Creator of Emotions & Feelings Game Jam Reveals Personal Side of Making Games

Video games are about so much more than driving fast cars, stomping evil turtles and shooting stuff. They can also be an incredible tool for exploring emotions in a way that other media can't.

Game developer Marina Díez is focused on making that kind of personally touching game. She's the creator of the Emotions & Feelings Jam, which encourages developers to create their own tiny games based on monthly themes related to compassion and sensitivity. We recently got the chance to ask her about her work and the inspiration behind the jam, as well as why it's so critical for there to be games about feelings and other tricky topics.

Sweety High: What does it mean to you to be a game designer? 

Marina Díez: Being a game designer is more than a simple job. It's something that involves pouring all my soul into what I'm doing. It also means the possibility of creating something that can in one way or another improve people's lives or make them easier.

When I talk about my job, the way people react depends a lot on their understanding of what exactly I do. Some people think I make "Facebook games" and other people think I'm never going to get a "real job," while others are deeply impressed. It's exciting.


SH: What types of games do you specifically want to create, and why?

MD: I want to make games for people who don't like video games. There are so many people who still think that video games are childish, violent and bloody, but that's a very old conception. I also want to help people understand that video games aren't a completely modern concept, but an evolution of games and play, which have existed since the very beginning of humanity. We learn, deal with our lives and make decisions by playing. We're simply not aware of it because lots of people still think play is restricted by age and that it becomes unacceptable past a certain point in your life. Play increases our creativity and improves our lives.

I would also love to help people through my games. At the moment, I'm focused on making games related to mental health issues and abstract concepts because I think it's a beautiful way to teach people more about these difficult topics. Video games can change people's lives for the better, and help us gain more empathy and emotional intelligence, allowing us to create a better world together.


(Pet a Shark via Marina Díez)


SH: Why do you believe it's important to make experience-based games, and what topics are you excited to explore with them?

MD: When I started creating games based on my life experiences, lots of people reached out to me and said my games made them feel less alone and more understood. I realized then that video games are a beautiful vehicle for building bridges between human beings, as well as for approaching complicated topics.

At the moment, I enjoy exploring mental health in my games, and I think this is something that I will be doing for the next few years. I'm also working on abstract concepts such as empathy, consent and intimacy. I like to know more about human beings and our inner world.


SH: How did the idea for the Emotions & Feelings Jam come about?

MD: In March, I started making a series of games called "The Abstraction Series," creating tiny pieces based on terms such as empathy, consent, and intimacy. In April, I decided to create a chat server on a platform called Discord for game developers interested in making personal games. The idea was a success, and I received tons of applications from people eager to join the community. One of my ideas for encouraging the community was to organize a monthly jam. One person suggested it would be amazing to make game jams around my idea about abstract concepts. Et voilà.


SH: What can make games a more powerful way to explore these ideas than, for example, film or prose?

MD: Video games are a very powerful medium. You're not just seeing things happen on your screen. You're the performer who makes those actions happen. That's incredible. Through that interaction, it's easier to approach certain topics, and also to convey a message to the player.


SH: What types of concepts and ideas were you hoping to see in the games from the jam?

MD: I didn't have really any expectations beforehand, to be honest. I just wanted people to enjoy making games and reflect a bit about intimacy, the topic chosen for this jam. I think anything that people make from their hearts is simply fantastic.

All the submissions impressed me a lot. The goal of the game jam is not to make masterpieces—it's almost impossible to make a masterpiece in two weeks—but to make game developers reflect about the topic and to increase the number of games in the games industry about meaningful stuff. The games that come out of game jams are obviously going to be smaller, bite-sized experiences. I just hope that as the jam continues, more people will want to make more games about unusual topics.


(Darlings at the Edge of the Universe via asteroidskeeper)


If you want to learn more about games dealing with emotion, click HERE to read out review of Gris, a gorgeous platformer about dealing with grief.