I completed my Master's Thesis as part of my graduate work at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Empathy and Attraction
The Role of Purposeful Beauty in Videogame Character Design
Like other forms of visual storytelling, narrative video games rely heavily on story characters to derive an emotional response from their audience. Visual artists have long tailored characters' physical appearances in order to manipulate audience perceptions and reinforce implicit personality traits as required by the narrative. Separately, clinical psychology research has demonstrated the existence of a culturally-conditioned attractiveness bias, indicating that the possession of physically attractive traits elicits ameliorative emotional responses within the mind of the beholder.
Yet many of today's commercial video games fail to portray characters with classically attractive features, instead relying on sexually objectified depictions of the female form to appeal to the libidinousness of the male gamer demographic. This thesis proposes that undue hypersexualization of female video game characters impedes players' ability to form the empathetic connections essential to the cathartic experience that defines drama. Original character art is developed using clinically-identified principles of attractiveness, intended as a proof of concept for maximizing potential player empathy while deemphasizing the role of the female as sex object.
Thesis Project Images
A selection of images showcasing the work completed for my thesis project.
Final Concept - Costume - Color
Final Posed Zbrush Sculpture
Feature Manipulation for 'Exaggerated' Variant
Feature Manipulation for 'Femme Fatale' Variant
Feature Manipulation for 'Ingenue' Variant
Front View Comparison of Facial Variants
Comparison of Final Head Variant Sculpts
Feature Exaggeration Threshold
The extent of ameliorative feature exaggeration along attractiveness dimensions is limited by the Feature Exaggeration Threshold, which is the point of equilibrium between the competing evolutionary forces of Koinophilia and Supernormal Stimuli.
Conceptual Attractive Feature Archetype Graph
The concept of Attractive Feature Archetypes predicts that when every feature dimension of the human face is measured for attractiveness and plotted on an N-dimensional graph, the resulting surface will manifest as a cone. However, within a certain subset of attractive features at the apex of the cone, more idyllic arrangements of features will localize around Attractive Feature Archetypes. The more uniformly that the features of a face are oriented toward the same archetype, the greater the potential for that face to attain a higher level of attractiveness. This graph is purely conceptual, and the placement, number, and scale of the archetypes shown is not intended to represent actual AFA values.