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[Gameplay concept] Pathos

AHasvers's picture
Submitted by AHasvers on Wed, 01/28/2015 - 15:22

Pathos is the use of affect to persuade your audience to take a certain stance. It can work by appealing

  • to emotion ("Think of the children!")
  • to ego ("Any intelligent person knows that the result in 47." or in implication "Obviously, the result is 47. ")

As such, it may seem antithetical to Logos - it seems to be there to override reason and create arbitrary biases in people (even if you deem like me, perhaps after reading the previous posts, that logic is not a God-given web of intrinsically true relationships).

This creates multiple implementation problems:

  • If we decide that pathos is some power that allows a speaker to shift belief in a given claim, then we need some mechanism to shift it back, lest these effects be permanent.
  • Furthermore, it is very aggressive: contrary to our maxim that "dialogue is both cooperative and competitive", pathos seems to exist only as a way of manipulating people into false beliefs.
  • Furthermore, people in real life use pathos on themselves all the time (that's the very essence of self-help) which would ha veno benefit here.
  • Finally, we need to add a mechanism for resisting pathos: how does a character keep their cool and see through this aggressive.

All these problems are solved by a simple choice: pathos does not affect your belief, it creates an incentive for believing.

What is affect? It is investing emotional resources - i.e. Territory - into a given position. You are rewarded if you feel justified in that position, and punished by cognitive dissonance if you feel opposition to it, which pushes you to ignore arguments against your side.

In gameplay terms:

  • Pathos power is collected by claiming certain topics that have emotional resonance (e.g. "Many children are dying of hunger")
  • This power can be used to induce the speaker, the audience, or both into investing Territory in a given opinion on another topic that is connected to the first one (e.g. "We should produce more food").
  • Invested Territory is a double-edged sword:
    • when the opinion is corroborated by the general state of the conversation (when you and your audience agree that it is true), your Territory reserve is increased by the invested amount. You feel justified and confident.
    • when the opinion is opposed (when at least one of the characters disagrees), your Territory reserve is depleted by the invested amount. You feel wronged and on shaky ground.

Thus, even if you see logical arguments against that position, you will be driven to ignore them because acknowledging them would cost you. Resistance to pathos comes simply from having a large enough starting reserve of Territory, so that losing or gaining a little more is not important - which fits with the notion that Territory represents emotional stability and therefore resistance to manipulation.

Finally, by collecting pathos and sending it to other topics along fallacious links - arguments that you create on the spot - you can manipulate your audience into believing essentially anything, but your entire strategy may crumble if they see through you.