How do you evoke the emotion of anger without making the player frustrated with a game?

Strong emotional response is a key factor in player engagement in most cases (sadness/despair is the notable outlier here). A strong anger reaction has a lot of potential for an engaging player experience, as long as we create the experience carefully. We do this by creating a specific target for that anger that isn’t the game itself, and by giving the player a satisfying way to release all of the tension that anger has built up within them.

Let me illustrate this concept in two gifs. First, we create a very specific target for players to focus all of that anger on.

Joffrey, from Game of ThronesALT

We want the player to feel that anger, just not at the game. We want to present a character or challenge that the player can get angry at. We want it to be frustrating, but not break the flow band into anxiety. This will build tension very quickly and pull the player in - an angry player will be many things, but won’t be bored.

Once we’ve built up enough tension, we then create an encounter for the player to release all of that built-up tension in a satisfying way.

Joffrey gets slappedALT

That release of all that tension is then replaced within the player by catharsis, which feels great. Catharsis is that sense of satisfaction and relaxation you get after releasing all of your pent-up rage in a good way, without any of the regret or hurt that releasing anger normally causes. The more tension we built before releasing, the better the release feels.

That can't be it... Where's the rest of it?ALT

If the game doesn’t provide an adequate release for that tension, the player has nowhere else to vent except at the game itself. This often transforms the tension into disappointment. This is why both steps are equally important. We need to build the anger up at a target, and then we need to lead the player to the best place to release all that anger on the target, achieving catharsis. That results in a memorable and engaging experience.

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