Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blog 6-1

Jacob Pavlovich

Books V. Gaming

When we think of the media, we rarely get to choose our own destiny with them. With movies and music, it is a very sit back relax and enjoy. Books for the most part are like movies that require you to more or less pay attention to what is going on, or else you will never get to the ending. Then there are video games, which have a long tradition of being more about the player and developing the player’s role by his actions. The focus in this essay will mainly follow video games and their relation to interactivity in a comparative look at books.

Whenever I was a child, I started to play video games. I like to think that most children at some point in their lives play a game or two that they absolutely love. Throughout many of years, I have played hundreds of video games, some I could not get past half way because they were so poorly designed or so poorly written. However like I said some people have their favorites. Two of my favorite series of games are the Call of Duty franchise and the Mass Effect trilogy (third one will be coming out within a week or so). These are two very distinctively different types of games. They also help me prove a point coincidentally. The first one I want to talk about it Call of Duty. The interactivity of this game is the basic minimum in the offline solo player. It is virtually watching a movie and sometimes pressing the trigger to shoot a bad guy or duck behind cover. However, I personally am a fan of a good story line, which is one thing that this franchise started out with. Which means by the end of the series (The part of the series that I actually cared about) I was hooked and needed to find out what was going to happen to the characters I became attached to. This is just how a good book should be; there is very minimum interactivity and an amazing story line. People did not read the Harry Potter series because they thought they could choose Harry’s path, decide if he would team up and join the death eaters. People read them because they writing was so good that they were able to develop a connection with the characters that kept them coming back to see what will happen to them next. In my opinion this is what a great and amazing writing can do, they do not need to put meaningless decide your destiny parts to the book.

Shannon Gilligan however decided to pepper the book Cup of Death with these decide your destiny parts. I would like to let the record state that I do understand that this book was made for children; however this does not excuse the horrendous endings that this book gives. When I first got this assignment I was overly thrilled to read this book because, as noted before my other favorite franchise is Mass Effect and it is all about interactivity. Then I started to read the book, and slowly but surely I began to want to burn this book. The writer thinks that if she adds a ton of interactivity that the book will automatically be amazing. In fact, the book just becomes a boring and slightly silly book. The one story line that I followed in it started out with our young adventurers looking for a national treasure, and ended up finding “stolen pearls” and it turned out that the “National Treasure” was indeed just a “nice bowl” (p.120). This is the farthest stretch I think I’ve ever seen. Now to compare that to something that has great interactivity and a great story line, I bring in Mass Effect. This is a series of games that tailors to the customer’s needs. It has a great story line, one of which never deviates too far from a specific path; however it always ends up differently for different people. In the end you always fight the same enemy, however you’re allies might be different. A choice you made might have made one of your comrades’ die in an effort to help you and the rest of your team out. In the first game you might have left the intergalactic council to die, and in that case you create a new one. These are the type of powers a game or a book that is trying to implement interactivity should have. There should be proportional amount of different paths depending on how long the book/game is. However the things that you do during the game subtly create the story before you. Will you be a hard take no prisoners type of guy or a nice guy who always helps a person in need? If Cup of Death would have had only a few alternate endings than I would have gained more enjoyment out of it. With a book that was over 100 pages, I figured there would be more than 10 pages that I would be reading to get to a conclusion.

A child might be fascinated with this book, however if a writer was creating a book for an adult that was going to be interactive, they would need to rethink their strategy. There would have to be a ton of different things you can do, however the outcomes need to be relatively near the same thing. This way the writer can still control the plot and make sure that the plot doesn’t just degrade into something where you have no clue how you’ve gotten there. Book writers can take a lesson from the video game industry, as we see them getting more creative and engaging the consumer, we still see the same old types of books. Sit there and try to read through this and every once in a while a great writer comes along that captures our attention where we don’t fall asleep half way through the book. Interactivity could be an amazing revolution in the book industry, but it will only become a revolution if it is done the proper way.


Caia Caldwell said...

I think you describe interactivity well, and provide examples relating it to real life. One of your intro sentences: “video games, which have a long tradition of being more about the player and developing the player’s role by his actions” tells the reader how you are going to define interactivity and video games.
If you choose going to revise, I would structure your piece a little differently, and make your points sooner in the essay. You have a lot of “intro” that can be cut, and turned into more solid analysis and argument. Also, I would do a quick one-sentence description of the games you are talking about. It may seem silly describing Call of Duty, or the Mass Effect trilogy, but to someone who has never played them (like myself) it would be very helpful. Also this short description might help you to articulate just what is different between interactivity in books, and interactivity in video games.
I want to summarize the point I think you are making in your essay: You think that video games give the user more diverse options, versus Cup of Death which only had a “few alternative endings that I would have gained...enjoyment out of.” I think this is a good point, but it needs to be made sooner, and with more clarity. Also, you could expand this piece by coming up with other problematic differences.

Adam said...

Note that you define an area of focus at the beginning, but nothing resembling an argument. This will most likely be a problem.

In the second paragraph, you give some personal views of art/entertainment. One thing that I like here is that you're trying to make some connections, by arguing in favor of continuity between good video games and good writing. The problem here, though, is that the concept of "good story line" is itself unclear and undefined. It's hard to now what "meaningles" decisions are pointless, when the merits of the alternative is unclear.

In the next paragraph you do a 180. Instead of arguing that interactivity as such is unimportant, you argue that Cup of Death does it poorly. You're biting off more than can chew here - Mass Effect *OR* Call of Duty would have been enough here! You avoid engaging with any details of any particular game or text here because you're covering too much ground (mutually contractory ground, at that!).

In the last paragraph, you do nothing at all to explain what true/good interactivity, influenced by video games, would look like in a book...

Overall: the biggest issue here is that you never move beyond personal impressions. You like Mass Effect and Call of Duty, and Harry Potter. You don't like Cup of Death. But among this mass of comparisons, there is never a clear sense of what you actually value - in large part, because you don't actually deal with any particular part of Cup of Death. You need to engage with your text(s) in detail - that includes the games, too (it's harder there, but no less necessary). You can't just lean on generalizations.