Thursday, February 21, 2008

Formal Blog #6: Option #2

According to the online dictionary ( interactivity means “Acting or capable of acting on each other.” Today’s question concerns itself with, whether “Cup of Death” and/or Zork are interactive narratives, what this interactivity adds, as in its value and significance.

Although “Zork” and “Cup of Death” are very different in essence, they are still both interactive on different levels. In “Cup of Death” there are significantly fewer choices that one can make than in Zork. The choices in “Cup of Death” that are available are also simpler given the fact that there is only a couple of them at any given time. Allow me to elaborate and explain how this makes both of these examples of an interactive narrative. The user (or reader) makes decisions which act on the narrative by affecting (as in changing) the outcome. Since somebody has to make decisions which effect something one way or another, these become interactive. Both “Zork” and “Cup of Death” are both because they tell a story. Therefore, if we combine these terms they both become interactive narratives.

What is the value of this interactivity? In my opinion, the value of this interactivity is, first and foremost the entertainment value. I do not think either “Zork” or “Cup of Death” were created with academic merit in mind, but both are results of somebody trying to entertain somebody else. I think entertainment requires an element of diversity and the fact that people can interact and make decision provides for a different level of entertainment. It is something else that people can do for fun, not the usual routine of entertainment (supposing that pre-Zorc there were almost no interactive computer games).

The significance of this interactivity comes from the choices that people have to make. Not only does this mirror real life in a small scale (as we make decisions by the millions every day) but it also adds the element of having to think, which then influences the outcome of the narrative.

To explain the first part of this statement, one has to understand the process of decisions. Our decisions range from as simple and automatic as walking or putting on a coat to as complex as analyzing texts or preparing for an exam. Given the fact that the decisions in a book, such as “Cup of Death” are much simpler it is still significant because it mirrors life in a super-simplified version. Our choices in real life, for all intents and purposes are infinite since we can do anything we want. This is kind of an abstract idea but let us suppose a game of chess. I have the option of making roughly 50 different moves a turn. On top of that I can choose to attack my opponent, throw any of the 32 pieces at any of the 100 bystanders, shout at them, bite them or hug them. My choices are literally infinite. The choices in an interactive narrative like “Zork” are pretty vast, too, but they are limited by recognizably commands. Therefore, these types of interactive narratives are an over simplified version of real life. This is of course significant because people can learn from it, such as obvious examples of morality that could be presented with very few choices so there are no distractions and questions of morality are obvious (although these are not seen in “Zork” or “Cup of Death” in my opinion).

The other half of the initial statement concerns itself with having to think. I believe this is significant because people are forced to think to make a decision. They are not passive like individuals are in other narratives (movies or stereotypical novels) but they are active in doing something and making things happen. This is significant because it can be a very powerful tool (if used properly) to teach people things about the process decisions, may they concern themselves with morality of right and wrong or be under extreme stress and time pressure. The choices are vast and interactivity in narratives could be used for a purpose that would benefits individuals or even society by teaching people important things.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Ha! That's what I get for misnumbering last week - you're doing last week's assignment for this week. Oh, well. That's what I get.

Here's one funny thing about this entry. You offer a careful and interesting definition of interactivity, but I'm not sure you use it. "Acting or capable of acting on each other." To me, though, your focus is exclusively on _our_ choices: we act on the narrative. You don't talk about it the other way around: if two things are acting on each other, presumably the narrative is acting on us while we act on it?

That being said, your discussion was fine - it just doesn't pursue the weirdest and, to me, most appealing aspect of your definition.

The thing I actually liked best here (other than your neglected definition) was the argument you started to make about the uses to which interactive narratives can be put. If you bring it up with no examples, though, it's also not convincing.

What pedagogical impact, for instance, did these narratives have on you?