(Response to question #1)
To evaluate whether or not interactive fiction is art, I will observe that according to dictionary.com, art is defined as "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance." I chose this definition because I feel it is appropriate given that so much of debate about what is art involves mostly ones own opinion, and my own opinion that we as individuals do not only decide but determine for ourselves what is art by our own interaction with it. Even if a piece of art is an inanimate book we do not interact with through an apparatus such as keyboard or mouse, we interact with it both physically and psychologically because art is something that we can relate to and grow from. Similarly, technology has related to and helped expand the mediums of art.
To use an example of accepted art, Edouard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, the painting depicts the realities of prostitution in the 1880's, and how it coexisted in an underhanded way with the seemingly contrasting leisurely pleasure of the time. The painting has meaning because for me personally, it incites disgust with a cold reality that I can relate to within contemporary life. Now, I just interacted with a painting, what could be a flat image has incited a reaction, an acceptance of beauty and aesthetics which changes and shapes my mind which inherently changes my perception of the world and in turn, the painting itself. The way we interact with art in my opinion is not like we do with a blender or rake, it's not for some outcome where we impose ourselves, but rather we open our minds to allow anothers interpretation to trigger feelings within ourself.
In the case of a video game or Zork, a similar interaction takes place. As I explore the world in Zork, I learn about it and my understanding changes, and thereby my actions to Zork changes. Not only that, but just as with a song or picture, the video game as a medium has plenty of opportunities to display to me all that is entailed by the above definition of "art." By playing a game such as this, I am able to accept the aesthetics and beauty of concepts either abstract or much more worldly. I feel that the progression of art and technology go hand-in-hand. Without denying the fundamentals of art, we have learned to use technology to create art that is much more interactive. Architecture is a perfect example of this, in the case of the early architectural accomplishments such as the Pyramids of Giza, these structures were hardly useful or interactive with the individual, whereas today we can enter into and experience the Cathedral of Learning. Both share in common that they are architecture, and incite feelings within our self, but the type of interaction is expanded through technology. Art I believe simply has been able to incorporate and innovate technology to create a more encompassing experience that I personally feel will be the future of all art as we know it. There is a whole range of experiences that can be controlled by the artist, and I see video games as a new medium for art.
And of course, because I love Lyotard so much, I tried to find quotes by him to substantiate my arguments here. At least in regards to the human element of art, on page 17 of "Can thought go on without a body," Lyotard says "Perceptual 'recognition' never satisfies the logical demand for complete description." I believe he is speaking in reference on this page to creating machines that can perceive, and expands on the entailments thereof, but I felt it at least brings me back to my point of a constantly changing mind as a result of art's aesthetics. He is pointing out a separation between the will to perceive and logic, where one perpetuates the other. In the attempt to find the "complete description" which I see as divine understanding, we "teach our mind to receive" as quoted on page 18. In art, I believe we receive from the artist in an attempt to fulfill our search for complete description. More interactive art merges our "logical demand" and disposition to act and impose ourselves with reception of the artists' intended experience.