Apparently I do. Richard Evans (working on the AI for Sims 3) has an interesting response to the uncanny valley AI article on Gamasutra (c’mon, it’s got a Hegel reference and everything). I’ve also been working on a post on that, as well as some recent (er, more than a month now, that’s recent by my own blog-clock I guess) articles on GTxA by Andrew on transparency & depth in NPC behavior. But it’s long, convoluted, and this is nice and tidbit-sized, so I will proactively procrastinate by starting with this.
In the letter, Evans argues that in order to empathize with someone (as an interactive character), the character has to be able to empathize with them. Of course he spells it empathise, naturally, since he’s English.
But that’s not entirely accurate, is it? His point, not the spelling. If a character emapthized with you, that would cause you to empathize with them, but it’s not a minimum requirement - loads of non-interactive characters provoke empathy.
Maybe there’s a finer point there? If your internal model of a character (interactive or non-interactive) says they would empathize with you, then you’ll empathize with them.
Nah, that’s not really the case either, there’s tons of villains people empathize with and you know they wouldn’t really empathize with you. Not just the you love to hate ‘em villians, but the ones you really identify with. Vampires often fall under this category. Or say, Tony Montana.
But they (the player, viewer, reader… ah just the fucking user for lack of a holistic term) have to be able to understand the characters actions and find them believable in the context. They don’t have to identify with it, though, thinking they would feel that way in that same circumstance (empathy). And they don’t have to actually feel the same thing (sympathy). Which gets to why a certain level of transparency is necessary in NPC behavior. Which gets back to me procrastinating. Or gets me back to procrastinating, maybe.
Of course, I should actually read the Hegel reference I suppose, but the focus does seem to be empathy towards people, instead of empathy towards fictional characters. Do we want to make people, or characters?