Thursday, February 14, 2008

Graded Blog #6, Zork and Cup of Death

The dictionary definition of the word, “interactivity,” is as follows: the extent to which something is interactive; the extent to which a computer program and human being may have a dialog. When I initially think of the word “interactivity,” I think of dialog and activity going on between multiple persons. When I rethink my definition, I realize that interaction can in fact happen between a person and technology as well. Interactivity does, however; in my opinion, have to involve the person taking an active part in the situation. For example, Nancy Drew detective fiction novels, although at first glance appear to be interactive, are anything but. This readerly text allows no space for interpretation by the reader. The clues are given to you in the order that the author wishes, and you must read beginning to end in order to grasp the novel as a whole.
On the other hand, a choose your own adventure novel, for instance Cup Of Death, gives the reader a bit more interactivity in that the reader can choose the way he or she experiences the narrative. However, this is not totally interactive because there is only a limited amount of paths the audience can take.
Zork, the game we have been playing from the 1980’s, reminds me of the choose your own adventure, Cup Of Death, in that both narratives provide the reader with a little bit more interactivity than a static text, in that they can experience the narrative in a sequence that they chose. However, the façade quickly fades when the reader realizes that there is only a limited amount of paths they can experience. For fiction to be truly interactive there would have to be quid pro quo between the reader and writer. This is becoming increasingly more possible with the advent of the internet, however; I feel as though a truly interactive novel will never be realized in our age.
The amount of interactivity a reader feels he or she has when reading a novel provides the illusion that they actually have control of the novel. It also makes one more interested. A person is always more interested in a situation if they have some sort of ability to alter how the situation turns out. It stimulates the reader to pay more attention and become more involved whereas a typical narrative where one cannot interact, the reader just sits and takes it in. Yes, the reader does have the ability to interpret the narrative of typical text in their own way, but they do not have the ability to change the narrative to their liking.

In all, we can conclude that both Cup of Death, and Zork are definitely interactive narratives, however; for full interactivity to occur there would have to be an unlimited amount of courses the reader can choose from.


Adam Johns said...

One thing you touch on, at least implicitly, is the idea that interactivity and interpretation are at least related ideas. While you are obviously arguing that standard novels aren't interactive, one might conceivably argue that especially if an author has a range or multitude of interpretations in mind, readers are interacting with those possible interpretations. Maybe?

What do you mean by a quid pro quo between reader and author? I think maybe you're imaging a text which is being written "live", through interactions between multiple people. Last semester one student did a project on "Forum based role-playing" which works much like this: each person represents a character, and they write sections of the narrative back-and-forth, shaping their own sections in response to the other person's.

I _think_ you're arguing that interactivity isn't exactly an either/or thing, but maybe a spectrum or a range. Here is where I wish you'd pushed yourself a little farther: I admire your approach, but I feel like you haven't followed the thought through to its implications.

Steev said...

The 'infinite number of paths' is something that has affected all computer games since forever.

One of the interesting things about Adventure (one of the other games on our list) is that there is a maze later in the game that is infinite in size. The maze literally expands to be as big as you can go.

This is generally considered the hardest portion of the game.