And today is the time to the next installment in our series. Today we're gonna talk about curiosity. Curiosity is the need to know, to answer the questions, and it is one of those things that make us want to continue reading a story, watching a movie, or in our subject, participate in a game.
Like in our previous emotion, this one also contains relevant emotions, which are wonder and intrigue.
If used correctly, curiosity will make the players talk about the game after the games is finished, trying to understand, to predict, what will come next. If not used correctly, the players will probably be bored, or uncaring, but by all means they won't put energy to the game beyond the game time (if at all).
So, how can we raise the level of curiosity in the game? For that there are, again, a few techniques. They also raise the level of interest, but are used more to this emotion.
The main way to do that, and also the basic way from which we're building up, is by arousing questions. They can be simple questions like "will the thief run away" or as complicated like "will she shot her son, when she'll discover that he's the murderer of her husband?" What is important, though, is that there will be questions.
We can think about the questions in a few different levels:
The opening sequence questions are the first ones we'll have to consider. It is mandatory to catch the player's curiosity from the first moment, and raising interesting questions at this early stage will sure catch their attention and curiosity. Think about the pictures from the start of the movie Chinatown, or better yet, the questions that arouse in the first few segments of The Godfather: To whom is he talking? Why is he so important? What happened to the girl, and why? From that moment, we're hooked with curiosity, and by the time these questions are answered, we have new ones.
Always have a few questions running in the players' minds. It's not that difficult to arrange, but it is rewarding nonetheless. By the time an answer is given, 2 new questions should pop up.
Another level to think about is the one of scale. A question can arouse in the whole plot, or in a single beat. If most of the beats will raise questions, it's surely on the way to advance even farther. When the lunatic enters the room screaming, apart from the surprise and fear, the beat also contains questions such as who is he? Why is he here? Why he hasn't been stopped and so on.
But questions can also be in the scene level. Will Rick be persuaded into helping Ilsa? Will the investigator get the permission to read about Kane in the book?
Or even in sequence level. Will the criminal on the train succeed in running away from the investigator? Will Annie discover what event in the past made Alvy be this loony?
And of course it can also be in the act and story levels. What is important, though, is that there will be questions, many of them, most of them small (so there won't be an overflow of questions or info gained) and constantly bombarded at the players and their characters.
"There are trails from the dead body of the horse, the cape is full of blood, but there's nobody wearing it. They are leading to a certain point, near the bushes and trees, and then it stops, disappearing..." Not too complicated, but look what questions do we have: What happened to the rider of the horse? What happened to the trails? Has he gone through the bushes? Trees? Is he alive? Is he a she? Who is the rider, actually? And of course many many more.
There are 2 more techniques that I'll discuss today. The first one is withholding the information. If the players discover the answers too soon, there's no real excitement or drama, and the curiosity has died before it had even begun to flourish. The idea is to hold the info as much as we can before the game draws into a halt or frustration starts to fill the players. One possible way to solve it is to wait about 2-3 minutes of real time, or until 2-3 new questions have aroused before answering the earlier ones. Another way is that the answers themselves create new questions: "What happened to Lisa? -She left her house with a boy, and then disappeared. -Who was the boy? -I don't know, but he had 6 fingers on his right hand..."
The last technique for today is of emphasising secrets and schemes. It fills us with curiosity when a scheme is being made, or if someone is holding a secret. "How will it turn out? Will the scheme succeed? Will the secret be revealed? How?" I'll discuss secrets more thoroughly when I'll discuss surprise, but let's just say that holding the secrets creates a sense of intrigue and wonder, which bump up our curiosity level.
So that's it for today. What about you? How do you try to catch player's curiosity?