Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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May 21st, 2006

Game Idea #21: Face Your Fear

What better way to kick off the week than with a fresh game idea?

High Concept:

Face Your Fear starts like most action games do: bad men have taken a group of helpless civilians hostage, and it’s up to you to free them… The twist is that you don’t solve this problem with bullets, but with your words, and your face.


PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360

Why it needs to be made:

Very rarely do videogames show that there can be non-violent solutions to very violent problems. Face Your Fear would do just that.


In Face Your Fear you play as an extremely talented hostage negotiator. You’re used to getting calls in the middle of the night whenever there’s a standoff between the authorities and terrorists, bank robbers, or a militant student group. Your job is to defuse these otherwise explosive situations. A job well done means no one gets hurt, and in your mind you’ve failed if violence breaks out.

When you arrive on the scene of such a standoff, the first thing you do is establish a line of communication. A telephone call, or even better a video call is initiated, and you start getting to know who and what you’re dealing with. You begin by asking questions, and this evolves into a two-way conversation with the group’s spokesman.

In this “video call” with the spokesman you can see him and his immediate surroundings, and use this to your advantage. But the catch is that he can also see and hear you (through your game system’s video camera and microphone), so your posture, tone of voice, and facial expressions all contribute to the conversation. You can select pieces of dialog to speak from the in-game negotiator handbook, but you can also improvise for more free-form gameplay.

The longer you talk, the better you understand their motives and their desires. You constantly push for a resolution, and try to make small deals that add up to the hostages all being released unharmed, and the hostage-takers giving themselves up. But there’s always a ticking clock, either imposed by the men on the other end of the phone, or by the men you report to. Between conversations you can make tactical moves to help your case: send in supplies you know the hostages need, or cut off the power and air conditioning to try to sweat the terrorists out.

Why it will be fun:

Action games are filled with tense moments where a single decision made in the nick of time makes all the difference. The goal in Face Your Fear is to create that kind of intensity, but with an extra level of emotional risk and emotional reward at stake.

Final thoughts:

I’ve always wanted to create a game around the idea that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” When I began thinking about what I could do with the new consoles’ video-camera peripheral, this idea immediately came to mind.

3 Responses to “Game Idea #21: Face Your Fear”

  1. Erin commented:
    posted May 27th, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    I love this idea — for the motivation behind it (nonviolence) and because being a hostage negotiator sounds like one of the most intense jobs of all time.

  2. The Mighty Doof commented:
    posted June 17th, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    Pure genius, I’m sick of all these games where whether you’re the protagonist or antagonist, you’re still a bad guy. Kids really are influenced by videogames, (so are more than a few adults I’ve met!) I have quite a few younger sibs and I’ve watched it happen. depending on what they have been playing at the time, they get moodier, their sense of humor gets more and less bloody, but no decent game I know of has ever openly confronted violence as a bad thing, I hope to see this game on store shelves very soon.

  3. Gwardo Jones commented:
    posted July 4th, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    This is a superb idea. I think it would be very enjoyable. But, can we also consider a DS counterpart? Where instead of facial expressions and tones, you had to choose your words wisely by using the stylus to type them. You would still have to pay close attention to your surroundings. Either way, great idea I hope at least one of these ideas gets a shot at video gaming greatness.

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