Later, in the seminar with Helen on F&I, we continued on the discussion of interactivity with arguably the most famous example of interactive entertainment: games. The subject inherently brings up the question of Cudology (playing, participating) vs Narratology (the narrative), and whether the two can find a happy medium, or always be polar opposites. This debate, speaking a gamer myself, has gained a lot of stem in the last decade, with a number of franchises taking on whole worlds and mythologies as opposed to cut and dry levels to beat (Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, Assassin's Creed, Kingdom Hearts, Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls etc.) and recent games like Bioshock Infinite and Beyond Two Worlds have received stellar praise for their writing and characters (the latter utilizing motion capture to get a direct performance out of the actors for the game).
But, casting this debate of narrative in games aside for a moment, why exactly are games popular and what do they offer over other mediums, likes books & film? Well, some of the following come to mind:
- Interaction, being able to manipulate and control what happens in the game actively, rather than passively observing like on other mediums.
- Allows for more complexity than other mediums, both in narrative terms (with alternate paths & routes, as well as the concept of 'Choice') as well as in the gameplay (read below).
- Multiple paths/replay values, enticing to play the game over to find other paths to the goal or even extra goodies, like secret weapons, trivia, artwork or other unlockables ('easter eggs').
- Direct investment and 'feeling' like YOU are on the adventure, which can take hours, days, weeks if not months to complete, and feeling a tremendous sense of satisfaction at the end when you've completed the final game/defeat the last boss/save the world.
But, beyond just screens, in real life, we are seeing manifestations of this interactivity, with activities like 'geocaching' (a sort of world-wide treasure hunt) gaining -popularity as the internet grew, building the aforementioned communities into fully operational, organized events and networks. In the end, what can we truly learn from all of this? Well, the giving the player/consumer a role can have very powerful creative possibilities, even if authorship and original intent may be lost. Furthermore, it gives a new, refreshing outlook on entertainment and the way we can use our imaginations and share them with other in a more direct and open fashion than a lot of the older, traditional mediums.
Our assignment for Reading week was to go off and begin coming up with ideas for a 'proof of concept' for an interactive piece in our groups. So, what is there left to be said about today? The morning served as a good wake up call and affirimer of personal concerns with Jack's vision for the story, and hopefully we can start hacking it down and finding the core 'meat' of the tale. As for the afternoon, well, it was probably the most obvious thing to go with, but it worked, and holds possibly more relevance than ever thanks to some of the aforementioned names in the field that are very much challenging stereotypes about the medium and what it can do.