Emotional Labour

by Mistress Nightshadow 

You know, we could always learn from the many industries which, considered by many, to be completely separate from what we call home, the RPG world. Not in terms of marketing issues, performance or the occasional hard knock from mistakes made, but in philosophy and theory.

What possible industry could I be talking about? You won't believe it, but it's the call centre and coaching industries.

Before you go investigating what I've been drinking in the last few weeks, let me explain. This idea came to me after watching quite an informative show late Monday night.

Well, the call centre industry is basically an industry in which centers are set up, and where people ring in, get their service done or get help, and hang up, all before the next person in line is given their service.

Now, the employees aren't what I'm going to be focusing on. I'm going to focus on the people above them, the ones who have to train and manage these guys.

It proved to be an interesting report... I found out that most, if not all, of these managers have one thing in common. They are coaches... well, rudimentary ones at any rate. They have to physically train and condition your local operator in such a way so that they can be very reliable when the caller at the other end is distressed, and are strictly neutral and won't retaliate when the caller starts flaming and swearing at operator. It can be a very distressing thing at times... I believe they called it Emotional Labor or something like that, but they can take it.

Anyway, it also covered other types of phone operators, from those who run Lifeline [Which is an Australian Toll Free number you can ring if you have problems to talk with someone confidentially], to those who you can ring... believe it or not, to boost your self esteem.

On top of that, we've also got your normal sports coaches who can make those normal people which you call a football team into a bunch of savages, ready to defend their goal with a vengeance and are all out to kill any opposition...

What does this happen to have ANYTHING to do with RPGs? Why am I bothering to write this?

Well, here's something to consider. When was the last time you were moved by a scene in an RPG? What about the last time the music kinda put you there, or how it gave it the... feel to be there, to be part of the game itself, rather than outsider manipulating the game?

Now think of this, is it me, or are we being almost coached into thinking a certain way before the events really strike? I mean, like little events may make us hate the villain in a game... how a certain character acts, how others are portrayed, what type of music is playing when you meet someone... you know, the little things in an RPG? They're probably so small, half the time, you won't even notice them.

Then suddenly when you least expect it, the events suck you there, making you openly cry out when a character died, making you reek hatred at the villain who just got away with the most outrageous things, making you roll with laughter when someone cracks a snide joke.

I don't know about you guys, but it looks like SOMEONE has been playing with our minds during the course of the games we play, and it isn't someone who was there. Not that I object, mind you, but neither the less I think we are being, at least to some extent, emotionally manipulated to thinking that way. Really, if we just saw Aerith/Aeris die without the music, and without any of the background about her, we'd be more inclined to say "Oh, so another girl got killed by the villain." and shrug.

But nope, most of us were probably misty eyed to say the least [I'll admit that I was openly crying when I played through that scene, and I just blankly stared at the monitor at 2 am for a good thirty minutes crying.] and half of us were wanting to rip Sephiroth apart with their own hands, who many think was just plain cool before that point, for killing off the cheerful little girl who never seemed to be down, who was so sweet, who was so innocent... the flower girl.

Now I look back, and I see how they did it. They portrayed Aeris/Aerith in such a fashion, and they did it for everyone else. They... coached us in such a fashion to think along certain lines... they pulled the strings for us to react in certain ways to a situation.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that they're so evil that they play with our minds ruthlessly to get money out of us but I'm willing to bet somewhere along the line, someone sent in a specialist in coaching people to see, and reinforce the storyline so that it could produce the best effect possible, or that everyone was that moved by the Final Fantasy VII scene which I quote from, cause people are different, and emotional coaching isn't a generic thing.

But maybe those football coaches who can turn a team of players into a pack of rabid dogs might be onto something. Maybe those managers who can coach their employees to think in a certain way know something that might interest us. Maybe they know a secret into making a good RPG... hell, they've been practicing the art of mind manipulation for a long while now.

Think about it when you next play your next RPG... maybe it'll be Chrono Cross or Final Fantasy IX. Maybe those emotional strings are being tugged a little more than you think... but then again, you probably won't notice, either trying to rip apart the boss which tried to kill off someone who you love and adore, having you smile as they goof up, or having you cry when disaster strikes.

Now this'll start things off... If you'd like to comment on this, be it that you'd think that we should all be taking coaching classes to better prepare ourselves in the RPG world, that we're far more willful and free thinking than I'm suggesting, you're plain curious in why I was watching a documentary on the Call Centre industry to begin with, or you'd like to try to pull my emotional strings so much I won't write anything anymore, send them all to I'd love to hear from you about it...

Just one favor. If you're planning to pull my emotional strings so much, could you do it with an RPG? Maybe Crono Cross or Final Fantasy IX?