Helpless spectators : generating suspense in videogames and film

Jonathan FROME, Aaron SMUTS

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)


Films and videogames both generate emotions in the viewer/player, but due to their inherent differences, often do so in ways specific to each medium. This article looks at the emotion of suspense as a test case to evaluate that generalization. We contend that, although each medium does have unique features that can be used to generate suspense, these media share surprising similarities. We argue that videogames can be most effective in generating suspense not by highlighting their unique ability to be interactive, but, to the contrary, by limiting interactivity at key points, thereby turning players into helpless spectators. Our analysis highlights a previously overlooked factor in film's ability to generate suspense: helplessness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-34
Number of pages22
JournalText Technology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


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