I finally had a chance to read Danc’s essay on game emotions in which he draws a distinction between primary emotions (your dog dies) and what he terms “shadow emotions” (you watch a movie of a dog that dies). One affects you more strongly with personal consequence while the other affects you because you construct a relationship to it, but other than the emotional response, the event may not have any tangible effect on your being.
He argues that games are better than other media at evoking primary emotions although he is careful not to place one set over the other as being more importance. He gives compelling examples such as the emotions evoked by: being asked the join a guild, experiencing player-character perma-death, frustration at a camper at a spawn point, etc.
What about in romance? We’ve seen that people can actually form real attachments to non-human and non-animal objects. And in fantasy at least, we accept that one may fall in love with a digitally driven construct (see: Holodeck romance, Riker and Minuet; Geordi and Leah; Janeway and that faux-Irish guy; etc.) As a younger, more impressionable day-dreamer I developed many a crush on non-real characters in books and those emotions were just as “real” to the teenage me as crushes on a real boy. I’d like to suggest that romance in an interactive experience can begin to blur the distinction, perhaps, between “primary” and “shadow”.
Hm, this bears more thinking and research. Thoughts?