Forced Discomfort

Players can be made to confront difficult truths or experience difficult situations by forcing discomfort through audio-visual elements, or social norm violation.


Power and Control puts players in the role of a woman in an abusive relationship. The player is subjected to being yelled at or verbally abused to give the player some sense of the discomfort and fear inherent in the situation.


  • Forced discomfort can result in visceral emotional experiences. This experience can provide insight and empathy into highly varied experiences or situations. That empathy, in turn, can influence future out-of-game decisions.
  • Empathetic identification with environmental issues is an established method of approaching pro-environmental attitudes. Forced discomfort can establish empathy and make the consequences of climate change / other target experiences seem very real to the player.


  • Sensory or narrative input is used to cause discomfort to the player rather than the player character. Loud noises, disturbing visuals, and physically demanding or stressful mechanics are common approaches.
  • Caution: this process often involves intentionally breaking the player-designer trust agreement by putting the player (as opposed to the character) in an uncomfortable situation. If trust is broken, we run a significant risk of breaking players’ ability to gain a sense of hope – and disrupting the transformational experience overall. 
  • Strongly consider working with subject matter experts in the topic area to ensure it can be done respectfully to the real people and communities who have been affected in the real world. 
  • Ensure clear trigger warnings are clearly visible and give players the choice to participate in the experience.

From the Environmental Game Design Playbook
– by IGDA Climate SIG