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  • Book Excerpt: Better Game Characters Through Design

    - Beth A. Dillon
  • 6.2.1 Bodies Show Relationship

    Interpersonal Distance and Touch

    6.1: What would you guess the relationship is between
    these two people?

    6.2: How about the relationship between these two?

    6.3: How about these people?

    One way to begin considering how bodies work in social interaction is to ­consider what proximity (how close people are together when they interact) says about relationship. Consider Figures 6.1, 6.2, and 6.3 for a moment. Most people guess that the first pair are colleagues or new acquaintances. The second pair tends to look like more familiar friends, and the third pair like a couple. Something as simple as how close people stand together has a profound affect on what they are com­municating about their relationship. Edward Hall, a well-known anthropologist, made observations of four zones of interpersonal space in U.S. social contexts:

    • Public distance. Standing more than 12 feet apart. At this distance, it is easy to see everyone’s full body. Typically, people will slightly exaggerate their expressions and movements so that they are easy to interpret.
    • Social distance. Standing 4 to 12 feet apart. This is the zone that most people hover within at parties—the closer they stand within this range, the better they probably know one another.
    • Personal distance. Standing 18 inches to 4 feet apart. At this distance, it is easy to read subtle facial expressions. This is the distance that people use for more private conversations.
    • Intimate distance. Less than 18 inches apart. This allows the people to easily touch and even to smell one another.

    As was mentioned in Chapter 3, social distances vary depending upon culture and subculture, but the principle holds true: people can tell very quickly by the distance between people how likely it is that they are already in a close relationship.

    Types of touch also contributes to how people perceive relationships (see Figure 6.4). Some key purposes of touch include:

    • Function. Touch as part of a task, such as a doctor’s examination or a coach clarifying a movement.
    • Social ritual. Rituals such as handshakes or cheek kisses.
    • Friendship building. Touches that show care and liking for another, such as a pat on the shoulder or a hug.
    • Intimacy. Touch that expresses sexual interest and/or emotional connection.

    In ICO, the player-character (the young boy carrying the stick) finds a trapped princess very early on in game play. From this moment forward, the player takes care of her. The princess (Yorda), is not really able to defend herself and is not as agile as the player-character. She must be led by the hand to ensure that she tags along, and she needs help over obstacles. When the player ­battles the shadows that threaten her, she will stay close by (within social distance).

    6.5: Sony Computer Entertainment's Ico

    Many players of this game have remarked upon the emotions created by Yorda’s dependence upon them. This dependence is expressed almost entirely through body language. By keeping the two characters close, and by using touch as part of game play, the designers build a powerful connection between the player and Yorda (see Figure 6.5).


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