Interactivity is a tough word to define because when you initially hear the word you just breeze over it not thinking much, but when you stop to think what it really means you can become caught up in its application. An official definition as related to technology states:
In computers, interactivity is the dialog that occurs between a human being (or possibly another live creature) and a computer program. (Programs that run without immediate user involvement are not interactive; they're usually called batch or background programs.) Games are usually thought of as fostering a great amount of interactivity. However, order entry applications and many other business applications are also interactive, but in a more constrained way.
I would define interactivity as the process of input by a person to an activity or process. For instance, if you are at a casino watching your friend play cards you are watching an activity. But if you are telling your friend advice you have an interaction with them.
Using the official definition that states “Programs that run without immediate user involvement are not interactive” would lead you to believe that Zork must be an interactive narrative. The program does absolutely nothing unless you instruct it to. As far as it being a narrative I believe it to be because it does a good job of taking you on an adventure and describing the setting and plot. The game has a lot of elements that you piece together to form a plot and storyline. You being the main character interact with surroundings and are influenced by your own decisions. (Mind you they are most of the time frustrating and confusing.)
After talking to several people I believe that I am the only person on earth of my age who has never until this point read a choose your own adventure book. Being that this was my first time I went into it not knowing what to expect. It turns out that I was kind of disappointed, I did not particularly enjoy reading Cup of Death. I think the main reason was the interaction that it involved. I know that that is the whole point of this style of writing but I think that I would much rather be taken on the adventure that an author chooses as apposed to the adventure that I am “choosing.” After I finished one possible ending I was curious about other possible endings so I read some others. This lead me to believe that I was never choosing the best possible option for an ending. Is Cup of Death an interactive narrative? Absolutely, your experience while reading the book requires a lot of decisions. It is impossible to read the book straight through and have it make any sense from one page to the next.
Interactivity adds an interesting and personalizing touch to a narrative. It lets the reader almost be in control of that is going to happen next in the narrative. To some people this is adventuresome and intriguing, but to others like me, I found it frustrating and weird. A reader wants to get the most out of what they are reading and I kept feeling like I never got the full potential out of the book. Looking at Zork as an interactive narrative you see that interactivity adds a lot to the game. If you play a typical computer game you must do a series of actions to either beat a level or continue through the game to get to the ultimate goal of beating the game or somehow winning. Although there is an ultimate goal in Zork it seems like there are many possible ways of achieving it. The way you go about your journey and your process of the game is completely determined by your input and decisions.
Ps) The book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep quite possibly is the strangest book I have ever read…