I find Maeda’s observations to be very on point. The things and people that grab my attention and fondness most are the things that at least try to express emotion. Even if they are simple emotions, like smilies.
Designing for emotion fosters engagement in a huge way. Perfect example, in Half Life, VALVe spent a lot of time developing their NPC (non player characters)s to convey fear, appreciation, dependance and weakness. I felt very attached to the characters when I first played. They looked and sounded terrible but they caught my attention and I grew fond of them. Then a remake was released a week ago, and they haven’t grown on me as much. The emotion isn’t there. They look and sound spectacular, but insincere.
I can’t think of any particular design off the top of my head, but I do know that designs with a lot of emotion catch my attention more than anything. It’s the reason why realistic games don’t appeal to me as much as imaginative ones. Like Darwinia and Battlefield. In Darwinia, you’re responsible for protecting and reviving little green digital men. They cry when they’re under attack, and they frolic when they’re safe. They even explore! Meanwhile in Battlefield, everything is hard and cold, very detailed but not very expressive at all. It has a hard time grabbing my attention.