Two thumbs up for interactive fiction
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 23:10
I play games to experience situations outside of my life’s trajectory.
I want to hoist the Stanley Cup above my head during my victory lap around the rink. I want to be immersed in Columbia with Elizabeth at my side, helping me take down Father Comstock. I want to protect Clementine from the dangers of a zombie apocalypse by any means necessary.
Video games are a medium that lots of people don’t take seriously; they find them childish. Many people have asked me why I play games. To me, this is the same question as ‘Why do you read books?’ or ‘Why do you watch movies?’ The same answer can be used for all of these questions: To experience, and to be immersed, entertained, amazed and captivated.
Other forms of media can’t offer the ability to unfold a plotline while exploring the environments in which a story is set. Video game plot points have left me in awe, on the verge of tears, angry, uncomfortable and speechless. The interactivity combined with an amazing story can create a surreal experience.
In 2010, Roger Ebert – the late, renowned American film critic, journalist and screenwriter – wrote a blog post countering Kellee Santiago’s TED talk, in which she stated games are an art form surpassing just entertainment.
“One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game,” Ebert wrote. “It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a [sic] immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.”
Ebert inadvertently presents a great point. The term “video games” is outdated. We should refer to the productions of this medium as “interactive fictions” and acknowledge the term is synonymous with “video games.”
Those with uninformed opinions interpret the term “game” to mean there is always a score, a winner and a loser. Not all video games are competitions. In some video games, you truly do just experience and absorb, just like you would a novel or film. Interactive fiction provides the most realistic escape art has to offer. It is a medium that is building upon itself and improving while impacting society on a larger scale every year.
This year’s highest-grossing film, as of now, is Iron Man 3.It was in the box office for just over four months and grossed a little over $400 million, according to boxofficemojo.com. Grand Theft Auto V broke $1 billion in sales after just three days on shelves.
Interactive fictions are culturally relevant and provide substance in the stories and experiences they offer. I urge those who haven’t been very interested in the medium before to play through Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead or Irrational Games’ BioShock: Infinite and experience the impact of the characters and plotlines.
“[Waco Resurrection, Braid, & Flower] do not raise my hopes for a video game that will deserve my attention long enough to play it,” Ebert wrote. “They are, I regret to say, pathetic.”
This line of thinking is part of the problem with the perception of video games. A lot of the people who push video games to the side as “childish” or “just games” never actually attempt to experience the beauty that is interactive fiction.
Just like there are bad books, films, poets and painters, there are bad video games. Also, just because some games are strictly for competition, that doesn’t mean the medium should be defined by or thought of as limited to these kinds of games. Video games that define a winner and a loser by interpreting a score aren’t bad by any means; they’re just different from those that are story-centric.
Interactive fictions are the playable, modern avenue for storytelling.
“The strengths of second person narration are in its implication of the reader in the story, the sense of discovery, revelation, surprise (and inevitability) that it induces,” wrote Daniel McMahon, principal of DeMatha Catholic High School, who has a Ph.D. in English Literature. “There is probably interesting work to be done in ‘gaming narrative’ as a combination of first person and third person narration.”
Gaming is a medium in which you virtually walk through and discover a space, and you can be surprised by narrative revelations – the perfect outlet for complete immersion.
There is a lot that plays into the artistry of the medium – it’s so versatile that it can create an infinite number of experiences. Last week, I was executing a major diamond heist, and the week before, I was saving the galaxy from an alien-driven genocide. I can’t wait to see what I get to experience this week.