Blog: VR/AR

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The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at Google in Zurich in a talk titled, ‘VR/AR: A Renaissance Art Form.’ While the title focuses on virtual reality and augmented reality, the presentation’s content explores how classical craft can inform our understanding of interactive empathy across transmedia using a sensory approach to design. 

My personal approach to game design (as outlined in the presentation recording above) is informed by gesture drawing—the practice of drawing a live model within a limited time period that can be as short as 30-seconds or 1-minute. The relevance that gesture drawing has to interactive media is that it similarly involves a person (player) observing a dynamic subject and making split-second decisions before reacting with appropriate gestures (inputs). Just like a player reacting to on-screen events by directing their avatar’s movement with a controller’s analog stick, the artist expresses movement using a minimalist set of lines of varying aesthetic quality. In both cases, the artist and player have a unique and personal opportunity to embody the aesthetics that they perceive visually—physically channeling the subject’s energy through the act drawing/playing.

My gesture drawing experiences—more than any other artistic practice—have led me to develop a methodology that approaches the game design process that prioritizes aesthetics over rules and game mechanics. Titled Interactive Empathy and Embodiment (IEE), the framework promotes a high-level sensory design approach for video game design, although the concepts are also relevant to interactive media like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and cross-reality (XR). You can think of sensory design as working inside-to-outside, whereby the design process starts by defining the aesthetics of the player’s physical state before orchestrating external, game design solutions that evoke this predetermined experience. In other words: A-D-M (physical aesthetics-dynamics-mechanics).

Please note that IEE was formerly called Adaptive Gameplay Aesthetics, about which you can read the fundamental principles on Gamasutra and via Gumroad. I’m still in the process of finishing an all-new framework walkthrough, which will be the culmination of 15+ years of work in the area of classical art and game design. Please follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay updated, or visit for more info.

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