Just to prove to Mike Helmecki that I’m still alive

I present this link to David Byrne’s blog on interactivity vs. narrative, which is a meditation on why video games don’t move people like narrative art forms. I tend to agree, though my argument might be less hippydippy.

8 thoughts on “Just to prove to Mike Helmecki that I’m still alive”

  1. I would say that this applies equally to those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. Do they even make those anymore?

    Interactivity denies the sense of inevitability inherent in so much great drama and, in particular, tragedies. I think the argument could be made that all mimetic arts are, in the main, passive experiences.

  2. I was going to quibble with the word “passive” but then I decided that I agreed more than not.

    I was also trying to think of a counterexample but couldn’t. I was going to suggest dreaming as an example of an experience that could be both emotionally engaging but where you also have some participation. But at least in my experience, the most engaging dreams are the ones where I don’t realize I have any agency within the dream, or where when I act, the effects of my actions are unpredictable. Once I realize that I can control things in the dream, the emotional urgency kind of evaporates.

    But still, I think there can be dream situations where you do get a balance of emotional intensity and control, so it might be theoretically possible to construct a game in a similar way. The catch would be that it would be nearly impossible to mass produce a game that worked on the same neurological level as dreams, at least given current technology. You’d almost have to use the person’s own particular memories and desires as variables.

  3. I hemmed and hawed over “passive” myself but couldn’t find a better word. What came to me was not a literary example but rather Eisenstein’s theory of intellectual montage in which the juxtaposition of two individual shots creates in the mind of the viewer a meaning, usually a metaphor, not inherent in the shots themselves. While that could be said to require an “active” viewer the fact remains that those shots were specifically staged, photographed, chosen and edited with a specific intent that preceded the individual viewer’s involvement and whether the viewer succeeds in making the connection or not those shots are always going to run the same length and in the same order and nothing the audience does is going to change that.

    The same could be said of literature. No matter how many ways you choose to actively interpret, say, Moby Dick the first line is always going to be “Call me Ishmael”, Ahab will never kill the whale and save the narrator the entire crew of the Pequod will always be doomed from page one.

    I agree about dreams losing their urgency once the dreamer takes control. In my case, not only do they lose their urgency but the recognition of my own agency within the dream almost always heralds the abrupt ending of the dream.

  4. …an experience that could be both emotionally engaging but where you also have some participation.

    It’s called real life. I’ve already seen it. Two stars. Save your money and rent it instead.

    Write “SPOILER ALERT” next time!
    Sheesh, you’d think I spoiled the end of Harry Potter. Besides, everyone knows that Voldemort is Harry’s true father. Ooops!

    PS – Just to make sure, I totally made that last part up.

  5. It’s called real life. I’ve already seen it. Two stars. Save your money and rent it instead.

    Bwah! You win!

  6. Bwah! You win!

    I’m not sure how to process that coming from you. I feel like I should mark the day on the calendar or perhaps commission a tasteful plaque commemorating the occasion.

  7. I’ll leave a virtual plaque.

    ON THIS SPOT ON JULY 31, 2007
    Marco ‘won’ a round of
    the perpetual competitive
    verbal event which is known
    as
    “having a conversation
    with Ezra”
    Congratulations!
    ‘he won the battle, but not the war!’

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