceived differently, evoking a psychological reaction from its viewer. Figure 3Examples in GamesAs outside observers we rarely consider the psychological implications of our medium, and colour can be used in many ways to enhance the experience we walk away with. In games, colour can be utilized as a guide, drawing the player towards the point of focus, allowing essential elements of the game to stand out – whether it is just one prop or a whole entire environment scene. Even a void of colour can have a strong impact, for even the absence of colour and light delivers a story. The game Kholat has a complete lack of colour which enhances the feeling of isolation giving the impression of a vast, deserted world. However the complete desaturation in the scenes serves an even more important purpose; the few hues that are present in the game feel threatening and unnerving, glimmering in an otherwise dark world, and are used to suggest fire (life) but enemies as well.

The orange shades draw the player to them in a lonely, colourless word, as a sign of life or conflict, anything being better than a colourless, isolated existence. Figures 4 and 5 An opposing example is the Witness, in which you are not given a prompt, or any storyline – you are placed in this world and told to experience emotional connection through the different areas of the game, for each different part contains embedded narrative that is transmitted to the player though a combination of colour and light. The colours play an important part of the game, for they not only let you discover more of the storyline as you progress, but it is also contained in the puzzles within this game; The creator of the game, Jonathan blow believes you will make a more deeper meaningful connection not only to his form of art Colour can also show you a world through the eyes of someone else, be it the creator or the character.

When worlds fail, and deceive us, colours are the most unadulterated form of expression. Figures 6 and 7Methods of ResearchIn order to get a first hand understanding on how colour can instigate a specific emotion in its perceptor, I have put together a survey in which a total of 30 participants  (of various age groups and interests) have taken part in. I have interpreted the answers below.In the first question, five images are presented all with the same environments, but which suggest a different time of day though brightness and illumination hues. The participants were tasked with choosing  one of the five images and to explain what atmosphere it reflects.

1. The first image is brighter and has more visibility, transmitting a cheerful, calm ambience. The colour pallete is mostly cool colours, with subtle yellow tints in the highlights to imply natural sunlight.2.

After assesing the results, it was clear that the second image appealed most to the majority. Even if the overall lightness is lower than the first image, the yellow tinge of the sun rays balance out the cool shades of blue and green. Therefore this setting was perceived as calming, harmonious and overall pleasant.

3. Because the source of illumination is obstructed, the elements in this the third image are barely visible, with warm hues in the sky to suggest sunset. Due to lack of visibility atoned with a calm and restricted pallete, participants preferring this image described it as “magical”.4. The fourth image presents a dramatic change in pallete, with a saturated reddish-orange contrasting the darkened elements. The image appealed to ony one participant which compared it to a scene from a horror movie, describing it as “eerie”, perhaps due to the fact that the absence of light and intense contrasting orange hues have an alarming effect.

5. The fith image presents the scene at night, which is suggested by the monochromatic pallete. The bright yellow almost “glows” when in contrast with such dark shades of blue. The atmosphere can therefore be perceived as “gloomy” or even “dramatic”.It is clear that the images which appealed most are the ones with an overall warmer colour pallete and which have better illumination. This is because the absence of light reminds the primal brain of reduced of danger, alarm and fear.

The next question tasks participants to choose one from an assortment of images which have a predominant hue, and give reasoning. 1. The first image has the coolest pallete, with a combination of blues, purples and tints of pink. It was therefore perceived as a tranquil atmostphere, with the buildings creating a mysterious and intriguing environment over all.2. The image presents a futuristic dessert, which is symbolised with the shades and tints of orange and yellow.

It has a good balance between the two main elements in the scene – the ground and sky. Due to only one silhouette being represented, it can exude a feeling of loneliness.3. The yellow highlights in the third images bring a certain “glow” to the elements in the scene. Due to the natural shades of green, the figure is very soothing to look at, which in turn portrays a calm and natural environment.4. In the last images, we have a predominant dark red hue which can entretain the feeling of danger, or alarm.

The elements presented in the scene are soliders, and war. It is sugested though the darkened shades that a conflict is imminent in this case.The participant’s preferrences were mainly divided between the first and the third image. This is perhaps because of the choice in the dominating hue – with blues, purples and greens appealing more. It is not specified in what quantity did the hue or the scene’s elements affect the partaker’s answer.The last sequence of images are screenshots taken from various games in key moments. The participants were asked to express what atmosphere and emotions it brings out for them.Results show that scenes which tend to be brighter and have slightly increased saturation incite jovial and uplifting emotions.

This validates previous studies which also demonstrated that environments with a wider variation of saturated hues and bright illumination tend to be perceived as positive, fun and light-hearted as opposed to scenes with somber or dim lighting and desaturated, darkened, limited hues 10. The second and fifth scenes are quite similar, for they depict a fun, jovial and relaxed atmosphere. Common elements such as the bright and saturated colours act as a very efficient stimulant with positive valences, even if it may seem a chaotic scene to the player.

 The dramatic contrast represented in the fourth scene draws the player’s attention to a main element of the progression of the story. The orange For example the first image portrays a dynamic, aggressive atmosphere as a fight is taking place. The chaos depicted is transmitted to the player not only though actions, but the choice in colour palette, which supports to deliver the subtle message and atmosphere it takes place in. There is a dominant orange tint to the whole scene, which if looked at over a prolonged period of time, can instigate an unnerved need for immediate action, which can put the player on edge, immersing him more into the dark and trouble world the game portrays.

(Dying Light –Survival Horror) The desaturated tones in the sixth image allow the player’s yellow coat to stand out, like a ray of sun in the twisted, grotesque world presented. However, it serves a more important purpose overall, for all throughout the story; the player is believed to be the positive energy in the game, only to create a bigger impact when the truth surfaces at the end of the series. The desaturated and monochromatic palette weighs heavily in the contrast with the yellow coat of the player, to suggest a dark, twisted and damaged world. (Little Nightmares – Survival Horror)The visibility in the third setting is relatively low, for it presents a very darkened and saturated harmony of cool shades, however opposed to the other darkened images presented, a dim light environment isn’t automatically attributed with fear, the saturation in hues in this case enticing the player to a mysterious world full of magic. (Trine 3 – Puzzle Platform, RPG)The fourth figure presents dramatic contrast between deep blues and bright fire represented with orange and yellow tints to stand out as main focal point of interest for the player. The dramatic effect accentuates created supports the present creepy, sad and depressive actions depicted – perhaps this is to suggest a cruel, damaged world. (Hell blade – Action Adventure)The same connections are observed with feelings of fear and it could also be concluded from this that if the video game environments are less saturated, the negative valence and the feeling of fear are higher.

 If an image has more sources of different hues, it can result in an increased level of neural activity for it takes a longer time to process all the chromatic diversity presented before us, even if this happens subconsciously. Therefore high colour diversity can induce a burst of positive emotional activity, entertaining feelings of joy and cheer.This applies for the luminosity of the environment as well: Lower light levels can invoke a primal response from our brain, producing an on-edge like sensation of imminent danger as a result of the reduced visibility.ConclusionThe result of my study implies there is a correlation between the player’s emotion and the game environment properties: brightness, saturation, chroma and overall balance.