Veneer: A Digital Visual Novel Game Exploring Player Empathy

Felicia Tucker


This paper describes the design and development of Veneer, a digital visual novel, developed to explore empathy during game play. In particular, this game uses well-developed character avatars, with strong personality traits and a clear back-story, to explore player empathy with the character avatars and to explore the extent to which player actions reflect the character’s and the player’s personality. Many games have less developed character personalities and back-stories, which sometimes leads to players feeling disconnected from the character they are playing, and thus player actions in the game may not reflect actions that the character would take. Veneer was designed with two main character avatars, one that is altruistic and one that is narcissistic, and players are faced with choices throughout the game in which they can decide the path of the game. The game can serve as a platform to explore whether players make choices that align with the avatar's personality or if players make choices that align with the player’s own personality traits regardless of the avatar. It can also be used to investigate whether playing the game as both avatars, each with its own distinct personality, will result in any change in behavior in the player. These questions will be explored in future work.